This post may seem political, but if you actually read it, I hope you will find it is not. In fact I intend for it to be “theological”, while recognizing that, in North America at least, this is far too controversial a topic to ever be truly divorced from politics … and so, my intentions will fail.
So … let’s talk about Israel and Palestine.
(Watches as 90% of audience slam doors as they flee the room, while the other 10% get ready to attack …)
No, seriously, let’s have an honest, factual discussion about Israel and Palestine. And remember, I am trying to stay theological here, but recognize that this may wade into politics, which is fine, but please let’s not dwell there.
My concern in talking about Israel is that somehow our theology (how we think about God) comes to be destructive in our lived experience — or at least in the experience of God’s image bearers in Palestine.
For some Christians (unfortunately not a minority in North America), Israel has an eternal, divine right to the Land of Israel and should not be questioned no matter what they do. This seems to come from readings of the Old Testament that centre around the land and a certain interpretation of Revelation that sees Israel as key to the second coming of Christ.
With this I would not agree, but let’s keep going …
In addition, God’s promise to “bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you” is seen to be an eternal promise to people living in the modern State of Israel — or, more accurately, people living in the State of Israel who claim Jewish descent.
And with this I agree …
… Except, as much of the New Testament goes to great depths to show, it is far too shallow.
Much of the New Testament is an exercise in showing how God’s people are not just Jewish, but also Gentiles. God’s promises are for us all.
God will bless people who bless other people. Period. Full stop.
God will curse people who curse other people (let’s not get distracted by defining what this means at this point). Period. Full stop.
That’s because God wants us to become the types of people who bless others and not the type of people who wish for the destruction of others. He wants us to love our enemies and do good to people who persecute us.
The promise is true — it is just much larger than the borders of a tribe.
And this is where it gets political …
I understand people will land on opposite sides of the debate regarding whether Israel is justified in its attempt to “defend itself”. This is normal and to be expected. Israelis themselves are split on this point with large numbers opposing their government’s decisions; just like large numbers of Canadians disagree with anything our government does.
It is OK to disagree on politics.
But it is never OK to marry God to our own political viewpoints and suggest any other political viewpoints are anti-God.
God is not FOR the killing of 1,020 palestinians and 43 Israelis to date.
God is not FOR the injury and displacement of hundreds of thousands more.
God is very much against this.
God is always on the side of the oppressed wherever they are found.
You may feel Israel should have our support due to scripture. You may feel Revelation tells us how the end of the world will happen and that Israel will be at it’s centre.
I will disagree with you on both these points and could match your interpretation one-for-one with my own.
We both could be wrong.
But can we not at least agree that;
a) God is always for the “least of these”.
b) It is not our job to cause the end times to happen as we envision it in Revelation … God will take care of that on his own.
So, go make your political points with your political leaders, but please understand that as Christians our founding “constitution” is not the constitution of Canada, the American Declaration of Independence or Israel’s declaration of statehood in 1948; it is the sermon on the mount.
It is the call to love our enemies. It is the call to turn the other cheek. It is the proclamation that “blessed are the peacemakers”.
That’s the kingdom we are supposed to support without question.
… And it doesn’t make sense. It isn’t a recipe for success. It is the way of the cross; the way of self-sacrifice. It is a good way to get yourself killed (as the One we are told to follow found out 2,000 years ago on a cross).
But it is God’s way!
So go read Matthew 5-7 again and ask yourself how applying this as your life’s constitution would affect your response to any situation you are facing — and maybe even the conflict between Israel / Palestine*.
* If you’d like to read a bit about the history of the State of Israel and why this is a very complicated issue, continue here