Loving Israel for the wrong reasons

The Sea of Galilee - The picture shows a Pilgrim' s boat on the lake. Photo by Itamar Grinberg.

After living in Jerusalem for many years and spending a lot of time with visiting groups of Christian pilgrims, some patterns can be discerned, among them the common reasons given by these (by and large) good-hearted people for supporting Israel.

There are of course the oft-quoted Bible verses we’re all familiar with. There’s also the oft-quoted line about how “Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East” which is, IMHO, not terribly relevant as far as the Bible is concerned (you’ll find several passages referring to Jesus as a “King” but none referring to him as a “President” or “Prime Minister” etc.)

But as time goes on, I’ve discovered that many Western Christians support Israel because they think of Israel as a bastion against things that they’re profoundly afraid of and which, all too often, they hate. Arabs in general and Islam in particular are usually at the top of the list of things that are feared and hated by Western Christians. They think of the IDF in particular as a force protecting them from terrorism.

That’s understandable for many reasons, not the least of which is that this idea has been quite deliberately promoted by some of Israel’s social and political leaders. There’s also a certain amount of truth to this narrative that Israel and the IDF are standing between Islamist terrorism and the West.

However, this shouldn’t be what motivates a Christian to support Israel, for several reasons.

For starters, you will not find anything in the New Testament which gives a Christian permission to hate anyone except perhaps Lucifer the Devil. It’s not a sin to be afraid of someone whose holy book teaches them to treat anyone of a different religion with contempt. It’s not irrational to fear such a person either, despite the deeply dishonest charge of “Islamophobia” which gets thrown at anyone who expresses even the slightest bit of concern along these lines.

However, we must remember what Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-45

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

When you see a video of a guy telling his congregation to rape, murder and pillage Jews and Christians, it’s okay to be alarmed by this, but it’s not okay to hate that guy. Our reaction should be to have pity on him, because he will have nothing but trouble in this mortal life and his ETERNAL DESTINY if he doesn’t repent and change is going to be really awful.

So we should pray that God will have compassion on such people, that He will open their eyes and move them to repentance and salvation.

Praying for him to be killed, and/or sending money to Israel so the IDF will have the means to kill him…well…that’s not really Biblical, and frankly it’s not really a long-term solution to the problem either. Tens of thousands of terrorists have been killed since the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US ushered us into this era of “War without end” against terrorism that we’re currently in. But the phenomenon continues, and will continue, because it’s a tactic used to promote an idea and ideas can’t be fought with bullets and missiles. They need to be fought by another, better idea.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the best idea of all time, and it’s the ONLY long-term solution to the problems created by Islamist terrorism, or any other problem facing Israel and the rest of the world.

Brothers and sisters, please hear me.

Every one of us needs to examine him or herself and piece together what it is that’s motivating us. The God of the Bible cares a great deal about motivation, and the Bible contains very specific instructions about how we are to act and why.

May God give us all the wisdom and discernment we need to do what He wants us to do, but also to be motivated by the same things that motivate Him.