Loving the Palestinians
23 September 2011
A few months ago I read an interesting and provocative article by Carl Medearis on CNN called Why evangelicals should stop evangelizing. I was so intrigued by what he wrote that I decided to read his book, Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism.
Let me try to summarize his book in my own words:
"Jesus did not come to start a new religion. Christianity is a manmade religion. Instead of converting people to Christianity, we should be helping them to become followers of Jesus."
Well, he says much more than that, and so much better too! You really need to read the whole book, and probably more than once. But I think that what I just wrote is the main point in a nutshell.
I was so impressed and blessed by this book that it was quite a shock to read Mr. Medearis' latest article on CNN this week: Jesus would support Palestinian statehood bid.
In this article, Mr. Medearis bashes Christian Zionism. In fact, if you look at the contents of the entire article, practically the whole thing is a swipe at Christian Zionism. OK, so now we know that Mr. Medearis is definitely NOT a Christian Zionist. He also argues that because Jesus highly values love, compassion, justice and peace-making, therefore Jesus would vote to give Palestinian Arabs their own state in the Land of Israel.
Ummm ... I don't think so!
Like many well-meaning Christians before him, Mr. Medearis' long association with Muslims seems to have tainted his understanding of the Bible and God's eternal purposes. It's a tragic pattern, seen over and over again: Christians, wanting to understand the Muslim psyche, often start adopting the Muslim worldview and agenda. In the end, they become anti-Israel — all in the name of "love" or "justice" or other such lofty ideals. In some cases, Jesus is even transformed from the historical Jew that He was into a Palestinian Arab! The Muslims take it even further by insisting that Jesus was a good Muslim — even though the Islamic religion was not even founded until 600 years after His death!
Another consequence of identifying too closely with the Muslim mindset, which Mr. Medearis seems to advocate in his book, is the idea that Muslims can be followers of Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew, Isa in Arabic), and still remain Muslim. I've already extensively analyzed the error of this trendy idea in a number of articles, including Messianic Muslims?
There are a number of disturbing statements in Mr. Medearis' latest CNN article which must be addressed. The first one we'll look at is:
Christian Zionists believe that when God told Abraham 4,000 years ago, "I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you" he was making a promise that extends to the modern state of Israel. Any nation that "curses" Israel will face God's judgment.
Granted, there is nothing in the Bible that PROVES that this promise applies to the modern state of Israel, but then again, there is nothing in the Bible that proves that it DOESN'T apply. However, if you read the entire Bible, I believe you will find that this promise to Abraham is consistent with many other statements and promises God has made regarding the entire Jewish people.
Therefore, it seems to me that Mr. Medearis is skating on thin ice. He makes it seem like it's naïve — or even heretical — to dare believe that God's promise to Abraham could possibly apply to the modern Jewish nation. I think it's much worse theology to pooh-pooh a belief that is consistent with God's revealed plans for Israel.
Besides, the main reason to bless Israel is not just to avoid being cursed. It's much more positive than that. The main motivation for Christian Zionists is because we love God, and God loves Israel. Also, God is a Zionist! (A fuller development of that statement will have to wait until my next article.) Since God is a Zionist, then why shouldn't we be as well?! As followers of Yeshua (Jesus), we love the Jewish people because Yeshua Himself was, and still is, Jewish. How can we love Yeshua, and yet not love the Jewish people who brought Him forth? It is not possible. God's love for Israel is expressed all throughout the Bible. Here I will quote just one example:
"Your Maker is your husband — Yahweh Almighty is His name — the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; He is called the God of all the earth. Yahweh will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit — a wife who married young, only to be rejected," says your God. "For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you.... Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet My unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says Yahweh, who has compassion on you.
"In righteousness you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you. If anyone does attack you, it will not be My doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you.... No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of Yahweh, and this is their vindication from Me," declares Yahweh. (Isaiah 54:5-8,10,14,15,17)
Is there ANY other nation, ANY other people on earth, to whom God has made such promises, such tender and powerful statements of love? THERE IS NO OTHER! To deny God's burning passion for Israel is to slap Israel's husband in the face! Anyone who harms Israel is jabbing their finger into God's eye! (Zechariah 2:8) And Mr. Medearis and others want to paint Christian Zionists as unbiblical kooks and religious extremists?! May they also come down with a bad case of God's passion for Israel!
