Should Christians Support Israel?

Show Notes:

Matt: J.D., this week we’re pivoting from our series on spiritual disciplines and we’ll be tackling some one-off questions our listeners have been sending us for the next few weeks. One of the topics we’ve had several people ask about is how to process what’s going on in Israel and their conflict with Gaza…

J.D.: Yeah, Matt, wow. Well, there are a lot of very intense views on this subject. And that makes sense, because it’s a topic that combines worldview with theology—particularly eschatology, or the part of theology that concerns the end times and modern politics.

And we won’t get into a full blown “end times” episode here, but we do need a little help understanding some of the terms that get thrown around. 

  • “Premillennialism” is the belief that part of God’s plan for the end times involves a 1000 year reign of Jesus that is still to come, and a physical Israel is a part of that.
  • The relevance to this discussion is this: Many premillennialists viewed the fact that Israel has their own nation – which happened in 1948, in case you failed your history class—as at least a partial fulfillment of biblical prophecy. God was reinstituting the nation.
  • And that’s led to the embrace of the Zionist movement, which, practically speaking, means that anything that advances Israel’s interests is correct and functionally, means you give them an automatic pass on most questions. Their destiny is to rule the world, at least that part of it, so anything they do toward that end we’re in support of.
  • Let me say this clearly: that’s not true. Whatever your view of eschatology, it’s never appropriate to wink at injustice. Whatever God does, we never need to “do evil evil may that good may come.” Where Israel, as a nation, commits crimes or acts unjustly, we should unhesitatingly call it out. We should always be on the side of justice.

Now, as a pastor, I typically don’t wade into the finer points of politics or world events—neither called nor competent—and I’m not going to do that here. What I do is talk about the principles that undergird our approach, and that’s what I want to do here: to talk about is a dangerous narrative that has entered the convo that I think it’s important for Christians to identify and reject, and that is: 

That modern-day Israel has no right to the land they’re currently occupying; Israel is basically an occupying power–like Britain was in India, or even like European colonists were in parts of N America or Australia—and because they are an occupying power, whatever Palestinians do to get them out is ok. This is a decolonization project. The myth is that Palestinians were living happily in the land until GB came in and forced the colonization in 1948. And then some even like to say that the Jews there are white and it’s another example of white colonization of POC. 

  • But that’s a completely fallacious comparison. 
  • First, the Jewish presence in the land stretches back for centuries. Modern Israel is home to 9 million Jews MOST are descended from people who migrated back to the Holy Land from 1881 to 1949, before Israel became a state.So Britain didn’t bring them in.
  • In fact, Britain had turned against the Zionist movement in the 1930s, and from 1937 to 1939 moved toward an Arab state with no Jewish state at all
  • But in 1947, a compromise was made: the United Nations devised the partition of that area into two states, one Arab and Jewish. It was the “two-state solution” we hear a lot about today, BUT the reason it never happened was in 1948, Arab forces refused the two-state solution the UN sought to enact by attacking Israel. That led to the aborting the quest for a Palestinian state, because the claim was that Israel should have no part of the land, and there would be no rest until Israel as a state cEased to exist.

Which brings us to today. On Oct 7, without warning, more than 3,000 Hamas militants invaded Israel from Gaza, killing at least 1,139, including 766 civilians, a large portion of which were women and children intentionally targeted—even mutilating infants. They also took a minimum of over 250 more as captives.

Hamas is not a good faith group. It’s an Islamist militant group formed in 1987 whose charter calls for the genocide of Jews and the establishment of sharia law, and a call for unrestrained and unceasing holy war (jihad) to attain that objective,

  • They categorically reject any negotiated resolution or political settlement of Jewish and Muslim claims to the Holy Land
  • As such, what happened on Oct. 7 is no accident; rather, it’s completely in keeping with Hamas’s own explicit aims and stated objectives.
  • The attack was unprovoked, it was unspeakably brutal, and plainly genocidal. So, whatever you think the solution is over there, this was a horrendously unjust act, and Israel has, as most of us would think about ourselves, a right to defend themselves. 

This is not to say that all of how Israel has responded has been right or just or appropriately proportional. I’m not saying that at all. I’m just rejecting the idea that any and all violence done by Palestinians is justified because it is the freedom battle of the oppressed against an oppressor. And with respect to those who say that the Jewish presence in the land of Palestine is just another example of white colonization, of course some of the Jewish people there have lighter skin as many Jews have intermarried with some Europeans, but many do not. The Jewish people are not an originally or primarily Anglo-European group–they were middle-Eastern, and then scattered because of all kinds of persecution, and now they have a pretty eclectic blind of secondary ethnicities mixed in with their Hebrew ethnicity.

There’s a great article in The Atlantic, written by Simon Montefiore, who writes, “In 2007, Hamas seized power (in Gaza), killing its Fatah rivals in a short civil war. Hamas set up a one-party state that crushes Palestinian opposition within its territory, bans same-sex relationships, represses women, and openly espouses the killing of all Jews.”

Of course, the events of Oct. 7 has led to an ongoing escalation in the Israel-Hamas conflict— and my heart does grieve some of the reports of death being brought upon innocent lives in Gaza as collateral. Particularly innocent people caught up in it–especially heartbreaking pictures of infants and children–and then sometimes infuriating Israeli callousness about that. I have a Muslim friend who says that for the last 4 months he’s seen pictures of children and infants killed in the crossfire, and that almost every Muslim he knows has a first or second-degree connection with a non-combatant who has been killed over there.

But I do believe that even as we grieve those reports, and as we rightly call upon Israel to act justly in their response, the narrative that Palestinians should have free reign to enact as much violence as possible as a means of decolonizing is something we can and should reject. Some of what we’re seeing in even mainstream places—chants of “From the River to the Sea,” which is just a thinly veiled call for the expulsion or genocide of all Jews from the Jordan River to the Mediterannean Sea—is egregious.

To sum this up, I think Christians have a responsibility to pray and advocate for true justice and peace in the Middle East.

  • But we can call acts like those carried out by Hamas what they are—irredeemably evil, inhumane violence that does nothing to reflect the reality of the historical situation in the Holy Land, and does nothing to further a solution towards peace.
  • We can say all of that without considering ourselves “Zionists,” and even without fully endorsing all of Israel’s actions or their regime. 
  • We can call out injustice where we see it.

  • Matt:  To finish out the spring semester, we’re going to answer questions you’ve sent in throughout the year so far and then we’ll tackle another big series in the fall. Next up: we want to know Pastor J.D.’s thoughts on the Israel/Gaza conflict. 
  • We’re now on YouTube; subscribe to @J.D.Greear.


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