A wise man once said, “The first one to plead his cause seems right until his neighbor comes and examines him.” That wise man was Solomon and the saying comes from the book of Proverbs, a book respected as the Word of God by both Christians and Jews alike. As an evangelical Christian born and raised in the charismatic movement, I grew up hearing only one side of the Israeli/Palestinian story, primarily the Israeli side. I always assumed that God gave the land to Jews and if the Palestinians don’t like it, well, they can sit on a tack, because everyone knows that Palestinians are the devil.
Sunday school songs aside, what’s happening in the Gaza strip is serious. That’s why we need a grown-up Christian response. Sadly, that’s exactly what’s lacking in this crucial hour.
So here goes.
I believe that Israel has the right to exist in safe and secure borders. I also believe that Israel has the right to defend itself. I understand the sentiment of President-elect Obama when he says that if rockets were being fired at his home while his two daughters were asleep, he would do everything he could to prevent it. I believe Hamas is a terrorist organization that espouses an ideology diabolically opposed to freedom and progress. I despise the fact that they persecute my brothers and sisters in Christ living under their thumb and, of course, firing rockets indiscriminately at civilians is never justified. Period.
So is Israel justified in their heavy- handed approach towards the citizens of Gaza? Judging by the fire breathing on both sides of the debate, I don’t see a consensus on this one coming any time soon. As for my fellow Christians, we can debate the subject until Jesus comes back and the debate will have largely missed the point. Sure Israel may—or may not—be justified in their aerial bombing campaign and subsequent invasion of the Gaza strip, but that question alone shouldn’t determine the proper Christian response. Why? Because Christians are called to live by a higher standard than what’s merely justifiable.
Jesus would have been completely justified in slaying the bloodthirsty Romans of His day. The crimes that the Romans committed against the Jews were every bit as bad, if not worse, than the crimes Palestinians commit against the Jews today. But when Jesus hung on the cross, He showed the world that there’s a higher law in God’s moral universe than brute justice. And that law is mercy. When it comes between following the suffering redemptive love of the cross and the enemy crushing way of the sword, Christians are supposed to choose the cross—at least that’s what Christians used to believe.
No I don’t think that followers of Jesus would be prudent to impose New Testament standards on non-Christians, but what I find particularly odd is that when Palestinian Muslims embrace Christianity (like the case of Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of a Hamas leader who recently made his testimony public) we expect them to embrace a new attitude towards their former enemy Israel. We expect them to love, bless, do good to, and pray for their enemies—like Jesus says to do. But when an Israeli Jew embraces Jesus as Messiah, most of my Christian friends don’t expect them to be less militant towards their Palestinian neighbors but more militant. We expect them to fight for their land and liberty even if that means that on the other side homes are demolished, land is confiscated, Palestinians participating in non-violent demonstrations are either tortured, imprisoned, or assassinated (this happens all the time in the West Bank by the way) and, as in the case of Gaza, women and children are denied food and medicine for years on end.
My Christian friends would say that problems in the Middle East would be solved overnight if every Jew and Palestinian would simply confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Without meaning any disrespect to people of other faiths, as a Bible believing Christian, I’m compelled to agree. But here is where the argument falls apart when the wrong people use it. Some of the same people who use this argument are also the ones bombarding the White House with e-mails urging our Secretary of State to let Israel fight. They never seem to ask themselves the question of who would Jesus bomb? What a shame that is! Because how can we as Christians say that the world would be a better place if everyone became one of us when we’re the ones cheering when the bombs go flying?