Is there a time limit on God's promises? Just because it's an old promise, does that make it old-fashioned and out-of-date? Are those who believe this promise out of touch with the modern world? Doesn't a promise made to Abraham, the father of the Jews, apply to his Jewish descendants also?
But you will say that Abraham is the father of the Arabs too. That is true. But as I detailed in my article Enmity and Reconciliation, God's numerous promises to Abraham were passed down through Isaac (the ancestor of the Jews), NOT through Ishmael (the ancestor of the Arabs). Be sure to read this article to get a good grasp on this crucial distinction.
Let's look at another statement from Mr. Medearis's CNN article:
Christian Zionism blesses military action by the modern state of Israel, under the banner of "national security," including the demolition of Palestinian homes to pave the way for new settlements.
Israeli military action IS national security, so it's very misleading for Mr. Medearis to put that phrase in quotes, dismissing their self-defense as so-called national security. It is also very misleading to say that Israel demolishes Palestinian homes to pave the way for new settlements. This is not the case at all.
Israel has used the destruction of individual homes as a punishment for families that participate in terrorist attacks. They have also demolished illegally-built Palestinian homes — just as they have demolished illegally-built JEWISH homes. There have NOT been large-scale demolitions of Palestinian home in order to build new settlements on the same spot. It's unfortunate that Mr. Medearis is taking partial truths and twisting them into untruths.
You have probably guessed by now that I consider myself a Christian Zionist. But I do not embrace every aspect of that philosophy. Particularly, as a follower of Yeshua, I have a hard time with the violence Israel has to use to defend herself. As I have written extensively in previous articles, particularly in Yeshua and Violence, I don't think followers of Yeshua can ever justify the use of force, even in self-defense. So how I do I reconcile the teachings of Yeshua with Israel's violent self-defense?
We can expect only followers of Yeshua to live by His teachings. Because the Jewish people are, for the most part, not followers of Yeshua, it is unrealistic to expect them to live up to His standards. The Jews are still living under the Old Covenant. You can see many examples in the Old Testament where God required to Jews to fight violently for their survival.
On the other hand, there were also times when God asked the Jews to trust Him, so that HE could fight for them rather than they fighting for themselves (see 2 Kings 19, 2 Chronicles 20 and Exodus 14). Until the modern Jews get to that place of belief where they will trust God to defend them, I'm assuming that God still requires them to fight violently to defend themselves.
Another aspect in which I part company from mainstream Christian Zionism is the whole realm of politics. Mr. Medearis writes regarding Christian Zionists:
They'll tell you their concern has nothing to do with their particular interpretation of the Bible and everything to do with America and Israel's national security interests.
But I'm just the opposite. My Christian Zionism has everything to do with what the Bible says. I believe that the Jews have a right to a national home in the historic Land of Israel because that's what God says over and over again in the Bible — it has nothing to do with politics or national security or wanting to be blessed rather than cursed. For me, it's a stance based upon inward, spiritual principles, not upon outward, political agendas.
A third area in which I diverge greatly from mainstream Christian Zionism is in my attitude toward Arabs and Muslims. All too often, pro-Israel Christian Zionists are very anti-Arab and anti-Muslim — they hate them, they want to see them destroyed. But this is not a disposition that is consistent with being a true follower of Yeshua. I don't hate the Arabs — I want to see them return to the true faith of their father, Abraham. I don't want to see the Muslims destroyed — I want to see them released from their cruel bondage to the demon-god Allah, so that they can find true freedom as sincere followers of Isa (Yeshua).
Next, Mr. Medearis writes:
In a bizarre twist that leaves most outsiders dumbfounded, Christian Zionists say the Bible predicts that Jews and Palestinians will forever be at war until Jesus returns. They say the only person that will bring peace before the end of the age is — wait for it — the devil, in the form of the anti-Christ.... They may forget that it was Jesus who said, "Blessed are the peacemakers."
