Question #4: What is your position on Israel? As you’ve gotten more involved there, I’m often concerned that you may be anti-Semitic.
I hope you can appreciate that I am attempting to tackle some huge issues, of which 100’s of books have been written, in a short space, in simple terms and in manner that reflects my heart and theology clearly.
So here’s a biggee – “What about Israel?” I was recently almost disallowed from speaking at a Promise Keepers event because they weren’t sure I was “pro Israel enough.”
I’ve already written one blog on this – it was a few months ago. You can find it under the name “Israeli for the sake of the Gospel.” Here would be my main thoughts:
- We are to love everyone. There are no exceptions and there are no favorites. If you lean pro-Israel, great. Just be sure you’re practically loving Arabs. (And vice-versa).
- The promises of God to Israel from Deuteronomy through the prophets were always conditional. As far as God’s side goes – they stand. But they must be accepted (appropriated) by Israel for them to be effective. God often said “if you do this…then….I will do this. If you do not….then….”
- The oft used verse about blessing Israel is a misquote from Genesis 12:1-3 where God says to Abram, I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. It was to Abram not Israel.
- The land was given to the descendants of Abraham – his descendants are Isaac and Ishmael. The descendants of Abraham, do in fact, live in the land. God has fulfilled this promise!
- God seemed very concerned with Israel (of the Old Testament) treating the foreigners in their midst with respect and justice. Justice is big with God!
- Jesus, nor Paul, nor any other New Testament writer mention the Land. In fact, any time a disciple or follower asked Jesus a question about restoring some kind of physical Kingdom, he was very clear to say that his kingdom is not of this word.
- Romans, Galatians and Ephesians all make it quite clear that the promised “seed” of Abraham was singular not plural and that the seed or offspring was Jesus. That everything promised to physical Israel was fulfilled in Christ. In fact Paul says “the descendants of Abraham are NOT the physical ones, but the spiritual ones.” (Galatians 2 through 5 and Romans 9-11).
What do this all mean? What do we then do/believe about Israel and/or the Palestinians theologically?
- We continue to bless Israel and the Jewish people because they are loved by God. They do have a significant place in divine history and we should honor that. But we don’t need to “love” them in a way that might hurt someone else. Or “love” them out of any kind of guilt because of our past lack of love. We love them as a mature brother who we respect. Sometimes that love is direct and hard, other times it’s soft and pliable – just like with anyone else.
- We do not fall into the error of thinking all the land promised in the book of the Law now belongs to the modern country of Israel. It’s bad theology and it’s dangerous to the nearly 50 million Arabs who live there. (Whom God also loves and who are also recipients of a wonderful promise made to Ishmael).
- God does seem to have a particular plan for the Jews at some point. According to Romans 11, “when the full number of Gentiles come in” then he will soften the heart of the Jews. Want to effectively love the Jews – bring Gentiles into the Kingdom to provoke a godly jealousy.
- God doesn’t need us to help him fulfill his promises. Those who support the Jewish settlements on Palestinian lands or those who give money to anything Israeli – thinking they’re hastening the return of Christ – are misguided and actually end up hurting the very Jews they’re trying to help by encouraging them to rely on monetary support from Western Christians, rather than out of desperation, return to God.
Possibly the greatest thing we could do to actually help/love Israel would be to encourage their Palestinian neighbors in practical ways. The Palestinians feel hurt and neglected by those of us who follow Jesus in the west. Let’s reach out to them in love. Some practical ideas would be:
- If you take a Holy Land tour, make sure you’re company lets you spend real time in the West Bank cities of Bethlehem, Hebron, Jericho and the like. Stay there even. It’s cheaper and very secure.
- Realize that you have 100’s of thousands of brothers and sisters in Christ that are Palestinian. They need your encouragement. Visit them. Write to them.
- Be pro-active politically when you hear your Congressmen say things out of ignorance about Israel or the Palestinians. Your voice does matter. They get bombarded by the Israeli lobby in DC and seldom hear Americans standing up for the rights of the Palestinians.
Once again, the hope for both sides is the good news of Jesus Christ. He is the final and true peacemaker, but he has called us to follow him into this activity as well. The one time we are called “Sons of God” is when we are Peacemakers. Don’t think “it’s always been this way, so why try.” Not true at all. The Middle East has NOT always been this way. Both sides are longing for a true and just peace. And the body of Christ are the most obvious ones called and equipped to bring it!