Tensions among the followers of the three major monotheistic religions are front and center in the news headlines. But history shows that these tensions are nothing new—Christians, Jews, and Muslims have been battling one another for centuries. Each tradition values peace, but generation after generation, hostility and resentment seem to overcome idealism and end in violence. Though the human picture holds little hope, these obstacles to harmony direct our attention to a more spiritual perspective. And it is this spiritual realm that there is hope for lasting healing and peace.
The history of the Middle East is filled with ironies. First, it's important to understand that these three religious traditions share a common ancestor: the patriarch Abraham. Bearing a name that some scholars interpret as "exalted father," Abraham grew up about 4,000 years ago in Ur, a city in a section of southern Mesopotamia, later called Chaldea. Today this region is part of Iraq. Biblical tradition has Abraham receiving a covenant, or formal agreement, from God on behalf of Abraham's descendants. In God's covenant, He promised Abraham that his family would become a great people and would inherit land (see Gen. 17).
The concept of a covenant is central to Biblical theology. Borrowed from ancient contract law, covenant gives a framework and vocabulary to what entered human experience as pure revelation: a sense of God's identity, nature, and care for His creation. This covenant articulated a bond between God and His children comparable to a contract—a binding agreement. Later, this covenant's specific terms were set forth in the Ten Commandments. While some groups have interpreted the covenant as limited to a specific religion or culture, in its highest sense God's covenant is one of love. And this love embraces all, in every place, and throughout all time.