We have to talk about Israel and Hamas, don’t we? Because we not only read and watch – we are to pray.
One of the shocking moments that happens on our church trip to Israel is when we visit Bethlehem and Bethany, see the settlements on both sides and the dividing wall that Israel has constructed, and begin to experience the deprivation of the Palestinians living behind it.
It’s a brutal moment. And it lives with me as I see the horror of the kidnap of babies, murder of festival-goers and torching of villages.
Here are five truths I need to remember.
This whole issue is complex – and, frankly, I don’t trust anyone who thinks all rights lie on only one side (although I will come back to terrorism). There are multiple parties and arguments, and if you’ve ever been involved in a serious conversation with anyone who is engaged, you will know how easily labels become attached to opponents. To support Israel, is to support apartheid. To support Palestine, is to support antisemitism. You’ve experienced how arguments get pushed to extremes, and nuance is lost.
Any nuance is hard-won, and fearfully difficult to maintain.
So, Truth number 1: we worship and pray to a God who can handle such complexity. He is infinitely wise (not just very wise; infinitely so), and he sees to the bottom of each and every question, with complete thoroughness and clarity. He’s not bewildered like we are by this. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth (that’s infinity!), so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9).
This is also problem with a history. I mean, when do we go back to, for a fresh start, or to draw the borders? The Oslo Accords? Camp David? The Yom Kippur War? The Six-Day War? The founding of modern Israel in 1948? The British Mandate? The Balfour Declaration? The First Zionist Congress in 1897? The Crusades?
None of those moments, and they’re a tiny sample – is mere, dead history. They are remembered and killed for to this day. Each killing justified as response to a previous one.
And then there is the Holocaust. Do you know how many of your Jewish friends still live in fear of that, and have their passports ready, just in case? Even if they’ve been British for generations, and are the fiercest critics of Netanyahu, they still see the case for the existence of Israel, just in case?
So, Truth number 2: we worship and pray to a God who sees everything, and saw, and remembers everything. Not a tear is lost. Three thousand years ago, the Psalmist prayed, Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll— are they not in your record? (Ps 56:8). Yes. They are still on record. As is the despair, the fear, the fury, the spite.
There’s blood on all sides, too. Crimes and war crimes, past and present. Atrocities and hard hearts. It’s impossible for us to balance out those competing injustices, isn’t it? Does consistently losing your lands to Israeli settlements justify bombs? Does the reality of living in fear of bombs justify the building and arming of a wall? How do you calculate the terror of being stateless in the face of Holocaust and Pogroms? Does it outweigh the terror of being stateless and living in refugee camps in Jordan for half a century? Is it right to be even-handed? Where does the principal injustice weigh heaviest?
So, Truth number 3: we worship and pray to a God of absolute justice and fairness. He knows and acts (and finally, will act decisively) to vindicate rights and punish abuse. Without partiality or turning a blind eye. The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. (Ps. 103:6)
Because I can’t tell who’s telling the truth, sometimes. Politicians, leaders, advocates, have been proved liars and corrupt. And incompetent. Conspiracy theories abound, and will get worse. Atrocities are Photoshopped. Even the best of causes can have appalling leaders.
And my heart isn’t pure and truthful either.
So, Truth number 4: we worship and pray to a God who sees through to the human heart. A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart (Proverbs 21:2)
And then we have Hamas. What has become very evident this week, is that with Hamas you are not dealing with the legitimate voice and leadership of the Palestinian people. You’re not even dealing with ‘ordinary’ terrorism in that cause. With Hamas Israel is facing the same type of enemy as ISIS or Boko Haram. We are seeing extreme Islamist terror, not only with a hatred of the West and its influences, but in particular a hatred towards Jews – not just Israel. Make no mistake: Israel cannot negotiate with Hamas for a two-state solution, because Hamas wants nothing other than the destruction of Israel, under the flag of jihad. Hamas doesn’t want Israel out – it wants Israel out of existence, and operates under a different moral code to achieve that. It doesn’t recognise Universal Human Rights. (Yes, friends, I do know about the hundred and more UN declarations against Israel – see truths 1,2,3, and 4). Hamas hasn’t signed up to the Geneva Convention. Israel faces an existential threat.
This is plain evil.
So, Truth number 5: we worship and pray to a God, who not only knows and names evil, but has defeated it, and will run that victory through to the end. The cross not only deals with your sin, and mine, it defeated the hosts of evil in the spiritual realms. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross (Colossians 2:15).
We can pray that God will run that victory through to its final conclusion. Which means we can and should pray for everyone involved in this terrifying chaos, right through to the worst of them, will come to know the love and forgiveness of Christ on the cross, and lay down their arms before him.
Our Palestinian friends rightly fear for the lives of their familles and friends in Gaza. Our Jewish friends also fear for their lives here in the UK.
We need to pray.
first published by Chris Green on his blog, Ministry Nuts and Bolts