My 10-year-old isn't too sharp about her Korean heritage, so when the subject of Korea comes up at dinner she asks: "Mom, I forgot, which are the good guys-North Korea or South Korea?" We tell her South Korea, mainly to keep the conversation moving, but the rest of us are aware that it's an oversimplification.
Adults shouldn't do that in adult conversation. We learn from the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:11 that a man should leave childish thinking behind and think like a man. He should resist the mental comfort food of oversimplification, and the cramming of complex conundrums into the Procrustean bed of simple categories. But are some of us American Christians thinking like my daughter Aimee when it comes to that other Gordian knot of the Orient-Palestine aka Israel aka the Holy Land aka the Promised Land?
Self-search question: Whom do you feel a more natural bond with, an Israeli or a Palestinian? What if I tweak the question and ask about an Israeli atheist versus a Palestinian Christian? You would support the latter guy over the former, right? The brother in Christ?
The Palestinians have given us suicide bombers and the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre. The Israelis have given us the Irgun and Stern gang and the Sabra and Shatila massacre. If you have two political entities, both with their hands steeped in blood up to the elbows, would you confuse either party's cause with the cause of God? The day after Yasser Arafat died, the Jerusalem Newswire ran the headline, "So may all your enemies fall, O God!" (Nov. 11, 2004). A Christian would make finer distinctions than that, right?
Karl Barth, living through World War I, broke away from his liberal Protestantism when he saw that his teachers had confused the agenda of Germany with the agenda of Christ. In The Epistle to the Romans he says that "the cross of Christ challenges and overthrows any attempt to ally God with human cultures, achievements, or possessions."
But God is allied with Israel, someone might object. Romans 9-11 says God has future plans for the Jews, for even ethnic Israel. But look again. That means that someday (it is already happening) God is going to bring a significant chunk of Israel into His kingdom through faith in the Messiah Jesus Christ. And I, for one, can't wait. I've been talking up Christ to the Auspitzes next door for years.
As for jumping on the Zionist bandwagon, however, should we "help" God hasten His agenda by abetting the political ambitions of a secular nation that continues to this day in rebellion and unbelief? Did God appreciate Abraham and Sarah's help in bringing about His promise of a son? Shouldn't we trust His timing?
How must Christian Palestinian students at the Bethlehem Bible College feel-who study through the tumult of tanks, choppers, water shortages, power outages, travel restrictions, and millions in property damage-when American Christians ignore them and give their hearts and dollars only to Israel?
What is the solution, then? John Piper writes, "Therefore, the secular state of Israel today may not claim a present divine right to the Land, but they and we should seek a peaceful settlement not based on present divine rights, but on international principles of justice, mercy, and practical feasibility. . . . We should encourage our representatives to seek a just settlement that takes the historical and social claims of both peoples into account."
God above is not confused or beguiled. He knows what a Jew is-someone of the faith of Abraham and not merely of the loins of Abraham. He comforts the Israelis who are true Israel, those persecuted in their country by the Yad Le'Achim. And then he turns and comforts their true brothers in the Gaza strip, saying, "I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie-behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet and they will learn that I have loved you" (Revelation 3:9).
No more "good guys" and "bad guys," Aimee. Time to grow up and make proper distinctions. There is the beginning to a roadmap to peace.