Home > Miscellaneous > A Hint of Politics: Supporting Israel Is Not A Biblical Value

A Hint of Politics: Supporting Israel Is Not A Biblical Value

The unrest in the Middle East caused by the land dispute involving the nation of Israel and Palestine is a major U.S. foreign policy issue. Many nations in the Middle East really don’t like Israel that much and would like to see them gone. Some of these nations share a dislike for the U.S. I’m not an expert on foreign policy, and I won’t surmise the cause of these problems, nor the solutions. The point is, these are real political issues that are complicated and difficult to solve. I’m not criticizing the attempt to find political solutions to these problems nor any particular solutions, but I am increasingly perturbed by the way Christians sometimes try to make this a theological issue.

The most recent disheartening news story was ad space posted in the Wall Street Journal by Billy Graham. http://gawker.com/5952856/billy-graham-bought-a-whole-page-in-the-wall-street-journal-to-tell-you-what-he-thinks-about-gays-and-women In the ad Billy Graham says, “I believe it is vitally important we cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel… Vote for biblical values…” The implication here regarding Israel, given the overall message of the ad, is that supporting Israel is somehow a biblical principle. This concept can be found in many Christian political groups (http://christianactionforisrael.org/ and http://www.cufi.org/ for example). The idea that Christians should support Israel is theologically common and theologically silly.

I’m sure books have been written about this, and it would take books to properly deal with the topic*, but I think a few simple points might help. Sometimes it feels like we look back and think that Jesus came to establish the new religion of Christianity so non Jews can inherit the kingdom. This isn’t completely false, but it certainly is misleading. Jesus came as the Jewish Messiah, to fulfill the Jewish Law and prophets, enacting the kingdom of God on earth. The fulfillment of the prophets means that Gentiles are allowed in as full members of the people of God. However, Jesus is not setting up a new religion, but fulfilling and reshaping Judaism by re-centering it around Himself. Christianity only makes sense as a sect of Judaism.**

Obviously when something finds a new center, it’s old center finds itself in the periphery. With Judaism re-centered around Jesus, the central components of the religion have shifted. Belonging to the people of God was once dependent on contingencies such as: descending from Abraham through the line of Jacob, male circumcision, and faithful living to YHWH’s covenant to Israel, including the Law. After the religion was re-centered around Jesus, inclusion involves: descending from Abraham through faith in Jesus, circumcision of the heart, and faithful living to the way of God’s kingdom as shown by the embodiment of YHWH, Jesus. In no way was Israel excluded from belonging to the re-centered people of God. They were the first to be made known about it. However, a rejection of Jesus Messiah is tantamount to a rejection of YHWH and the kingdom He is establishing with Jesus at the center.

There are many texts that talk about the rejection of Israel and I would argue that this idea of rejection is implicit and explicit in Scriptures from Exodus to Revelation (maybe Genesis too). A relevant text which immediately comes to mind is found in Romans. The argument weaves its way throughout Romans, but the bulk of Paul’s words on Jews and inclusion is found in chapters 9-11.

And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved” Romans 9:27

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer for them is that [Israel] may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Romans 10:1-4

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 10:12-13

For if their (the Jews’) rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches… Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith… And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.

Romans 11:17-23

Perhaps I went a bit lengthy with quoting these passages. In case you want to skip them, here’s a brief rundown of some of the points I’m trying to make. First, before Jesus the idea was present, as demonstrated in the quote from Isaiah, that not all Israel will be saved. Second, Israel’s salvation is dependent upon their submission to God according to the knowledge that the Messiah is the new way to righteousness. Third, it doesn’t matter if one is a Jew or a Greek or anything else, salvation doesn’t depend on these things, but on calling on the name of the Lord, who is Jesus, the Christ. Fourth, Israel has been cut off from the tree. They are no longer the people of God. Fifth, this being cut off is not abandonment by God because Israel can be grafted in just as easily, but this being grafted back in has nothing to do with their ethnicity but their belief that Jesus is the Messiah.

The idea that Israel has been cut off from the people of God seems to be absent in the way many U.S. Christians think. I understand this. It feels harsh to say it. Perhaps it feels like an abandonment of the Old Testament to some? I’m convinced it is not a new idea that Paul made up, but perfectly in line with Old Testament Theology, particularly the prophets. There is a reason why a lot of Jews, including Paul at one point, were set on wiping out the Christ-following sect. They were making bold claims about the presence of the kingdom of God and how the inheritance of this kingdom was through faith in Jesus Messiah alone. These are still the bold claims we are to make.

Because Israel has been cut off, I don’t believe that Christians have any sort of obligation to support Israel. Israel is just as far from the kingdom as any other nation that rejects Jesus as Messiah and Lord. We should not base our foreign policy on the idea that the nation of Israel is the nation of the people of God. The nation of the people of God is comprised of those who have put their faith in Jesus. All this to say, the question of how to handle Israel and the Middle East from a foreign policy perspective is a political one and not a theological one. We are sending Israel the wrong message when we pretend they are the people of YHWH while they are rejecting His son.

*I’ve written some stuff pertinent to the topic, but without the purpose of directly addressing it. A few places: Why I’m Jewish, Israel becomes like Pharaoh, and Jesus’ Temple Action .

**It is not inherently negative that we are described as being a separate religion, but we should still maintain that our movement arises out of a fulfilled Judaism.

Categories: Miscellaneous
  1. October 25, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    This was great. Well written, concise, clearly articulated, & very helpful. You should submit it to Relevant Magazine as an editorial piece. Just a suggestion.


  2. October 27, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Thanks brother.

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