The Role of American Christians
Christ calls us to identify with those who suffer and to rescue those who are led to destruction
One Sunday, a guest preacher delivered the sermon at a church. After services ended, the pastor asked the guest preacher to walk down the aisle with him and greet the people. Most of them made kind remarks about the sermon, except for one person who, as he shook the preacher’s hand, asked, “Why do you preach peace when the Bible predicts wars and rumors of wars?”
Millions of Christians have been persuaded—by TV evangelists, books, pastors, and teachers—to think that Palestinians and Israelis are doomed to fight forever. They believe that the struggle will culminate in a final devastating world war called Armageddon. Christians who have these ideas assume that peace in the Middle East is the work of Satan. Therefore, they will do nothing to bring about peace between Israelis and Palestinians or to end conflicts anywhere on our planet.
It’s true that there are passages in the Bible that predict wars and rumors of wars. But if we examine these passages carefully, we discover that evil forces—human greed and lust for power—started these wars and catastrophes (James 4:1–2 and Revelation 12:17). Jesus explains in the Gospel of John that Satan is the instigator of conflict, violence, and destruction. He says,
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10 NIV).
When we decide to be peacemakers, we join Jesus’ team rather than the enemy’s team.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9 NIV).
Here are five more reasons Christians need to be active in peacemaking:
- The church in the Holy Land is disappearing; peace between Israelis and Palestinians can spare the church from total collapse.
- The conflict in Israel and Palestine harms Muslims, Christians, and Jews everywhere. Peace in the Middle East will inspire harmony among members of the three monotheistic traditions.
- The continued fighting in Palestine and Israel encourages radicalism and terrorism worldwide.
- Men, women, and children in Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip are suffering because of the conflict. Christ calls us to identify with those who suffer and to rescue those who are led to destruction (Matthew 5:9 and 25:34–36; Luke 10:25–37; and Proverbs 24:11–12).
- Palestinian Christians and Muslims, along with their Jewish and Israeli friends, call on Christians worldwide to help end the conflict.
You don’t have to be a politician or an ambassador to help bring about a just peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land. Below are some concrete suggestions for ordinary Christians in the United States.
Draw on your spiritual resources.
The Hebrew Bible shows us how we can call on our faith to address the tragedy of Israel and Palestine. The prophet Zechariah, who lived about 2,500 years ago, wrote: “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty” (Zech 4:6 NIV). Facing tough challenges such as Palestine and Israel, we certainly should not trust in our own might and wisdom, but in the power that comes from the Spirit of God.
Pray for justice to be done and for peace on both sides of this century-old conflict. Ask God to help all those who are suffering and to open the eyes of those whose blindness leads to anger and despair.
Study Scripture with new eyes. Reflect on some of the Biblical passages mentioned in the short studies on this website, particularly the ones about the Holy Land’s current residents, the identity of God’s chosen people, and what it means to be “chosen.”
Remember that we are engaged in the conflict as God’s servants, not as political partisans. Political success can become an idol and a distraction from the path of Christian discipleship. Through prayer and Scripture we can maintain our focus. When we keep firmly in mind who we are and why we are struggling for a just peace, we cannot be harmed by insults and false accusations.
Commit to justice and peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.
God was on the side of Abraham and Sarah and Hagar and Ishmael and Isaac, all at the same time. God embraced each member of that warring family (see Genesis 21:9-20). In this conflict, we must embrace both sides but stand on the side of justice. We need to approach the conflict with humility and a spirit of repentance. While we work to end oppression and the suffering of its victims, we also want to warm the hearts of the oppressors and of all who take part in injustice.
Take a good look at the situation and understand what is going on. Most Americans know little about Israel and Palestine. People who are not well informed cannot make wise decisions in the voting booth or anywhere else.
On this website is a list of resources: books, articles, and videos. Use these resources and others to wrestle with such questions as these: Why do we have this conflict? Who is perpetrating it today? Who is trying to end it? What has been preventing peace in the Middle East in the last hundred years?
Assess the available news sources and ask whether they are offering unbiased information on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including its history and the obstacles to peace.
Consider a visit to the Holy Land—spending time there will enable you to see all sides of the conflict.
Educate grassroots America.
Get involved in a Bible study group or a book club where members can share views and information on various aspects of the conflict. Start a group if you can’t find one.
As Christians we have a mandate to educate, because the church is called to be a peacemaker and a reconciler. Encourage folks to visit their denominational websites. The Lutheran, Presbyterian, Mennonite, and United Methodist churches, as well as the United Church of Christ and other Christian denominations, have task forces on the conflict, also known as Palestine-Israel networks (PINs).
Americans have the right to know!
Congress: Write and keep writing. Phone and keep phoning.
As citizens serving Christ in a democracy, we have social responsibilities that are not available to Christians living in dictatorships. We are blessed with freedom of speech. We must use our freedom to advance truth and justice.
Convincing members of Congress can be difficult. Many of them rely on biased news sources and lobby groups for information on controversial issues. In addition, many Congressmen and Congresswomen are swayed by wealthy donors who finance their election campaigns. We must strive to inform our elected legislators on the realities of Palestine and Israel, as well as to persuade them to stand for peace and justice.
The news media: Evaluate them critically. Then write and keep writing.
Reports and commentary on Israel and Palestine often have a bias. Always read and listen with a critical perspective. An eye-opening documentary is The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States.
Keep writing to the editors of newspapers and news magazines when you encounter either responsible or irresponsible journalism about Palestine and Israel. Editors pay attention to the mail they receive about a controversial topic, and they are more likely to publish a letter that represents the opinion of many of their readers. Even if your letter isn’t printed, it can help convince the editors to publish a letter that agrees with yours. Speaking out makes a difference.
Quotations from Scripture are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION©. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.