This past Sunday during the adult Sunday School hour, attendees could ask any question of GRC’s elders (our Session). Separately, some of us have gotten questions like “What’s GRC’s position on Israel and Hamas?” Sometimes underneath a question like that is this curiosity (or demand): “What side are you taking?” For some people, it’s intended as a litmus test for allegiance to a church. For others, it’s a request for guidance: “Which side should I take?” But unless the issue is explicitly laid out in Scripture and relates to the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (and therefore is a matter of spiritual life vs. spiritual death), we’re not likely to believe that a simple and wise answer exists.
One answer is straightforward and biblically-rooted: we condemn Hamas’ terroristic violence against Israeli citizens. (I hope no one truly wonders what GRC leaders think about this!). But some Christian leaders have gone further and publicly stated, “I stand with Israel.” Beyond condemning Hamas’ surprise attack on civilians, what does that mean?
- If it’s compassion and maybe a bit of solidarity with Israel having experienced its own “9/11” that makes sense.
- If it’s a concession that a nation-state like Israel has a right to defend itself from further attacks… you might lose some agreement, but most would be on board.
- But if it’s along the lines of what Senator Lindsey Graham recently said, I believe I can speak for all of GRC’s elders: “That’s going too far!” Graham publicly said: “We’re in a religious war here and I am with Israel. Do whatever the hell you have to do to defend yourself. Level the place.”
There are so many political, philosophical and biblical issues intertwined, that’s it’s impossible and unwise to take a side or to make a blanket statement. Biblical Christians differ on the status of the modern state of Israel and whether Jews have a divine right to the land (and related, whether the Lord still holds a unique plan of salvation for ethnic Jews). Some Christian pastors/leaders would say there’s no debate, but we’d allow for room to disagree based on our reading of Scripture.
Regarding Israel’s right to self-defense, surely biblical Christians should take into account Jesus’ own words in the Sermon on the Mount regarding turning the other cheek and loving one’s enemies (Matthew 5:38-48)? And Paul’s quotations of Deuteronomy and Proverbs, warning against taking revenge (in Romans 12:19-21)? Wrestling with those tough teachings (rather than ignoring them, or believing they simply don’t apply ‘here and now’) requires prayerful consideration, wisdom, and a significant dose of Gospel-humility… none of which resonates with the “level the place” crowd.
A question I’d suggest is less-contentious, more God-honoring, more Kingdom-oriented is: “How should we be praying about the Israel-Hamas conflict?” A few brief thoughts:
- Praying for justice for the well-being and release of hostages reflects God’s heart for the vulnerable. The prophet Isaiah captures this early on in his prophecy: Isaiah 1:17 “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”
- When God’s people asked the prophets how to respond to a crisis, here was the Lord’s answer: Zechariah 7:9–10 “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.” That leads to a second prayer focus: pray for the millions who are without food, water, shelter and basic medical care; pray that Israel’s pursuit of justice would not involve blatant injustices and needless suffering upon the Palestinians. Many of them do not support Hamas’ terror. Some are believers in Jesus, and are therefore our brothers and sisters in the faith!
- Ultimately, pray in these times of hopelessness, that both Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews would turn to the only hope possible, through faith in Jesus the Messiah (1 Peter 1:3-4)! Pray that in this time of war, they might see with Holy Spirit-enabled eyes, the Prince of Peace Himself (Isaiah 9:6)! Neither the UN, nor Middle East summits, nor any human effort can resolve this battle between the sons of Abraham (Genesis 16:12).
That reflects our position on this situation: that God’s Kingdom would come, and that His will would be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Let our gaze be focused on His glory, rooted in His Word, and not on the decisions and positions of human leaders.
In service to the King,
Peter Wang serves as the Senior Pastor at GRC.