“Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” This is what a U.S. Republican Senator told me and a group that was visiting with him in his office last month. He is a conservative Christian who loves Israel. It was in response to my question about how we should be thinking of Israel in light of the Palestinian issue. He said, “Of course Israel is our friend. They are America’s friend. They are my friends. But good friends don’t let friends drive drunk and Israel is a drunk driver.” Wow!
As you know, I’ve stayed far away from such topics for all the years we’ve been doing what we do. It’s just too hot to touch. But for the sake of the gospel – to the Jews and the Arabs – I don’t feel I can any more.
Israel is hurting themselves. And we are helping!
By not holding them accountable for their irresponsible and oppressive actions towards the Palestinians, we hurt them and we hinder the gospel from going forward among both groups. How so, you may ask? Here are the ways we stop the gospel from going forward on both sides when we don’t acknowledge and then do something about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians:
- The Palestinians confuse American politics (in this case, pro-Israel) with the gospel. So…since they’re mad at the West for their one-sided treatment of the issue, they also won’t listen to anyone coming from the West bearing good news. The two separate issues (in our minds) are the same in theirs.
- It hurts Israel because they know they’re using the Western church to further their political goals without restraint. I’ve had several Israeli leaders over the years tell me that they think of the American church as “in their back pocket.” Again, this confuses their real need for Jesus with simply seeing the Church as a money pot.
- Because God loves justice and has a heart for the poor, he wants to see his church fighting for the things on his heart. When we don’t do that, we hinder the purposes of God.
- The only time the word “religion” is used in the bible is in James when he says that true religion is taking care of widows and orphans. There are many widows and orphans among the Palestinians. Politics aside, we need to serve them!
- The Christian church among the Palestinian is alive and well, but shrinking. They feel abandoned by their western brothers and sisters. We need to remember that in the West Bank and Gaza there are Baptists and Pentecostals. Presbyterians and Lutherans. Brethren and Charismatics. Catholics and Orthodox. Assemblies of God and Christian Missionary Alliance. Along with many others… There is an Evangelical Bible College in Bethlehem that trains young men and women for the ministry. These are our family.
Let’s love Israel. Be Pro-Israel. But don’t let your friends drive drunk. Over the next weeks, I’ll be suggesting ways you can get involved!