“An eye for an eye will leave the world blind.” – Gandhi
It was predictable. So predictable that even I saw it coming.
It was predictable that violence would erupt again on a piece of contested middle eastern soil where opposing sides refuse to let go of distrust. And it was predictable that innocent, peace-loving families on both sides would continue to be violated by the few who believe in violence. It was also predictable that christians would be calling for prayer and support for Israel.
I read about some celebrities who supported Israel by posting pictures of Jewish buildings carved into rubble and homeless children cowering in fear. Shortly after posting them, they discovered the pictures weren’t of Jewish victims but of Palestinian victims, so they removed the photos.
Here’s the thing: the Palestinians in the pictures were suffering too, yet nothing was said about them, no apologies given, no prayers offered. It was a perfect opportunity to acknowledge innocent victims on both sides of the conflict but the Palestinian photos simply disappeared, replaced by silence. It was as if their pain had never existed.
“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” – Anne Lamott
There are plenty of people advocating for both sides but who do christians advocate for? I was able to predict a lot of responses to the conflict but I couldn’t have predicted their one-sided silence.
I predicted that the horror would spawn evangelical forecasts about the Rapture (again). Fear-mongering evangelical leaders never miss a chance to strain out end-time predictions of angels, beasts, and bloody battles. When the terrorist attacks happened, their ‘I-told-you-so’ platitudes returned, Sunday sermons were re-written, and stacks of unsold prophecy books went back into print.
One well known organization just sent out an email rightly asking us to pray for Jerusalem and for Israel. A follow up email a couple of days later included more commentary about Israel and what the implications of the conflict are … for Israel. A quick search of the articles, interviews, sermons on the site revealed repetitive references to Israel and only one passing mention to include ‘Arabs’ in prayer.
How could any christian organization overlook millions of innocent, helpless Palestinians?¹ Why do so many evangelicals have trouble with nuance, with complexity, with generosity, with inclusion?
What is unfortunate is the one-side-ism: the noise for one side and the silence for the other.
“Too long have I lived
among those who hate peace.
“I am for peace;
but when I speak, they are for war.” – from a Psalm
There are millions of people on all sides of all the borders (many of them christians) who are caught in impossible circumstances simply because they live in their homes. As always, it is the power-hungry extremists who steal peace from good people who want only to work and eat and live.
To be clear, Hamas is evil incarnated and Israel is justified in rooting out terrorism. The Jewish slaughter was horrific, and their people shouldn’t have to live in fear. It is reasonable for christians to care about them as a nation and to respect the common roots of our faith.
But while I understand that the Bible describes Jews as God’s ‘chosen’ people, that description is not about privilege, it’s about responsibility.² The same responsibility that applies to all who call themselves christian – responsibility, not privilege.
As warfare evolves (?) and weapons improve (!) it is increasingly dangerous for innocent civilians. Gaza is an example. That should prompt christians to ask themselves some hard questions: Who would Jesus starve? Who would Jesus feed? Who would Jesus kill? Who would Jesus heal?
“If Jesus stood with and protected the marginalized, then why do so many christians stand with and protect the powerful?” – Dante Stewart
Like most people, christians prefer to take sides, to cheer a champion, to silence an opponent. Such is the sad state of evangelicalism these days: narrow in its world view, shuttered in its beliefs, oblivious to its own contradictions.
But what if we are not called to win? What if were never meant to dominate? What if we simply need to be faithful? What if humility and mercy are more godly than taking a side? What if it’s true that anything we do is empty if we don’t love?
This is your regular reminder that all people are God’s image bearers – equally loved and precious. Praying for Shalom (deep peace) must include caring for both friends and enemies. Peace on earth is not weak or woke, it is godly, and who else to do it but followers of the Christ?
Jesus’ way is not easy; he said so. He challenges us to pick up our own crosses – the biases and weaknesses that keep us staked to the ground – and follow him into something more glorifying and good.
The only side we’re asked to take is the ‘all sides’ of God.
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¹ Of course there are many christians and christian organizations who recognize this imbalance. One example: I’ve noticed ads on social media by the Mennonite Central Committee who are advocating for all sides in this conflict. They do wonderful humanitarian work around the world without regard for race, religion, or political divides.
² There is likely some confusion here. The Bible confirms Israel as ‘chosen’ but not because they are especially righteous or protected (just read their story). Rather, they are chosen in the sense that they are the lens God used to show both the danger and potential of humanity. More importantly, they became the conduit through which the healing Messiah entered the world.