Many of us have heard about the escalating violence in Gaza and Israel. We’ve seen heartbreaking images of destruction and first-hand accounts of human suffering. A friend in Tel Aviv helped me understand how complicated life is for Palestinians and Israelis alike.
This past week, I’ve received emails, phone calls, text messages, and drop-by visits asking whether we support and stand with Israel as a church.
As my friend says: “it’s complicated”.
And when life gets complicated, I seek clarity in basic truths and principles. So, in light of the complicated realities unfolding in the Middle East, there are three truths and principles I’ve returned to this week.
1. Jesus loves Palestineans, Israelis, you, and me.
In crises, it’s easy to loose sight of the lives, names, and humanity. Hearing about and seeing violence leads us to a fight or flight emotional reaction and subsequent response. That’s normal.
So, deep breath. Let’s remember that in this horrific situation, both Palistineans and Israelis are real people with real names with real families who are really loved by Jesus - just like you and me. We share the same breath of God that allows us to live.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 'Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17)
2. Evil kills, steals, and destroys. Jesus alone brings life and salaam, shalom, and peace.
The gospel invites us to be honest with ourselves. That means we can call good, good and evil, evil.
What Hamas has and continues to do is evil. Murder, abuse, stealing, exploitation, destruction, and terror are acts of evil.
And, whether evil acts are done by Hamas, Israelis, Palestinians, or ourselves (1 John 3:15 says that “anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer”; or cheating on a test is stealing) - evil is evil. It is sin. And the only way to discover salaam, shalom, or peace is to find ourselves in Jesus.
It’s in Jesus we pray, plead for forgiveness for ourselves and for others, and find restoration for our tired souls. This is the only true good thing we can pray for in all of this.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (Jesus in John 10:10)
3. Jesus is Israel.
I’ve asked several people this week, “why do you want to support, defend, and pray for Israel?”. And one of the common responses has involved the prophecy that Jesus will return to Israel, specifically Jerusalem. As a result, we must defend, support, and pray for the peace of Jerusalem. There is history, politics, and economics tied up in this spiritual response, too. Essentially, for many, Israel means something special to them - sacred, because Jesus’ return is connected to that specific geography. As a result, the conclusion can be made that if we are on Israel’s side of history, then we’re on God’s side of eternity.
There is too much to unpack in a blog, so I encourage you to reach out and continue the conversation with me (individually or as a small group).
Here is what I know: Jesus becomes Israel… not a nation, but a collective people.
While Israel in the Old Testament is a nation, race, people group, and ethnicity - they (like us) were unfaithful, disobedient, and lived sinful and rebellious lives. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Jesus comes to fulfil the prophecies that Israel will be reduced to a stump and out of the stump, a single shoot will appear (Isaiah 6:13, Isaiah 11:1). Jesus is the shoot. Jesus is the promised Messiah. Jesus is the new Israel.
Where Israel was unfaithful, Jesus is faithful. Where Isreal fled through Egypt, Jesus fled through Egypt. Where Isreal was taken into captivity, Jesus was taken into captivity. Where Isreal was disobedient, Jesus was obedient. Where Isreal lived sinful and rebellious lives, Jesus lived a sinless and servant-oriented life.
Jesus became Isreal. And by faith, we are grafted into the vine of Jesus and become Isreal - not a nation, but a new people.
“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:8-9).
Israel is our hope… but Isreal is not a nation, but a person - Jesus Christ.
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
That’s why we condemn sin and every evil and are able to pray for, support, and defend both the Palestinian and Israeli… only because we are in Jesus, our shared and collective Israel.
I’d love to continue learning about and discussing this with you.
You can schedule a time here.
In the meantime, enjoy these additional resources, too.
Meet Pastor Tim
Tim Bayer has served as Our Savior's Lead Pastor since September 2019. He also serves as an Adjunct Instructor at Concordia University - Irvine, a National Leadership Facilitator and Resource, and a Community Mental Health First Aid Instructor.