Question: What should be a Christ-follower’s response to the conflict in Israel?
This is a great question! There are various angles and nuances of this conflict, which we could discuss. In fact, many people are doing just that. There is a lot of information being shared about this horrible situation in Israel. Some of the information is true, while other information is not helpful, or may even be untrue. Also, as we have seen with other cultural events in recent years, there is more than one helpful perspective, which also applies with the current conflict in Israel. Additionally, even Christians differ in how to view and approach war.
As your pastor, I would like to share with you–what I believe to be–a Christ-follower’s most helpful response in this current situation. The following are several truths, rooted in Scripture, which provide a pathway for a Christ-follower’s response to the conflict in Israel.
1)Know People As Image-Bearers, Who Are Created By God – Genesis 1:26-27 says: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’” This text conveys that God created all of humanity, and he made humans to reflect his own image. God’s rightful authority and power in his creation of humanity, and humanity’s purpose as image-bearers of God, is foundational to how we think about our relationships and any situation involving people in this world. This means that all people–whether Americans, Israelites, Palestinians, or those who associate with Hamas–are created to live as God’s image-bears. Therefore, it is not our responsibility, as fellow humans, to eternally condemn anyone–including anyone involved in the conflict in Israel–because God is the creator and sustainer of all life, and he holds the good, just, sovereign authority to carry out his will.
2)Acknowledge Sin & Brokenness – The Bible teaches that sin is in the hearts of humans, and that the brokenness of sin affects us all. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” which denotes that each of us is a slave to sin apart from Christ’s generous and perfect sacrifice. The evidence of sin and brokenness are everywhere, and the fact that war is occuring is even further evidence of sin & brokenness in the world. Also, each of us–even those who are in Christ–are still prone to sin as we fail to walk in the Spirit. We all encounter the real and disheartening brokenness of our own sin and the sin of this world. However, we may fall into traps while discerning sin and brokenness in others, so we must be very careful. One trap that we may fall prey to is misjudging a situation of which we do not have all the information. Often, we lack important information regarding situations of conflict, especially when we are not directly involved. The other trap we may fall into when discerning sin and brokenness is that we may drift into an attitude of vengeance or making eternal judgements upon others. Although it may be appropriate to call out sin and evil in our world, we must be careful that we don’t assume God’s seat as Eternal Judge. We can do this by asking this question: Does my calling out evil in this situation cause me to assume more authority than I should, or does it lead me to a holy discontentedness that fosters compassion for their lost souls? As Christ-followers, we must put on the humility of Christ as we realize and identify sin and brokenness in others or in other parts of the world. Our proper response to sin in others is not to condemn or toss around our opinions about what seems to be right or wrong. This is also true in regards to the conflict in Israel. We should be grieved by the sin we see. But, we must also affirm Christ as the only true solution to sin and brokenness in the world. So, we need Christ, and we point others to Christ. Then, because Christ has been merciful to us, our response is to see sin as something worth grieving.
3)Lament Sin & Brokenness – The Bible teaches us how to grieve. Grieving to God is called lament. When we lament, we do not selfishly complain in our minds or to others; rather, we take our concerns to God. An example of lament being modeled in the Bible is found in Psalm 13. The psalmist asks, “how long?” in verses 1-2, while recognizing a holy discontent with the sin and brokenness around him. Then, the psalmist turns to the Lord to ask for help in verses 3-4. He writes, “Consider and answer me, O Lord my God.” And finally, in verses 5-6, the psalmist remembers God’s faithfulness and places his hope and trust in God. He writes, “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13:5-6, ESV). Often, we fail to lament the sin and brokenness we encounter in life. Instead, we may sit in a posture of blame, condemnation, or justification toward others. Sometimes we may pray a quick prayer of repentance, or ask God to handle the situation; yet, we have failed to adequately lament the sin and brokenness to God. Take time to lament to God about the sin and brokenness in our world, as well as that which is in your own life.
