Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor, Ph.D.) will present a series of blogs, dealing with various issues raised in the recent election that showed a deep divide, impacting both society at large and the church. The thoughts presented are processed through the lens of the Radical-Middle (both/and), personal narratives, and pastoral concerns. Your rational feedback is welcomed.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors.
DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT FOR TODAY
Our Brothers Who are Easily Forgotten in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Hebrews 11:10 (NIV)
For [Abraham] was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
The recent United Nations Security Council’s resolution to condemn Israeli settlement in territories taken during the Six-Day War (1967) continues to stir passion on both sides. While U.S. support for Israel may not be what it used to be, Christians who believe in the literal fulfillment of end-time prophecies are squarely on the side of Israel. Yet, in the midst of this bitter conflict, we have forgotten a people whom the believers have more in common with than the Israelis.
In 2015, while attending a conference on theological education in Turkey, I befriended a theological educator named Jiries from Jordan. He is a Palestinian. Never having met a Palestinian Christian before, I cautiously asked, “How do you feel about American Christians unilaterally supporting Israel?” Jiries answered, “It’s a matter of human interpretation of the Bible on the one hand, and God’s justice on the other.” I understood what he meant by “human interpretation,” but since I didn’t get the justice part, I asked for an explanation. The following is his story.
“I was born in Lydda (Lod) near Tel Aviv in 1944—four years before the establishment of Israel as a state in Palestine. In Nov. 1947, the United Nations divided Palestine into Arab state and Jewish state; Lydda was in the part allocated to the Palestinian Arab state. In July 1948, because the Israelis took control of Lydda and expelled its population, my family, including my pregnant mother and three children under the age of four, left home on foot. Walking several hours and spending the night in the open air, we met Jordanian soldiers, who took us to a small town in the remaining part of Palestine. Since then, I’ve lived in Jordan—and I can’t go back to my home and my land. Where is justice in that?”
I had no response; in fact, moved by what this brother said, I promised to share the plight of Palestinian Christians in an ensuing conference in Hong Kong, where I was scheduled to speak. But while preparing for the message, I suddenly felt this urge to share what I believed the Spirit placed in my heart. So, in an email I wrote: “Jiries, ultimately you know that this is not our home, for we are ‘aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one’ (Heb. 11:13-6). Of all people, you must know this better than anyone else.” Jiries later wrote me back, saying, “Thank you for your interest and being fair. Blessings.”
This blog isn’t about political policy but spiritual tension that demands Christ’s followers to move from either/or to both/and. First, the needs of the Palestinian brothers in Christ shouldn’t be ignored, since we are commanded to “do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal. 6:10). So, while they wait for “a better country—a heavenly one,” we pray that safe places are found for them to raise their families.
What about Israel? Jiries, in a later communication, wrote, “When we think of the present situation, we pray for three issues: justice, peace and mercy of God for all, including Israel whose existence I validate according to all United Nations’ resolutions.” While I understand Jiries’ position, I find myself increasingly frustrated with the UN’s overall mission in the world. My support for Israel’s right to exist, therefore, doesn’t stem from any UN resolution but God’s Word, “for if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings” (Rom. 15:27). Thus, at the very least, we should support Israel’s need for safe places—free from terror—to raise their families; we also pray that they come to a saving knowledge of Yeshua, and enter one day “the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”
Prayer: Lord, we pray for the governing bodies represented at the United Nations to treat the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with fairness for all. We pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Ps. 122:6) and that many Israelis will come to believe in Jesus. We also pray for the well-being of Palestinian Christians. Amen.
 Lydda is mentioned in Acts 9: 32-35.
Bible Reading for Today: Judges 4
LUNCH BREAK STUDY
Read Gal. 3:28-9 (ESV): There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Gal. 6:5: For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
2 Cor. 5:27a: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.
Questions to Consider
- What is the basis for Christian brotherhood?
- What does it mean that there is neither Jews nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female in Christ Jesus?
- If we truly understand Christian brotherhood, then what kind of church should we strive to be?
- Regardless of our ethnicity, class or gender identity, once we believe in Jesus, we all belong to Christ—we are all one in Him.
- When we are in Christ, all ethnic, class and gender differences are melted into a new creation. “In Christ” is a spiritual melting pot in which all our sins are washed away (i.e., forgiven) by the atoning blood of Jesus.
- A church that doesn’t discriminate based on ethnicity, class and gender; a church where everyone is welcomed whether they are white, yellow, black, rich, poor, educated, not educated, etc.
Before it was called Palestine, the place where Israelis and Palestinians live today was called Canaan. It was to this place—a land of milk and honey—that God had called the enslaved Jews in Egypt to enter. The Jews’ claim to this land is based on the Old Testament, but while they were absent from Canaan for nearly 2,000 years, the Palestinians have lived there for centuries. Certainly, they both have a compelling case for having a stake in the land. I share this so that you can pray for these people, that there will be prosperity (milk and money) for all, and a genuine revival among them so that the dividing wall of hostility would be finally demolished.
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility (Eph. 2:14).