NOTE: I originally posted this column on July 9th, but I am reposting it because I am hoping more Christians will read and consider it. I’m concerned that far too many Christians who love Israel and the Jewish people are dismissing all Palestinians as terrorists and radicals and extremists. This is unfair and unbiblical. Indeed, there are true moderates among the Palestinians we need to get to know and appreciate and hear their perspective on what is happening.
As I watch the on-going current crisis, I am deeply concerned for Israeli civilians, especially those who live in the south. But my also heart breaks for the Palestinians, especially those who live in Gaza.
Both sides are suffering. Both sides are feeling pain. And as a follower of Jesus Christ, I want to find ways that Christians can bless and care for and show compassion to both sides.
At the same time I admit I find myself asking some difficult questions.
- Why did Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) recently make a peace agreement with Hamas, a terrorist organization affiliated with the Radicals of the Muslim Brotherhood?
- Why isn’t the PA deploying security forces in Gaza to stop the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists to stop the rockets from being fired at Israel, and thus ending the need for Israel to fight Hamas directly?
- Why isn’t the PA taking the lead in fighting the terrorists and retaking control of Gaza and making it quiet, calm and safe?
- Why after nine years since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip and handed full control over to the PA have the Palestinian leadership not turned Gaza into a model of freedom and opportunity, rather than a place of such suffering and sadness and a base camp for terrorism?
At the moment, I don’t see clear answers to these questions. That doesn’t mean I will stop having compassion on the Palestinian people. To the contrary, I feel even more compassion because I don’t see their leaders making wise choices to truly help their people. Rather, I see the Palestinians in Gaza as sheep without a shepherd, feeling harassed and helpless.
Sometimes I find myself wondering, along with many Americans: Are there moderate Palestinians out there who don’t want war but truly seek peace? Are there any Palestinian leaders who are true Reformers, who don’t simply want to talk about making peace, but are serious about building competent security services who will make and enforce true peace? Are there Palestinian Reformers who are serious about creating an economic and civil infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza capable of blessing the Palestinian people and establishing the foundation upon which peace with Israelis can be built?
Fortunately, I believe the answer is yes.
The problem is such people currently have little or no political power right now.
In recent years, I have come to know many Palestinian Arab Christians — pastors and lay leaders — and I can assure you they don’t want war with Israel. Some are political. Most aren’t. They’re mostly Revivalists who believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the main hope for their people. At the same time, they truly want a peaceful environment where they can serve the Lord and make disciples and care for the poor and needy and raise their children and build a future without this terrible scourge of violence. We don’t agree on all matters of theology, or geopolitics. But that’s okay. They love Christ. They love His Word. They are serving Him faithfully. Indeed, they have suffered for His name, and they are seeking peace for their people, and for their neighbors. I admire and appreciate them for that. May their tribe increase.
I have also met a Palestinian officials and business leaders who I also believe truly seek peace. I know first hand that it is not accurate to believe that all Palestinians are cheering this rocket war with Israel. Just the opposite is true. Many Palestinians are grieving what is happening, as are Arabs elsewhere in the region. Jordan’s King Abdullah II, for example, and his government are true moderate Arab Reformers. They don’t want this war. They have made peace with Israel and they want peace and dignity for the Palestinian people, as well as for the Israelis.
One leader I have not yet met, but would like to, is a man named Salam Fayyad. You may not have ever heard of him, but it’s worth your time to learn about him and listen to his views.
Fayyad is a Palestinian. An economist. A moderate. A Reformer. Until not long ago, he served as the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Before that, he served as the PA’s Finance Minister. To read several excellent columns and articles about his ideas and his work, please click here, here, and here.
On July 3rd — as the latest rocket war intensified — Fayyad participated in a conversation with New York Times columnist Tom Friedman at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado. It was a fascinating conversation, and I commend it to your attention. You may not agree with everything he says. But it’s important to listen to an interesting, principled, experienced Palestinian husband, father, and leader who cares deeply for his people and wants to create a calm, peaceful, prosperous environment for both Palestinians and Israelis.
Please pray for Dr. Fayyad, for his family and his colleagues. Among other things, please pray that he and other Reformers like him would have increasing influence in the Palestinian society.
As an evangelical Christian, I know that the Scriptures teach that true, lasting, comprehensive peace will never come to the Middle East or the rest of the world until the Lord Jesus Christ — whom the prophet Isaiah described as the “Prince of Peace” — returns to establish His kingdom and reign from Jerusalem. What’s more, I realized that Bible prophecy indicates that in the last days leading up to the return of Christ, the Middle East and nations around the globe will experience “wars and rumors of wars,” along with “revolutions” and “kingdoms rising against kingdoms and nations against nations.”
But I also know that the Bible commands believers not to wait for that final, perfect peace, but to seek peace here and now.
- “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” we read in Psalm 122:6.
- “Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it,” we read in Psalm 34:14 and 1 Peter 3:11.
- Jesus said in Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
- The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 14:19, “So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”
- “Love your neighbors as yourself,” said Jesus in Matthew 19:19.
- “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Jesus said in Matthew 5:44.
The Bible is clear that governments are instituted by God to establish justice and protect people from all enemies, foreign and domestic. So followers of Christ should want all people to be governed by honest leaders who can establish safety, security and environment of hope, growth and opportunity. This is all part of our Biblical commitment to seeking peace, making peace, and not letting ourselves become cynical when peace efforts falter.
As people who love Christ and care about the people of the epicenter, we must start by praying for peace. But let us not stop there. Now, more than ever, we need to be seeking peace in the epicenter. Because people on both sides are suffering and God loves the Arabs and the Jews.
Learn more about The Joshua Fund (www.joshuafund.com). This is an organization my wife and I founded in 2006 to educate and mobilize Christians to bless Israel and her Arab neighbors in the name of Jesus, including caring for the needy and vulnerable with food and other humanitarian relief. Read our 2013 Donor Report. Please pray for our team, and please prayerfully consider making a generous, tax deductible, secure, on-line contribution.
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