3 Areas of Common Ground for Millennials Divided over Israel
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu isn’t known for pulling punches, even on Twitter: “Peace will be established only when we can defend ourselves by ourselves against any threat.” But millennial Christians in the U.S. are starting to see the issue in shades of gray. Popular evangelical voice Donald Miller echoed the growing sentiment: “Blind support for either side will only lead to more bloodshed.”
By Alex Kocman
With God on Our Side, a 2010 documentary chronicling the Palestinian plight and questioning knee-jerk Zionism, marked a turning point for many young evangelicals. Endorsed by Steve Haas (president of World Vision), pastor Tony Campolo, and several others, the film argues that “God does not take sides with certain people groups, nations or agendas” (according to their site).
Both sides have valid biblical support, but how this generation of American Christians will ultimately approach Israel is unclear. Arguments on both sides have traced and retraced lines in the sand, to little avail. Common ground is hard to find, but there are three things millennial evangelicals—no matter their take on Israel—can agree on.
1. God made all the nations—including Israel—for a reason. We in the West love individualism. And while trusting Christ is an individual commitment, the Bible sometimes forces us to think collectively. Before God could make Israel the avenue of redemption, He had to create the institution of nationhood. Nations weren’t an historical accident. In fact, humans are naturally inclined to band together. Before sin, that was fine. But after sin, a united humanity meant a unified rebellion against God (see Genesis 6:5, 11:1-9). Man disobeyed God’s order to spread across the earth, so like a stern yet forbearing parent (“Am I going to have to separate the two of you?”), God stepped in and divided man at the Tower of Babel. To keep evil in check, God gave government the authority to uphold justice, a right which God formerly reserved (Genesis 5:9-6, Romans 9:1-7). Millennials often rush past these details in Genesis, but the Apostle Paul thought God’s plan for the nations important enough to include in his Gospel presentation: “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings” (Acts 17:26). Did you catch that? Paul said that God predetermined where each nation should be, how long each would last, and how much territory each would have. Why? So that they would “seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27). And beautifully, God will unite all these people groups in Christ at His throne (Revelation 7:9-10). God is not the God of one nation, but of the whole universe; He determines the borders of each country, Jew or Gentile. Chosen or not, modern day Israel is no exception.
2. God doesn’t abandon His own. Whether you see “Israel” in the New Testament as representing the church or the nation-state, Paul reminds us that God doesn’t cast away His own people (Romans 11:1-2). Millennial evangelicals can agree that whether or not God is “done with” the nation of Israel, He will never stop loving her in a special way.
God prophesied through Hosea, “Israel, I will make you my wife; I will be true and faithful; I will show you constant love and mercy and make you mine forever” (Hosea 2:9, Good News Translation). Whether the literal Israel is a lead actor or simply a guest star in the end times stage show, the God who hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) still loves His Old Testament wife.Even when God shamed Israel by using pagan Babylon to judge her spiritual adultery, He turned the tables on Babylon—His very instrument—out of righteous jealousy for unfaithful Israel (Jeremiah 51:24). Don’t mess with somebody’s wife—especially God’s!
Millennials can debate what this means for the church and modern day Jews. But we insult God’s wife when we group her with the pagan nations of the world—be it Edom, Assyria, Egypt, or America.
3. Christians on both sides have the same goal. After Jesus rose, the disciples had one burning question: now will God fulfill the prophecies and make Israel His earthly capitol forever (Acts 1:6)? (Clearly they had no “spiritual Israel” in mind!) Jesus simply stated that it wasn’t their job to know “times or dates the Father has set by his own authority” (Acts 1:7, NIV). Instead, He ordered: wait for the Holy Spirit to come, and “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8)!
The disciples were asking the same question we millennials are asking now: is God going to return the kingdom to Israel? Aren’t they still the chosen people? Jesus may have implied that they are, but regardless, He only responds by telling the disciples to witness all across the Middle East and the world. The best thing Christians can do for Israel is love her enemies by sharing the Gospel with her and Arab and Palestinian neighbors. The New Testament leaves no room for doubt: the Gospel is for everyone everywhere—Jews, Gentiles, Palestinians, and Europeans. Only Christ can forgive violence and remove hate. Only the Gospel can show Muslims how much God loves His people in every age. And only the Prince of Peace can subdue the nations. If millennials understand these three points and unite on this common soil, debates will fade away while the Great Commission surges onward—letting every Christian, Jew, and Muslim know that the whole earth is the Lord’s.
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