Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
Last week, major Israeli and international media outlets began circulating an open letter authored by Mike Evans, a prominent, well-connected and very influential Evangelical Christian leader who heads up the Friends of Zion Heritage Center along with several other organizations. The letter bashed the soon-to-be Israeli PM Naftali Bennett and his political counterpart, Yair Lapid, on the eve of forming a new, long-awaited government.
The letter was harsh even by worldly standards, not to mention the standards that believers are called to, and especially a Christian leader who influences tens of millions. Here’s a short excerpt from the letter:
“Don’t ever call yourself a defender of Zion. You’re not,” Evans wrote. “You betrayed the very principles that a generation gave their blood for and died for. You want to be in bed with the Muslim Brotherhood and leftists. God have mercy on your soul. You’re a pathetic, bitter little man so obsessed on murdering Netanyahu that you’re willing to damage the State of Israel for your worthless cause.”
He said that he will “fight [Bennett] every step of the way. You have lost the support of Evangelicals 100 percent… We gave you four years of miracles under Donald Trump and this is how you show your appreciation sh***ing on our face. How dare you!” (Taken from the Jerusalem Post website).
Although Evans is a strong Christian-Zionist supporter of Israel and a longstanding personal friend of Netanyahu, unfortunately his approach of placing Netanyahu on an untouchable pedestal and allowing support of Israel to overshadow the purpose of Israel’s reestablishment is not uncommon in the pro-Israel Christian world. This phenomenon is seen when the nation of Israel in general (with its politics, security, social and economic issues) receives all the focus pushing Israel’s salvation and God’s sovereignty over the nation to second place, at best.
Evans did later release a [weak] letter of apology, but what’s concerning is that in his fixation on attempting to keep Netanyahu in office and consequently “securing” Israel’s future, he set aside the real miracle performer, the One who establishes kings and removes them, the Warrior of Jacob who Himself miraculously regathered the Jewish people from all over the earth and planted us back in our own land, never to be uprooted again (Amos 9:15).
In Netanyahu’s Likud party’s conventions, he is often referred to as “King Bibi”, hinting to him being a type of Messiah. Similarly, Christians around the world greatly admire and appreciate Netanyahu, but many are blinded to two simple truths:
First, Netanyahu is a man and a politician. As a man that makes him a sinner just as much as any of us, and as an Israeli politician he has certainly had, and still has his fair share of scandals and pitfalls, the latest of which have played a large part in ousting him from the PM’s office.
In his apology, Evans himself agreed that Netanyahu is “a flawed man” but then also said that “King David was 10 times more flawed”. That is a very bold statement! I don’t mean to judge Netanyahu or compare his faults with King David’s, but I can only hope and pray that Netanyahu has the same kind of intimate relationship with God like David did, expressed through repentance, worship, humility, righteousness and justice.
Second, Israel’s existence does not hinge on Netanyahu being in power, or any other single individual or party. I personally think that Netanyahu is a brilliant politician and an excellent statesman and diplomat, especially his navigation of Israel’s foreign and defence policies, including the war on regional terror conducted in the past twelve years as PM. His internal policies have been largely criticized internally in recent years, yet Israel certainly owes him a great debt for his public service. That being said, the nation of Israel existed long before his time, and if the Lord tarries, it’ll continue well after, because “He who keeps Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps” (Psalm 121).
Many other well-known Christian leaders like Evans also enjoy remarkably close ties with Israeli political leaders, chief Rabbis and other prominent Israeli figures. But sadly, in most cases, these relationships come at the expense of completely ignoring and disregarding the local body of believers in Israel, since any mention of support of the local body would result in severe backlash. In best case scenarios they have a very discreet and limited relationship with the local body, while many times the Rabbis they connect with and the orthodox non-profits that they support are active persecutors of the local body.
Many Christians don’t realize that when they donate to several well-known Christian organizations that “support Israel”, many of those donations go to fund Yeshivas (Jewish orthodox seminaries) where they teach young men that Yeshua was an illegitimate idolator who lead Israel astray. Other funds end up in the hands of anti-messianic groups who actively persecute, harass and lobby against Messianic believers and congregations throughout the country.
While close relationships with Israeli officials is an important approach for Christians to take, if it comes without the gospel and without support of the local body, then the means has become the end. I don’t believe that loving and supporting Israel by Christians from the nations can truly occur without first loving and standing shoulder to shoulder with the Jewish body of believers in Israel who are persecuted, rejected and discriminated against.
A similar situation was happening in Paul’s time, yet he didn’t urge the gentile congregations to primarily connect with the chief Rabbis or the Sanhedrin, he urged them to support and stand with the congregations in Judea, just as described in Romans 15, 1 Corinthians 16 and 2 Corinthians 8-9.
My admonition to my brothers and sisters to the nations is to not lose focus of the goal – for Israel to recognize her Messiah and welcome Him back saying “blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”. The gentile believers received a clear mandate to participate in achieving that goal by bringing the gospel to the Jew first (Rom 1:16) and to provoke the Jewish people to jealousy (Rom 11:11). Befriending Israeli leaders is great, especially when it serves that goal, but under no means can it be at the expense of the local body in Israel. Christians mustn’t lose focus of that goal – Israel’s salvation lies in the balance.
This article originally appeared in Out of Zion Ministries newsletter and is reposted with permission.