Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Taking Sides

A humorous video on YouTube depicts a flummoxed actor trying desperately to come up with the “right take” on the ongoing situation in Israel. As we all know, actors are expected to comment on every serious issue in the news, presumably because popularity = expertise (a questionable assumption at best). Naturally, this actor is looking to express an opinion that will meet with universal approval, and he recognizes that publicly embracing either Israel or Palestine will infuriate ±50% of his fan base.

Whatever to do?

Not Posting About Our Outrage

Here’s a brilliant suggestion: How about saying nothing?

And after all the actors stop weighing in publicly on situations they haven’t carefully thought through and know next to nothing about, perhaps a few of our more vocal evangelical friends might consider doing the same. Even The New York Times offered an opinion piece last week entitled “I Don’t Have to Post About My Outrage. Neither Do You.” For once, the Times may actually have a point.

Here are a few comparatively neutral thoughts about the ongoing turmoil that you may not be hearing elsewhere.

  • Wicked Tactics Do Not Invalidate a Legitimate Cause. Both Israel and the Palestinians have vested interests in getting you to think the Hamas attacks on Israel two weeks ago were the most barbaric atrocities committed in the history of the planet. Palestine wants to demonstrate it is willing do absolutely anything necessary to accomplish its goals; that is the object of terror. Israel wants to turn world opinion against the Palestinian cause in order to be able to deal forcefully with the existential danger posed by Hamas. The fact remains that almost two million Arabs in the Gaza Strip need somewhere to live, as do the seven million Jews living within Israel’s borders. Both sides have legitimate causes. Yes, the Palestinian tactics are beyond disgusting and their blatant disrespect for the lives of non-combatants infuriating. But the need for somewhere to live and the tactics employed to acquire or secure it are two distinct issues. You can support one without supporting the other.
  • “The Jews Are God’s People” is Bad Rhetoric. It’s bad rhetoric because it’s irrelevant to the question of whether the nation of Israel should have a recognized right to continued existence and a national home. It shouldn’t require special status to get Christians to grant them that. It’s also inflammatory, because it suggests there is something about Israel at the present time that should uniquely inspire admiration or loyalty from Christians. That too is questionable.
  • “The Jews Are God’s People” is Bad Theology. It’s bad theology because the Bible specifically repudiates this notion. Concerning Israel’s status Hosea writes, “Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.” That statement legitimately applies in the present era. Paul writes that branches of the olive tree of blessing and testimony were broken off. That’s unregenerate Israel at the present time, “hardened”, “darkened”, “trespassing”, “rejected”, “unbelieving” and “disobedient”. Of course they are “chosen” — the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. They were God’s people and they will be God’s people again, and we should never despise them because of their present day failure to acknowledge their Messiah. But the “day of Jezreel” is not today. The agenda of the secular government of Israel and the agenda of the eternal God are not one and the same. We should not conflate the two.
  • The Ultimate Fate of Israel is Never in Question. No matter how loud we cheer and no matter for whom we cheer, God is going to do what God is going to do. His word assures us of that. Haman the Amalekite could not wipe out the Jews. Adolf Hitler could not wipe out the Jews. The Arab armies could not dislodge Israel in 1948-49, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982 or 2006. But how is God going to accomplish his purposes in Israel? By allowing it to exhaust itself trying to preserve itself in the strength of the flesh so that it enters into a seven year covenant with the enemies of God, and by uniting most of the nations of the world against it until such time as Israel acknowledges its Messiah. In the process, lots of unbelieving Jews will die. Seen that way, Christians cheering for the perpetual successful defense of the nation of Israel as it is currently constituted, or for the comprehensive destruction of their enemies, are effectively, if not intentionally, cheering for the second coming of Christ to be delayed, and for the arm of flesh to accomplish what only the arm of Christ can do. The final siege of Jerusalem and the purging of the nation HAS to happen, and it will. Christians should never promote Jew-hatred, but it is a necessary evil and the mechanism by which the Lord will purify Israel and call them back to himself.

A Studied Neutrality

With these things in mind, I believe the best tactical approach for believers looking to share Christ in a divided world is a studied neutrality on the Israel/Palestine question. We can certainly deplore terror tactics and false flags. We can pray for those affected on both sides.

But ultimately, the Israel/Palestine question will not be decided by nukes, negotiations, covenants with evil, ethnic cleansing or the forcible resettlement of either side. It will be decided by our returning Savior. Rooting publicly for any lesser outcome is time well wasted.

“O Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
the trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend;
even so, it is well with my soul.”

— Horatio Gates Spafford

Is it well with your soul in these troubled times? It should be. That’s what the world needs to see from Christians, not cries to “Nuke the Gaza Strip!”

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