4)Compassion – What happens when we lament the sin and brokenness that we see around us? If we are in Christ, the Spirit fills us with compassion. Compassion is expressing genuine care and concern for others who are involved with sin, loss, and/or brokenness. Compassion is rooted in realizing God’s mercy in our own lives. The gospel drives us to become compassionate toward others in this world when we discern God’s mercy toward ourselves with a heart posture of humble honesty. It is out of this humble compassion that we see others through a lens of grace and honor. In fact, Romans 12 teaches: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor…Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (Romans 12:10,14, ESV). The people of Israel and Palestine are hurting. The real pain of sin and brokenness in the Middle East has led to further evil. We must have compassion for the souls of all of these people. But, what do we do about the injustice?
5)Trust God – God created the heavens and the earth. God created you and me. God is completely sovereign over all things. In fact Job says: “I know that you (God) can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2, ESV). Not only is God sovereign, but he is also always and fully wise and good. Scripture declares that God alone is wise and discerning, and that human wisdom is often unable or unwilling to understand God’s ways. Psalm 3:19 tells us that “The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down dew” (ESV). Psalm 103:8 says: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (ESV). Yet, God’s goodness is so rich, deep, and full that we cannot comprehend it. Proverbs 20:24 says: “A man’s steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way?” (ESV). Furthermore, God is one-hundred percent just. Deuteronomy 32:35 tells us: “Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly” (ESV). Proverbs 29:26 says: “Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice” (ESV). Vengeance and justice are God’s righteous responsibility, and he has the power to carry them out.
Consequently, we–as Christ-followers–must trust God in the challenging situations of our time. We must trust God’s sovereignty, wisdom, goodness, and justice in all aspects of our lives, even in the midst of something as enormously horrific as war. We do this by first recognizing the foundational doctrine of God’s creation of his people as image-bearers. We must also understand that sin and brokenness abound in our world, including in our very own lives. In doing so, it is right to call evil that which is biblically evil, because it grieves God. Yet, Christ is the solution for sin and brokenness, so we must look to Him in our lament. As we lament, we turn–by God’s grace–toward compassion and trust. We have compassion for all who are hurting–including the Christ-less souls of those identifying with Hamas. Although it may seem as if we don’t care about God’s righteous justice if we have compassion for those doing evil, our compassion is rooted in the fact that the evil being done is because of souls that are apart from Christ. So, our compassion is not apathetic toward justice but a desire to see God glorified by lost people turning to Christ.
So, we trust God with this difficult situation, as the one who holds the power, authority, and wisdom to facilitate true, lasting peace.
As your pastor, I urge you to pray for everyone involved in this conflict between Israel and Hamas because prayer is a response of a holy discontent, which is expressed by both compassion for others and trust in God. By God’s grace and the Spirit’s empowerment, I believe God will equip you to respond in prayer with compassion and trust. And, we can trust that God hears us when we pray.
One more question you may have…Are we experiencing the end times?
The simple answer is yes. We have been experiencing the last days since Christ came to walk the earth, as outlined in the New Testament. Yet, none of us know the day or the hour. Jesus said: “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36, ESV). There are signs and various possible interpretations of those signs (of which even Christ-followers lack agreement), but we do not know the exact time.
So, what do we do?
We continue to live out the purpose and mission God has given us. God seeks to be glorified as we depend upon and enjoy him. God desires that his people would treasure him and love others by worshiping him together, connecting with one another, investing in God’s kingdom, and going with the gospel. So, we continue to pray and trust God. We continue to live as the Bible–God’s Word–instructs us to live. And, we trust God with the outcome, knowing that he has already accomplished the good, lasting work of the gospel for us.
Will you join me in doing this by faith?
As you trust God and as you pray about the situation and your own heart, sometimes God calls you to take some action to help push against injustice and to alleviate the suffering of the needy. Be discerning. Our aim is to champion God’s work, not some political cause. We want to be discerning so that our help is in line with God’s will and done in the name of the Lord, whenever possible. We want Him to get the praise.