This series is adapted from a sermon I preached on August 3, “What should we think about Israel?” See here for part one, “Describing the Crisis,” and here for part two, “Modern Israel is not Biblical Israel.” Follow the links throughout for sources and more information.
In the last post I claimed that modern Israel is not the heir to the biblical promises to ancient Israel. That claim is controversial among some Christians, to be sure, but I trust that my claim in this post will not be. At least, it shouldn’t be controversial, but all too often it seems that Christians act as if they don’t really believe it.
Here’s my second claim: as followers of Jesus seeking first God’s kingdom and God’s justice we are called to seek the good of all peoples, including both Israelis and Palestinians equally.
Jesus teaches us that we are to “seek first God’s kingdom and God’s justice” (Matt 6:33). This is a call to allegiance: Jesus is saying that our allegiance to God’s kingdom and God’s way of justice stands over and above our allegiance to any earthly kingdom or any worldly way of justice.
And God’s kingdom transcends borders, it transcends our geographical and political boundaries, it embraces our ethnic and cultural differences. God’s kingdom includes all peoples equally: every tribe, every nation, even all creation. To believe otherwise is, to be frank, not just un-Mennonite, it’s un-Christian—it is even anti-Christ, in opposition to Jesus and the global and cosmic scope of his reconciling work (e.g. Col 1:13-23; Rev 7:9-17).
So when Jesus calls us to “seek first God’s kingdom and God’s justice,” he is calling us to give our allegiance to the reign of God that transcends national borders and includes all peoples, and to seek justice for all within God’s shalom.
This means that we are called to seek the good of all peoples, including both Israelis and Palestinians, both Jews and Muslims.
This means that we are called to denounce violence wherever it is found, whether in Hamas rockets killing a 4-year old Israeli boy playing in the living room of his kibbutz home or in Israeli missiles killing Palestinian children playing soccer on the beach.
This means that we are called to put a spotlight on injustice and oppression, those situations where there is an imbalance of power leading to an abuse of power—as there certainly is in Israel taking over land in the West Bank for Israeli settlements, or in Israel’s disproportionate response to Hamas rockets from Gaza (and no, the “human shields” argument doesn’t hold water).
This means that we are called always to strive for the things that make for peace. There are many average Israelis and average Palestinians who do not want war, who want to share the land and live in peace. There are many Palestinians who do not support Hamas and its violent ways. There are many Israelis who oppose Israel’s offensive in Gaza, or even Israel’s settlements in the West Bank. There must be a better way forward, and as citizens of God’s kingdom we must encourage the search for that way, to be peacemakers, true children of God (Matt 5:9).
Christians here in North America don’t help the situation when we blindly support Israel in all her policies. Given the horrible history of anti-Semitism, there is good reason for supporting an Israeli state that makes special provision for citizenship of ethnic Jews. But there is no good biblical or historical basis for seeing modern Israel as the rightful heir to the land. And, in any case, our ultimate allegiance is not to any nation state on earth, but to God’s kingdom and God’s justice—and thus we must seek the good of all peoples, including both Israelis and Palestinians equally.
I invite you to conclude this series the way we at Morden Mennonite Church concluded the original sermon on which the series is based: by praying the Lord’s Prayer, reflecting on it as a prayer for all people.
Our Father in heaven, in whose image all people have been created, hallowed be your name. May Your kingdom come, your will be done, your kingdom without borders, your will for justice and peace, on earth as it is in heaven…
Amen. Come, O Lord.