Islam, which the Palestinians follow religiously, is fueled by a demonic anti-Semitism which permeates the Qur'an. Arab hatred of Jews will continue to be a major factor as long as Arabs are predominately Muslim. I believe that the ONLY way there will be peace between the Palestinians and the Jews is when BOTH people groups are predominately followers of Yeshua (Isa). Whether that happens during this present age, or only during the Millennial Age to come, when Yeshua is emperor of the whole earth with His throne in Jerusalem — when the wolf and the lamb will feed together (see Isaiah 11) — only God knows.
The tone that Mr. Medearis takes when referring to the Devil and the anti-Christ seems to mock those who actually believe that these two beings exist. We don't have time to get into end-times theology, but I do think it is safe to say that as long as the Arabs and the Jews reject Yeshua, then they are keeping open the door to Satan's influences. Peace will only come through Yeshua, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). For more about the anti-Christ, and how the expected Islamic messiah fulfills that role, see my article The Islamic Antichrist.
Mr. Medearis, we Christian Zionist do not forget that Yeshua said "Blessed are the peacemakers." But if you want to just pull verses out of the air, perhaps you are forgetting that Yeshua also said, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34). The real question is this: what kind of peace are you talking about, and under what conditions?
Mr. Medearis is all smiles with his buddy from Hezbollah, but Sheikh Qawouk seems to be taking a more pragmatic approach.
Are you talking about the peace that victims make when they give in to the demands of those who are bullying them? This is the Islamic practice of dhimmitude — one specific expression of which was the Pact of Umar. Or are you talking about the peace Muslims make, so that they can bide their time and gather their strength for an attack later on? This is the Islamic practice of hudna. Or is it the peace that six million Jews have in the graves of Europe — who were slaughtered just because they were Jews? This is the peace that Hamas, Hezbollah, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and even Palestinian National Authority president Mahmoud Abbas' own Fatah actively seek for Israel. These evil organizations enjoy very strong support from the general Palestinian public. Is this the kind of blessed peace Yeshua was referring to?
Ummm ... I don't think so!
Mr. Medearis says that love and peace for the Palestinians would be at the top of Jesus' agenda. But not all peace is created equal — not all love is created equal. Are we talking about the Islamic definition of peace, or the peace that comes from God, the God of the Bible, the God of Israel, who is NOT Allah? Are we talking about some sort of soft, mushy, sentimental love that gives a child a knife to play with just because they want it so badly? This seems to be the kind of love Mr. Medearis wants for the Palestinians. Or are we talking about a love that's based on truth and goodness and what's really best for the other person.
I totally agree with Mr. Medearis that as followers of Yeshua we should be wholeheartedly loving the Palestinians. But loving them does NOT mean empowering them to establish their own state in the Land of Israel. And opposing their statehood does NOT mean that we are NOT loving them. Just like we would be loving a child by NOT giving them a dangerous knife to play with, no matter how hard they begged for it. Mr. Medearis seems to be confused on this point.
So how can we love the Palestinians with a true love, and not a false love? Here are a few of my suggestions:
  • First, and most importantly, we can love the Palestinians by helping them escape the bondage of slavery to the demon-god Allah (who is NOT the same as the God of the Bible, the God of Israel, the Father of Yeshua). Eternal life is found only by sincerely following Isa (Yeshua), the Jewish Messiah. That doesn't mean that they have to follow Isa in the Western style, but it does mean that they need to make a complete break with the false, Satan-inspired ideology of Islam. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul never allowed new believers to remain in their old pagan religion — idolatry (the worship of a false god, which Allah definitely is) is strictly forbidden in both the Old and New Testaments. Telling them that they can follow Isa and remain in the Muslim religion is a dangerous and spiritually deadly path that is sometimes called Chrislam. Paul expressed this clearly in his writings:
    The sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of Yahweh and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both Yahweh's table and the table of demons. (1 Corinthians 10:20,21)
    Don't team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? And what union can there be between God's temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. (2 Corinthians 6:14-16)
  • Second, once some Palestinians have left Islam behind, now that they are followers of Isa, the Jewish Messiah, the God of Israel, we can love them by helping them shed the cultural and religious inheritance of anti-Semitism, and teach them to love and bless the Jewish people rather than hate and kill them. Their irrational and obsessive hatred of Israel is a potent poison that brings them nothing but misery, poverty and death. To love the Palestinians is to deliver them from this horrid condition. The only way to do that is to help them love Isa and then love the people of Isa, the Jews. There are already Palestinians who are making this move to love and bless Israel, and evidenced by the Arabic Palestinian Zionist Organization and Arabs For Israel, among others.
