(Washington, D.C.) — On July 31st, I first published this column. The response has been very encouraging, but I believe many more Christians need to hear this message, so I’m publishing it again. Please share it with others, and encourage each other to love Israelis and Palestinians, not just one side or the other. Thanks, and may the Lord bless you as you love both in the name of Jesus.
As the war in Gaza continues, here’s an important question for Christians: Is the Church doing enough to love the people who are suffering in the epicenter, in obedience to the Scriptures?
Now more than ever, is it vital for Christian leaders and lay people to speak out in solidarity with Israel — and even go visit Israel soon — as Jews and Arabs defend themselves against Radical Islam. Day after day, Israel is facing not only an onslaught of terrorism but an evil double-standard. Israeli citizens have absorbed more than 2,800 rocket attacks [UPDATE: now the number is over 3,400] and numerous terror squads who have come from the Gaza Strip to murder innocent men, women and children. Yet rather than receive encouragement from world democracies who see a fellow democracy under attack, much of the world is turning against Israel. Anti-Semitic attacks are skyrocketing, especially in Europe. Israel is being condemned at the U.N., blasted by world leaders, and even pressured by our President and Secretary of State to immediately stop defending themselves and accept a premature ceasefire.
This is morally wrong. Indeed, it is unconscionable and indefensible. Israel not only has the right but the responsibility to defend its citizens, both Jews and Arabs and those of other ethnicities. In fighting the terrorists sworn to obliterate her, Israel is doing what any civilized democracy would do. It is tragic that civilians in Gaza are being killed and injured. But Israel isn’t targeting them. They are warning them to get out of the way — using text messages, phone calls, leaflets and other measures. It is Hamas who is using civilians as human shields. It is Hamas who wants as many Palestinians to die as possible, hoping this will cause the world to turn even further against Israel. Israel must do everything it can to prevent the loss of innocent life. They must set the highest possible standard. But Hamas bears ultimate responsibility for all the death and destruction. This war wouldn’t be happening if Hamas wasn’t attacking Israel day after day.
The Bible is clear how much God loves the Jewish people. From Genesis to Revelation, the Scriptures are clear that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has a great plan and purpose for the nation of Israel. And the Lord calls all of us to love Israel and the Jewish people, not because they are perfect, but because He loves them and wants them to know Him in a real and personal and intimate way. In Genesis 12:3, the Lord God says, “I will bless those who bless thee, and curse those who curse thee.” Which side do you want to be on? I want to be on the side of blessing Israel, in obedience to the Lord. Followers of Jesus Christ should pray for the peace of Jerusalem and all of Israel. But we should also speak out in her defense. We should stand up against the injustice and evil she is being subjected to. We should stand with her people who are under attack hour by hour, and show unconditional love and unwavering support.
My wife and four sons and I are leaving for Israel on August 14th. Indeed, we would leave earlier if we could, but this is the soonest we can depart. We look forward to spending time with Israelis and Palestinians, to pray with them, to serve them and encourage them, especially at such a time as this. I’ll write more about that soon.
May the Lord guide you to travel to Israel as soon as possible, and give you great wisdom, safety and sensitivity as you go.
At the same time, it is vital for Christian leaders and lay people to show compassion towards Palestinians who are being crushed and oppressed by Hamas. The Bible is clear: God loves the Jews, but He also loves the Arabs. Jesus, as a Jew living in Israel, commanded His followers to “love your neighbor” and “love your enemy.” He traveled to Lebanon and ministered to the people there. He traveled across the Jordan River, and ministered to the people there. In the Book of Acts, we read that He sent one of His servants to minister to people on the road to Gaza. Christians are commanded to love the Arab people not because they are perfect, but because He loves them and wants them to know Him in a real and personal and intimate way. So while Christians are to love Israel and bless the Jewish people, we are not to stop there. We are to love the Palestinian Arab people, as well.
It is important for Christians to know the facts and keep the current conflict in perspective. In 2005, Israel withdrew all its military forces from Gaza. The people of Gaza were free. They could have built great schools and a growing economy and seaside resorts. But Hamas took control of the Strip in 2006 and began to suffocate and oppress the Palestinian people. Hamas turned Gaza into a terrorist base camp. They have murdered those who speak out against them. They have enslaved the people. They have triggered three wars. They don’t care about the welfare of the Palestinian people. They only care about establishing a Radical Islamic caliphate and killing anyone who gets in their way. To love the Palestinian people, then, is to want them to be set free from the Hamas reign of terror.
But don’t take my word for it. Listen to these interviews with Mosab Hasan Yousef, the eldest son of one of the founders of Hamas. He was once a terrorist himself. Then he renounced Hamas, renounced Islam, and is now calling for the liberation of the Palestinian people through the destruction of Hamas.
Far too many Christians are saying that all Palestinians are all terrorists. As I’ve written before, this is not true — it’s unbiblical and unfair. There are many Palestinian moderates. Indeed, there are a growing number of truly born-again Palestinian Christians. I’ve many hundreds of them and count them as friends. What’s more, the most recent credible polls show most Palestinians in Gaza turning against Hamas, wanting a ceasefire, wanting calm and stable relations with Israel and even wanting to work in Israel. To love the Palestinian people, then, is to understand that there are a wide range of religious, political and philosophical views amongst them. Just as we shouldn’t see all Jews as the same, so we shouldn’t see all Palestinians as the same.
Now is the time for Christians to be praying for the Palestinian people — in Gaza, and on the West Bank. But don’t simply pray. Speak out for their liberation from Hamas and Radical Islam. Stand against the injustice and evil they have been suffering. Call on world leaders to stand against Hamas, and for the freedom and opportunity of the Palestinian people. And encourage Arab and Jewish followers of Jesus Christ to be able to preach the Gospel of freedom and forgiveness and eternal life to all Palestinians, as well as all Israelis.
It is not advisable to visit Gaza at this time, of course. But I would encourage Christian leaders who are visiting Israel to be sure to visit Palestinians as well — not to discuss politics, perhaps not even to discuss the war, but to show them you love them, you can for them, and you want to stand with them for peace in troubled times.
- Learn more about The Joshua Fund (www.joshuafund.com). This is an organization my wife and I founded in 2006 to educate and mobilize Christians to bless Israel and her Arab neighbors in the name of Jesus, including caring for the poor and needy with food and other humanitarian relief. Read our 2013 Donor Report. Please pray for our team, especially as they care for Jews and Arabs in the region. And please prayerfully consider making a generous, tax deductible, secure, on-line contribution.
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