Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Praying for the Peace of Israel

            “I stand behind Israel!”
            “America must bless Israel!”
            “Our Salvation is Israel!”
            “I will never turn my back on Israel.”
            “Those who bless Israel will be blessed and those who curse Israel will be cursed.”

            In light of the ongoing war in Gaza statements like these are again making their rounds in the political and religious discourse of America. Although well-intended and passionately believed, statements such as these are also frighteningly dangerous and Biblically inaccurate. As a Christian, I find the dangerously destructive Zionist mentality to be one of the most perverse distortions of God’s Word in our modern culture. Before we place a Christian label on the violence destroying Israel and Palestine, perhaps some prayerful perspective is order.

1.     The modern nation of Israel is largely supported by the United States because of political convenience and nationalistic fear. The religious incorporation of supposedly biblical priorities for blessing Israel were developed out of political ideologies largely rooted in Cold War Era fears and nationalistic pride. Lest we find ourselves worshipping at the idol of political correctness and sacrificing to the false god of partisan priorities, blindly supporting Israel out of presumed religious priority is a dangerously destructive path.

2.     Israel presumes to be a democracy, and thus an important ally to the United States in the Middle East, but it operates as a quasi-apartheid government with token democratic leanings. Additionally, Israel is a secular State with diverse religious factions and traditions. Nothing in the modern structure or constitution of Israel is defensible as genuine fulfilment of Biblical priority, prophecy, or Divine providence.  

3.     Blessing Israel is very Biblical, but turning a blind eye to Israel’s atrocities is not. By virtue of blessing, it must be noted that the blessing God gave to Israel was that it would be a light to the nations, not a brutal military regime and nuclear power that creates absolute enmity with much of the world. Throughout the Bible God demanded that Israel live up to its blessing by promoting justice, mercy, equality, and positioning itself as a light to the nations. Sadly, for all its greatness, Israel also fails tremendously in living into God’s definition of blessing.

4.     Israel has a right to exist as a free, sovereign, and protected nation. This does not mean that Israel has the right to hold entire populations in permanent refugee status, forced into perpetual concentration camps, and oppressed to the point of desperation. Such disregard for human dignity and equality is not to be blessed.  

5.     Israel has a right to self-defense and is perfectly justified in wishing to end the evil and indiscriminate rocket attacks and terrorist activities of Hamas.  Yet, before bombing Gaza and further destroying the lives of innocent Palestinians as if they were all less than human, Israel need look into the mirror and see the atrocities it has committed for over a half-century: illegal occupation, extreme racist and classist segregation, unwarranted settlements, military brutality, economic persecution, and over a half-century of indiscriminant violence against the Palestinian people. Such history is not to be blessed.

6.     Hamas is wrong. Just as Israel is wrong in their history of apartheid-like abuses of the Palestinian people, Hamas is equally wrong for their indiscriminate provoking of Israel and through the brutality of terrorist attacks. It is as the old saying goes, “Two wrongs do not make a right.” Yet, until one side takes a new approach at transcending the violence and hatred by true repentance and righting the wrongs of the past, both sides will be locked in mutual self-destructive sin and violence. Such a catastrophic failure of God’s peace is not to be blessed.

7.     Peace in Israel will never come by a sword (or rocket, or RPG, or terrorist attack, or military incursion, or through the destruction of tunnels). Peace in Israel can only come through the people of Israel and the people of Palestine laying down their arms, repenting of their long-held hatred, and seeking the true and genuine humanity of both sides. Calls for the United States and Christians to bless the violence of warfare in “blessing” and “standing with” Israel is as destructive to genuine peace as are the terrorist activities of Hamas. It was Jesus Christ who said that those who chose to live by the sword will die by the sword. Therefore, the idea of peace through military destruction is not to be blessed.

            I do seek to bless Israel, just as my God commands and the Bible I love so clearly records. Let my blessing of Israel never be called into question! Yet, rather than ascribe to a populist pseudo-blessing that only fuels the unholy violence, further distorts the authenticity of Scripture, and assaults the very people God loves, my blessing is in the form of prayers for peace—a genuine and Godly peace—for the Holy Land. Prayers that Israel stop conducting business as the regional bully and start living the blessing called for in scripture. I pray for the day when Israel may repent of its sins, truly live the sacred covenant of scripture, and finally become a light to the nations.

Quite frankly, this is a bitter and difficult path to take. A half-century of brutality is not erased overnight. Centuries of animosity, hatred, and mistrust do not evaporate quickly. Yet the peace of Israel is worth working for; worth praying for; worth sacrificing for. Now is the time to work and pray for the true Peace of Israel!