ONE BIBLE VERSE stopped me dead silent.
I was reading the chapter out loud to the Bible study class I was teaching a couple of weeks ago. But when I hit that verse, it shut me up. My mind instantly connected it to the headlines about the land fight between Israelis and Palestinians.
This is controversial, but I wanted to try to quickly and objectively explain why some Christians back Israel even though the Israeli government continually confiscates land that Palestinian families have lived on for centuries.
Then I’ll try to quickly explain why some Christians back Palestinians, in spite of the terror tactics some of them use—tactics that infuriate many Palestinian Christians.
Bible on Israelis
Some Christians say the Israelis are finally doing what God told their ancestors to do: get rid of the locals, the Canaanites. In this case it’s the Palestinians.
Some 4,000 years ago, God gave Abraham and his descendants all the land now known as Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and parts of Jordan and Syria.
“You’re an immigrant in this land of Canaan. But I’m giving every bit of this land to you and your descendants. This will be a family-owned land forever. I’ll be God to your family” (Genesis 15:18).
Bible on Palestinians
If you google a map of land Israel has confiscated from Palestinians since the 1940s and turned into Jewish communities, you’ll either cheer the Israelis or grieve for the Palestinians. The changes have been that dramatic. Israelis occupy or now own almost everything formerly Palestinian.
Here’s the verse that jarred me to silence, and led to an engaging class discussion that I hadn’t planned on having:
“Here’s God’s plan that I’ve been entrusted to pass along to you. Non-Jews are equal partners with Jews when it comes to the inheritance God promised. Because of Jesus the Messiah, everyone shares equally in the blessings God promised to his people” (Paul, Ephesians 3:6).
I had never caught that before.
The verse instantly clicked on another line written to a different church:
“We’re not Jews or non-Jews….We’re one people, united in Jesus, the Messiah. If you’re one of the Messiah’s people, then you’re a descendant of Abraham. You’re part of the family. And you’re going to inherit what God promised” (Paul, Galatians 3:28-29).
That’s the short course on why Christians scatter when they hit this topic. Some go one way. Some go another. Some just go.
As complicated as politicians and the media make the conflict seem, some Christians might argue there is a solution within reason, reach, and righteousness.
Jewish Jesus adopted the sage line from an ancient Jewish law in Leviticus 19:34. Jesus put the solution to this vexing problem—and to most of humanity’s complicated troubles—this way:
“Ask yourself what you’d like others to do for you. Then do it for them. That’s the Law and the Prophets summed up in one breath” (Matthew 7:12).
It could seem odd that for the past 70 years the smartest people on earth have been trying to figure out what to do about the clash between Israelis and Palestinians, when Jesus seems to have spoken the answer in one breath.
His solution seems simple enough.
The hard part is convincing people to hold loosely to the things of this world. We tend to do the opposite, to the detriment of compassion.
Greed wins. Selfishness rules. Sharing becomes a nonstarter.
For now, perhaps.
But there’s hope among some Israelis and Palestinians that in time, love will unseat the greed and compassion will rule the land of human beings.
Surely one day there will be peace on earth. With humanity, if we embrace the ancient wisdom. Perhaps without us, if we don’t.
I just finished responding to an email from a family of German friends I love dearly. Years ago we hosted their son as an exchange student. We’ve visited them twice and their son has come back to visit us a couple of times. Their parents and other relatives fought against my dad’s army in World War II. It was a terrible war that Dad couldn’t talk about. He suffered from night terrors all of his life afterward. But the war is over. There is peace between our countries. And there is genuine love between my family and that of my German friends.
Fighting can end. Mutual respect and love can grow out of the ashes of battles won and lost.