Christians Love Israel: Sincere or Blind Devotion? #1

Israel attacks Iran and Iran responds. What now?
With thanks to the Begin-Sadat Center

We have to push the boundaries. So here goes.

Amid the noise of global conflict and geopolitical conflict, one resounding question resonates: Where does our loyalty as Christians really lie?

Many Christians proclaim love for Israel as God’s chosen people. I wonder if we have merged the love of a people with the love of a nation. I will return to this point in my next post.

Yet amid the tumult of Gaza and Israel, and now Iran and Israel, a disturbing trend is emerging – a trend of Israel-centrism that often overshadows the cries of other suffering souls.

Are we not called to extend that same passion for peace and justice to everyone?

Should our advocacy for one nation come at the cost of neglecting the plight of others? These questions pierce the core of our faith and require reflection. Because if Christianity knows no boundaries, then neither should our pursuit of peace and justice.

In an attempt to justify our lack of love for others, as if that were an option, it seems that many have joined the civil discourse that regularly demonizes the other.

NB: Another of the unwritten rules, which I alluded to in my last post, requires that I affirm the condemnation of Hamas and be critical of Iran’s goals and ambitions.

But this begs the question: do we have the right to demonize an entire country full of people and an entire religious group (Muslims)?

My concern is that when we condemn Hamas or Iran, we are too quick to associate all Muslims with radical Islam.

NB: I know some may find it difficult to accept the idea that we should accept, love, or tolerate Muslims. But this is what it means to love our neighbor.

The mission of God’s people

I would argue that our mission is to make Christ known to the nations.

This begins with each Christian, individually and collectively, growing into the likeness and image of Christ (Col. 1:28-29). By growing into the likeness of Christ, we fulfill our mission to be the Image of God to the world.

The mission to make Christ known means we must reflect who He is. Many Western Christians have the overly simplistic idea that making Christ known means telling others about Jesus.

However, Jesus affirmed, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). In other words, by loving others we reflect who God is. This love, of course, begins with those within the covenant community, but it must also extend to everyone.

When we sacrificially surrender for the sake of others (which is the hallmark of Christian love), we are saying to the world, “This is what our God looks like.” Our actions and attitudes reflect God much more than our words.

A radical, cross-bearing, sacrificial love for others must extend to our enemies. After all, a radical, cross-bearing, sacrificial love for others is what our God looks like. This is what the famous John 3:16 means when it says, “For God so loved the world. . . . .”

This love for the world includes His love for us. But Christ loved us when we were His enemies: “But God shows His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

It is this kind of love for our enemies that Jesus calls all Christians to in the Sermon on the Mount:

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes His sun to rise the evil and the good, and let the rain continue the justify the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45).

The implication is clear: when we love our enemies, we act as children of the Father. Why is that? Because God loves His enemies: He “makes even His sun to rise the evil and the good, and let rain continue the justify the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).

This brings me to my next point.

Tucker Carslon’s Interview with Munther Isaac: The Good and the Bad

Tucker Carlson has apparently gone independent. As part of his new gig, he arranged an interview with Munther Isaac, the pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem and a good friend to many of us.

Many of those who, like me, have worked to bring just peace to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were thrilled by Carlson’s interview. Although I am surprised by Carlson’s sympathetic interview with Munther, I have many concerns of my own.

In the interview, Carlson expressed outrage that his tax dollars were being used by the US to supply Israel with weapons, that Israel then used these weapons on Gaza, and that some of the Gaza residents killed or injured by these weapons are Christians.

This all sounds well and good. Someone from the extreme right stands up for the Palestinians.

Well, not so fast.

My concern is that Carlson has made his point very clearly. It was the bombing of Christians in Gaza that worried him. But what does Carlson think about his government arming a foreign nation to kill thousands of non-Christians? Apparently this would be fine.

It’s as if Carlson didn’t care about the suffering of Muslims in Gaza.

NB: You might object by claiming that Carlson has not addressed the suffering of Muslims in Gaza, so we cannot know his feelings on this issue. Reasonable. I truly believe that any non-Christian in Gaza would have struggled to listen to the interview and ask themselves the entire time, “What about us?”

Weep with those who weep

As Christians, we are called to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15), no matter who they are.

During the interview with Carlson, Pastor Isaac was understandably sympathetic to Carlson’s views on the issue – at least as we can tell from the interview! (We should not forget that the media edits such interviews to their liking. Munther may have expressed a dissenting opinion, but we were not made aware of it.) As a Palestinian Christian pastor, it is of course one of Munther’s most important responsibilities to provide for the well-being of the Christian community in Bethlehem; and, as a leading Christian voice in the community, for all Palestinian people.

Knowing Munther, I suspected he was equally concerned about the Muslims in his community. So I asked him about Tucker’s lack of concern for Muslims and he confirmed in an email that the starting point for the interview was Christians. He added: “I knew the focus was on Palestinian Christians.” He also noted that he initially thought the interview was a trap, but was ultimately happy to see a Western, far-right media personality take up the cause of Palestinian Christians — even if Carlson did not take up the cause. of all Palestinians.

However, we in the West are not in Munther’s situation. Therefore, we must urge Carlson to take up the cause of all people. Certainly, we are happy that a Western, right-wing media personality showed concern for Palestinian Christians.

There is no option to love one person (person, nation, religious group, etc.) and not love another.

Israel and Iran

While there is a lot to say about the recent events between Israel and Iran, I have reached the limit of what I will delve into in this post. Instead, consider this a precursor to what lies ahead. In my next post I want to shed light on the Western tendency to gloss over Israel’s actions while vilifying those of Iran, often reducing it to the actions of a supposedly radical Islamic state.

NB: My next post will appear on Wednesday of this week (April 24, 2024).

NBB: For those curious whether Iran’s attack on Israel is a sign of the final battle with Gog of the land of Magog from Ezek 38-39 and Rev 20, OT scholar Jace Broadhurst and I spent over an hour on a Determining Truth. Live stream discussing this topic.

. . . to be continued

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