‘Jacob I loved’

Palestinian suffering is becoming the reason for an increasing number of evangelical Christians to stand against Israel.

christian palestinian311 (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
christian palestinian311
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
There is a growing movement among evangelical Christians which stands against Israel out of sympathy for Palestinian suffering. This is not new, but it is gaining more notice through the documentary film “With God on Our Side” and other initiatives.
It also manifested at the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Minneapolis in July. Pro-Israel Christians and Jews attended to oppose the adoption of a deeply flawed report submitted by a special Middle East study committee which laid the blame for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict squarely on Israel and endorsed the boycott, divestment and sanctions strategy.
The two sides were encouraged to meet, and managed to hammer out a compromise version. Several pro-Israel advocates came out of that encounter insisting that the phenomenon of Evangelical support for the Palestinians was here to stay.
Dexter van Zile, a Christian media analyst for CAMERA, told The Jewish Telegraphic Agency afterwards that it was necessary to recognize the depth of sympathy for the Palestinians. “One of the things I learned in the past few years is that there really is a genuine concern on the part of the [pro-Palestinian] activists. People who ignore that concern aren’t going to get anywhere,” he said.
Some of these Christians are moved by the shrinking numbers of Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land, and are open to arguments that Israeli oppression and occupation are to blame.
Other Evangelicals mistakenly think that by joining the Israel bashing, they ingratiate themselves with Arab audiences and open them up to the Gospel. Thus, well-known evangelists have even appeared on stages with Hizbullah.
It would be easy to point out that radical Islam is in fact the chief cause of Christian Arab flight throughout the Middle East, or that much of Palestinian suffering is self-inflicted. But Christians also need to realize that we do not have to take one side and reject the other. We can and should love Israel and the Arabs too! Yet to do so requires a better understanding of the biblical paradox of God’s universal love versus His right of sovereign election.
Many pro-Palestinian Christians contend that with the coming of Jesus, the unique role served by Israel in God’s redemptive plan was “fulfilled,” and the Church is now called to preach a message of universal love and acceptance. That is, the days of divine particularity are over.
Now it is true that God is no respecter of persons. The Apostle Peter proclaimed that “God shows no partiality. But in every nation, whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.”
(Acts 10:34-35) Jesus also explained that his Father “sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45; see also John 3:16; Romans 10:13; 2 Peter 3:9) And yet the New Testament also affirms the concept of divine election. In Romans 9:13, the Apostle Paul cites Malachi 1: “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” He explains this was God’s sovereign choice from the womb, before either twin had done anything good or evil, “that the purpose of God according to election might stand…” (v. 11) This is an example of a biblical paradox, whereby two parallel truths that appear irreconcilable run next to each other, never seeming to meet.
Another good example is the difference between free choice and predestination.
Both are true, and the ‘art’ of the Christian walk is to learn to live within these paradoxical truths and never cling to one to the exclusion of the other.
Otherwise you lapse into heresy.
In Romans 9-11, the Apostle Paul goes as far as he can in expounding on the enduring election of natural Israel, but without excluding God’s universal love for all humanity. He flirts with the edge for a reason; to impress upon Gentiles the need to respect Israel’s continued chosenness, even to the point of warning that failure to do so could mean being “cut off” from the household of faith.
That is the unique challenge of the Israeli-Arab conflict for Christians; we don’t have to revile one side to support the other. Both are “beloved of the Father!”
Parsons is media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.