  • Third, we can love the Palestinians by helping them escape the horrid refugee camps that their fellow Arabs have kept them imprisoned in for more than 60 years. As you can see from the map, there is plenty of room for the Arabs who call themselves Palestinians to live in the surrounding Arab nations. But rather than welcoming their Arab brethren, and solving the Israeli-Arab crisis once and for all, the Arab countries use the Palestinians as political and military pawns to further their ultimate goal: the complete destruction of Israel and the removal or death of ever last Jew in their historic homeland. But their battle is futile, because they are not fighting against man, but against God — the same God who promised the Land of Israel to the Jewish people. And God's purposes will ALWAYS be accomplished in the end, no matter how much man resists and rebels.
    When Israel became an independent nation in the late 1940s, hundreds of thousands of Jews were expelled from the Arab nations, leaving their wealth and possessions behind. Today, their descendants number in the millions. Likewise, at the same time, hundreds of thousands of Arabs were displaced from their homes in Palestine, for various reasons. Today, their descendants also number in the millions. Despite the similarities between these two groups of people, there is also a sharp difference.
    The Jews moved to the newly reestablished Land of Israel, and built new lives and a new society for themselves. In contrast, the displaced Palestinians Arabs never settled down in a new land to a new life and society. Instead, for various reasons, they have rotted in Arab-controlled refugee camps for more than 60 years. Just as the Jews had to give up their homes where they had lived in Arab lands for generations, so the Palestinian Arabs must give up their generational homes and build a new life and society in the Arab countries surrounding Israel. They do not have the right to return to their old lands in Israel, just like the Jews do not have the right to return to their old lands in the Arab countries.
    It it NOT loving the Palestinians to encourage their misplaced desire to control the land which God has set aside for the Jewish people. It is NOT loving the Palestinians to continue to let them rot in perpetual refugee camps. It IS loving the Palestinians to help them settle down in the surrounding Arab nations and start building new lives for themselves.
  • I'm adding this fourth point in July 2014. Former Palestinian terrorist Walid Shoebat — who became a follower of Isa (Yeshua, Jesus) quite a while ago — has been quoted as saying that the best way he can help his fellow Palestinians is "by opposing what they do. Little do they understand that without the stability created by Israel, this land would have turned into another Syria."

    This statement is a good summary of what I'm trying to communicate in this article. Because the Palestinians are on a completely wrong, self-destructive path, the best way to love and help them is to oppose what they do. Those who encourage the Palestinians to follow their evil path are actually hating them and not loving them. When will world leaders — and "Christian" leaders — wake up from their self-delusion, and then help the Palestinians to escape their own self-delusion?
There are definitely more ways to love the Palestinians than just the four I have listed — but it would be a good start. In light of the Palestinians' misguided, unilateral application for statehood to the United Nations today, the need is more urgent than ever. If you didn't see Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to the U.N. General Assembly, be sure to watch it now. He does an excellent job of laying out Israel's position, and showing the fallacy of the Palestinian position.
In closing, I would like to say to Mr. Medearis: I'm sorry to say that you are wrong: Jesus would NOT support a Palestinian statehood bid, for all of the reasons I have given above. If your "love" for the Palestinians trumps the clear statements of Scripture that the Jews are the apple of God's eye and that He has given them the Land of Israel as their very own, then it's time to rethink both your "love" AND your theology.