James what are you feelings about the Gaza/Israel situation? On one hand I understand that Israel had to defend itself against terrorists but what about the innocents in Palestine getting caught in the crossfire?
PS. And what is the Biblical/Christian view? Do we support Israel no matter what?
This is a great question.
But before I answer, let me say that Christians can disagree on this topic and still be Christians. It’s not an essential belief of the faith, so it’s not something we need to divide over.
But since you asked for my opinion, I’ll tell you honestly.
A short history of Israel and Palestine
In AD 70, Rome attacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple. This forced the Jewish people to scatter across the globe in what is known as “The Diaspora.”
Over the centuries, many other nations fought for control of the Promised Land. The Crusades are the best-known example, but most recently it was controlled by a “British Mandate”.
Meanwhile, the Jewish people established themselves in other countries—especially in Europe. And though they assimilated well into these other cultures, they also preserved their Jewish heritage and religion.
But following the anti-Semitic horrors of the Nazi Holocaust, the world decided the Jewish people needed their own country again. So, in May of 1948 the United Nations set up the new political state of Israel.
The only problem was that the land wasn’t exactly empty. Palestinian people were already settled there. And they had lived there for generations with homes, families, farms and businesses.
In order for the new Israeli state to be established, the Palestinian people had to be forced out. And that’s exactly what happened. Israel and the UN removed the Palestinians from their homes and forced them into refugee camps and settlements in Gaza.
Ever since then, the Palestinians have been fighting back, the Israelis have been defending themselves …and both sides have committed horrible atrocities against each other.
(Check out what Biblical Scholar N.T. Wright has to say about it here)
Why Some Christians Support Israel
So that’s the context of the situation. But the more important question you ask is about how Christians should respond. Do we support Israel no matter what?
A lot of Christians would say yes, and their reasons tend to fall into three categories:
- Some believe Israel is politically important, because it is the only democracy in the Middle East (and therefore the United States’ best ally there).
- Some believe Israel is historically important, because it has a role to play in the End Times.
- And some believe Israel is spiritually important, because the Israelites are the Biblical People of God.
The Bible never tells us that Christians should support democracy. In fact, it doesn’t give us a lot of political direction one way or the other. So Christians can support Israel for being a democracy if they want to, they just can’t argue that their reasons for doing so are Biblical.
The Bible has more to say about the End Times, and people like to dissect and debate the prophesies of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and Revelation …but I try to avoid these discussions.
For one thing, the details of the End Times are not an issue of essential doctrine, so it’s not worth getting into arguments over. Yet some Christians become obsessed with this topic to the point that they neglect our true calling.
For another thing, no one is ever going to figure out the End Times before they happen anyway. The Bible makes it clear that Jesus will come back for us, God will finally defeat evil, creation will be renewed ….and no one will see it coming. Beyond that, the Bible is pretty vague. So any speculation about details—like whether or not Israel will play a role—are pretty meaningless to me.
This leaves the spiritual reason some Christians support Israel: The Israelites are the Biblical People of God. And while I have a lot more respect for this argument, I don’t necessarily agree with it.
Because the Bible has always defined God’s people as people of faith.
This definition applies in the Old Testament. Some people who weren’t biologically Jewish were included with God’s People because they had faith—people like Rahab and Ruth. Other people who were biologically Jewish were excluded because they didn’t have faith—people like King Saul and King Ahab. And God’s Old Covenant with the Israelites even defined His relationship with them in terms of their faithfulness.
This definition also applies in the New Testament. Any Gentiles who had faith were welcomed as God’s people. And Jesus taught that any Jewish people who rejected Him would also be rejected by God. Paul even wrote that the People of God weren’t necessarily Abraham’s biological descendants, but the descendants of God’s promise to Abraham—a promise that was fulfilled in Jesus.
So the People of God have always been those people who have put their faith in God through Jesus. It’s not about race or nationality, it’s about faith.
This means the current nation of Israel isn’t necessarily the People of God, and we Christians have no Biblical obligation to support it or its government.
I Support Peace
Back to Israel and Palestine—At this point, both sides have legitimate reasons to be upset. The Israelis have now lived in the land for a couple generations and consider it to be their home. And the Palestinians have been displaced by the Israelis for a couple generations and still want justice.
But both groups have reacted to this tension with increasing violence. There have been so many raids, kidnappings, bombings and civilian deaths over the past six decades that neither side can be considered blameless against the other. And the best efforts of outside governments—which caused this whole mess in the first place—haven’t been able to end the warfare.
At the moment, Hamas, a Palestinian authority/terrorist group, has been firing missiles into Israel, and Israel has been firing missiles back. It’s not the first time it has happened, and it probably won’t be the last.
But that’s what we get when governments try to fix the world by force.
No matter what, I can only support peace. So as long as both sides insist on using indiscriminate violence against each other, neither will have my support - but both sides will have my prayers for protection.
As I said at the beginning, Christians can disagree on this topic. So I’m not interested in debating it with anyone who disagrees with me. You asked for my opinion, and I gave it. Feel free to take it or leave it.
But I hope it was helpful.
Peace, love and Jesus,