Sunday, December 2, 2007

Is The Church Bound to Support the Modern Nation of Israel?

This is an excerpt from a paper I wrote in 12th grade. Once again, it's a little strong, but I think it brings up some valid issues. The main portion I removed was an explanation on why I think the Church has replaced Israel as the chosen people. While I still believe that to be true, the point is irrelevant to the paper as a whole:

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems to be spiraling out of control. Suicide bombers attack and kill innocent civilians and Israel retaliates by leveling harsh collective punishment on the Palestinian population. Palestinian refugees, scattered throughout the Arab world, grow old in countries not their own, and eventually lose sight of all hope for a better tomorrow. Every day more land is confiscated in the West Bank and Gaza strip and article after article of U.N. resolutions are ignored, while the Palestinians respond with more hate and more suicide bombings. The cycle is deadly, with far reaching effects, shaping American policies, impacting West-East relations, destroying peace, and ravaging human lives. As followers of Jesus, called to be peacemakers, it is time for the church to take a stand, to align ourselves with Christ, and to strive to bring justice and mercy back to the Middle East. Looking around, however, I am shocked to find that instead of doing all we can to bring about peace and tear down the walls of hostility, we have actually joined in this war, whole-heartedly choosing sides, and adding to the carnage. Somehow the people of Jesus seem to have stumbled over verses like Zechariah 2:8 (1) and Genesis 12:3 (2), and used them to justify, or even mandate, the giving of unrestrained support (including American military aid) to Israel, and with it has come a correlating condemnation of the Palestinian people. Is this the heart of God, I wonder, and if so, where is the mercy and the justice? Or is it possible that we have become so caught up in the future fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and the will of God for the end-times, that we have lost sight of the will of God for the present?

. . .

[E]ven if Israel is still under the covenantal promises, we should be very careful in assuming that this fact automatically guarantees that the Lord’s favor is with them. Indeed, if Israel has committed atrocities by a worldly standard (3), how much more if judged by the standards of God? God’s calling for His people has always been very high, and in Deuteronomy, along with blessings for obedience, are heavy curses for disobedience (4). We do not need to look any farther than the Ten Commandments to find laws against stealing, coveting, and murder (5). It is also clear that God calls His people to uphold justice for the oppressed, the fatherless, the widow, and the alien (Leviticus 24:22 states very clearly that laws must be the same when regarding an alien as when regarding an Israelite, and Deuteronomy 27:19 has a specific curse for any who withhold justice from an alien) (6). In I Kings, God destroys Ahab’s whole household because he takes possession of a vineyard not his own (7)—how much more will God avenge the unlawful seizure of forty-two percent of the Palestinian land in the West Bank (8)? If we are to view Israel solely in the light of the covenant God made with Abraham and Moses, then we must judge it by this same covenant, and by such passages as Micah 2:12—“Woe to those who plan iniquity . . . because it is in their power to do it. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them. They defraud a man of his home, a fellowman of his inheritance.” The modern day nation of Israel is a secular state different from the Biblical nation rooted in the laws of God, and the covenant was given based on an obedience that is very absent from the present day country.

When it comes down to the point, whether Israel is still the nation of prophecy or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is that God calls all humans, as beings created in His image, to love justice and to pursue mercy (9). As His children, who claim to know Him and walk with Him, we, as Christians, are called to an even higher standard because we have seen the truth and we walk in the light (10). Therefore whatever we believe about the place of Israel in the history of the end times we, as the salt of the world, should be calling them to a higher standard of living (11). Indeed, those who believe Israel to be the people of God should be even more vocal in this active calling to repentance. Throughout the Bible it is those who love Israel the most passionately who call it to repentance the most vocally. If we believe the Jews are still standing in the shadow of the covenantal blessings and curses then we should be doing our utmost to stand in the gap on their behalf and call them back to the standards and glory of God.

In the end I think that the greatest danger of unduly focusing on Israel as the chosen, and blindly supporting them is that we lose sight of Christ’s love for all peoples. As children of God we are called to walk in love and to spread the name of Jesus to the ends of the earth. In Christ there is neither slave nor free, Jew nor Muslim, Israeli nor Palestinian, for Jesus died for all alike (12). This is the kingdom of heaven, the heart of the gospel, the good news, and the center of God’s work throughout the ages. Anything that takes us away from this, takes our eyes off Christ, and is wrong, unbiblical, and even sinful. This is where our focus should be as we strive to usher in the kingdom of God, not on end-time prophecies or revelations (13). When we search the scriptures it should be to find God’s heart for all peoples, not just the Israelites, lest we, like the Pharisees, be condemned for pouring our souls into the details of the law and missing the heart of God (14).

So when we, as Christians, view Israel, it should be with the eyes of Christ, and the same way that we view Palestine and the world. We should offer it our support, yes, but not the frail, cheap support that comes by blindly accepting its political agenda and swallowing its propaganda. Instead we need to stand aloof from our nation’s policies and offer Israel something real—the love of God and the chance to repent. We must not allow our political, cultural or even theological background to blind us to the need for justice, and we must stop using unequal scales to judge the conflict in the Middle East, for God is a god who hates favoritism (15). Above all we should seek to shine the love of Christ and to bring God’s peace to those whose lives are being torn apart by hate and violence—only then can there be true peace in Jerusalem.

(1) Zech. 2:8, “. . . For whoever touches you touches the apple of my eye.”
(2) Gen. 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse.”
(3) A few examples of the atrocities Israel has committed in regards to the Palestinian people are the common around-the-clock, shoot to kill curfews; the thousands of acres of Palestinian land (in the West Bank and Gaza strip) that have been confiscated or destroyed; the continual violence and abuse suffered by Palestinians at Israeli checkpoints throughout the occupied territories; the numerous schools that have been shut down, denying education to thousands; and the staggering number of deaths and injuries the Palestinian people have suffered at the hands of the Israeli military (every day since the year 2000, two Palestinians have been killed and more than thirty injured—a third of whom have been women and children). It is in condemnation for acts such as these that Amnesty International, in Nov. 2000, declared that the Israeli army’s policies in the occupied territories are “a pattern of gross human rights violations that may well amount to war crimes,” and B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, in a study titled “Injustice in the Holy city,” called Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem “a history of dispossession, systematic and deliberated discrimination, and a consistent assault on the dignity and basic rights of the Palestinian residents of the city . . .” These facts are referred to in “An Open Letter Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” an unpublished letter by several evangelical Christian workers serving in the Arab world, and can be verified by a search of B’Tselem documents ( and other sources (including, for example, The Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, Rabbis for Human Rights, Jews for Peace in Palestine and Israel, Jews Against Zionism, Jews for Justice in the Middle East, and Jews for Justice for Palestinians [, which includes links to other sites]).
(4) Deut. 28
(5) Deut. 5:6-21
(6) Exodus 22:21-22, Psalm 72:4
(7) I Kings 21:17-24
(8) May 2002 report by B’Tselem, referred to by Mark Harlan (a Dallas Seminary graduate) in “Between Iraq and a Hard Place: Palestinian Human Rights and Chosen People Theology – Can They be Harmonized?” (unpublished paper) and in “An Open Letter Regarding The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” (unpublished letter written by a number of evangelical Christians serving in the Arab World).
(9) Micah 6:8
(10) Luke 12:47-48
(11) Eph. 5:11
(12) Col. 3:11
(13) Acts 1:7-8
(14) Matthew 23:23-24
(15) Deut. 25:13-16

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