THE CHURCH THAT FORGAVE ITS ENEMIES
SAT-7’s live services from Resurrection Church in Beirut are a blessing to thousands of Middle Eastern believers. But when the church began helping Syrian refugees, its members found they needed healing themselves – and the Holy Spirit worked powerfully, turning their anger and pain to forgiveness.
When hundreds of thousands of refugees began fleeing war-struck Syria for Lebanon in 2011, Pastor Hikmat Kashouh thought his church was ready.
“It was as if God had prepared us for this,” he says. As the church was already supporting migrant workers from Syria, they were well-placed to provide refugees with food, shelter, winter survival kits, and medicine.
OLD WOUNDS RE-OPENED
The congregation were not prepared, though, for how they would feel.
Becoming family to their vulnerable new neighbours meant bridging religious, ethnic, and cultural divides. But some church members were paralysed by feelings of resentment and hurt that ran even deeper.
“Syrians were our enemies for so many years,” Kashouh explains. Confronted with reminders of Syria’s long occupation of Lebanon – from 1976 to 2005 – many locals thought first of retaliation.
“GOD BOWS DOWN TO HEAL”
One day, Kashouh invited a Syrian community leader up to the church platform. The pastor took a bucket and sponge, preparing to wash the leader’s feet. As he did so, he found his own anger and hurt flooding his mind.
“As I got close to his feet, I saw the feet that stepped on our childhoods and destroyed Lebanon. I remembered our war and all that happened to us,” he remembers.
But as he stooped, something happened. “I felt that God bowed down and started to clean my wounds,” Kashouh says. “I learned a great lesson. When you bow down to wash your enemy’s feet, God bows down to meet you in your pain.”
A MODEL OF FORGIVENESS
Similar transformation was occurring throughout the church – both in the congregation, and among the refugees. Over time, Resurrection Church went on to open school classrooms and two medical clinics to serve the refugees.
Since then, the congregation has grown from 90 to 1,300, and its services – beamed out weekly on SAT-7 ARABIC – are a model of diversity and tolerance in a region so often marked by division.
“I discovered that the most powerful tool in sharing the Gospel is forgiveness,” says Kashouh.