The Way of Abraham

The question of whether Israel is fighting a "just" war is intriguing, especially in light of the Islamic fervor driving her adversaries.

hizbullah militia 88 298 (photo credit: AP [file])
hizbullah militia 88 298
(photo credit: AP [file])
Some have lashed out at Israel for "destroying" Lebanon just to get back two kidnapped soldiers. Yet the current war between Israel and Hizbullah is about much more than the fate of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, just as the IDF's "Operation Summer Rains" in Gaza involves more than rescuing Hamas captive Gilad Shalit. Rather, it is about Israel as a nation refusing to be held hostage to the growing threat of missiles and rockets in the hands of religious fanatics bent on her destruction. Still, the question of whether Israel is fighting a "just" war is intriguing, especially in light of the Islamic fervor driving her adversaries. Ultimately, it touches on the very nature and character of God as revealed in the Bible, as opposed to that of Allah in the Koran. Given the huge theological differences between Islam, Judaism and Christianity, efforts at interfaith dialogue among the "three great religions" often focus on the great patriarch Abraham, since Islam claims to share this towering figure with the two biblical faiths. After all, Muslims insist, Muhammad and the Arab peoples are also descendants of Abraham, through Ishmael. Thus while it has become popular for Christians to ask, "What would Jesus do?" interfaith circles prefer to ask, "What would Abraham do?" Even Jesus endorsed this approach in the Gospel of John, chapter 8. For Jews, this passage happens to be among the most difficult in the New Testament. Jesus is engaged with the Pharisees in a heated discussion about whether they are indeed acting like sons of Abraham. "They answered and said to Him, 'Abraham is our father.' Jesus said to them, 'If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this.'" (John 8:39-41) In other words, if your religion causes you hate someone to the point of wanting to kill him, you are not following in the way of Abraham. The great Hebrew patriarch was privileged to have received a unique and profound revelation of the immutable nature and character of the one true, living God. He understood how to walk humbly before Him, and what it means to please Him by faith. Most tellingly, Abraham's belief in God never caused him to hate others or desire to kill them, and he never took up the sword to spread his faith. In fact, Abraham resorted to arms only once in his life - to rescue his abducted nephew Lot and his family, and to recover that which had been stolen from them. So from a biblical perspective, going to battle to rescue the kidnapped is indeed "just." Abraham even turned down the spoils of that battle, saying to the king of Sodom: "I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, the possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, 'I have made Abram rich.'" (Genesis 14:22-23) NOW LET'S contrast the way of Abraham with the way of Islam. The Islamic religion teaches that it is perfectly okay to spread faith in Allah by the sword - this in a nutshell is the concept of jihad. In fact, it is a religion that mandates the hatred and killing of those outside the faith. In the Koran, Muhammad also instructed his followers that as Allah's holy warriors, they are uniquely entitled to take the bounty of war - provided, of course, that one-fifth is given to the prophet. Finally, as we have painfully learned, the Islamic idea of martyrdom for the sake of Allah is totally opposed to the Judeo/Christian conception. One teaches to actively seek death while attempting to murder others; the other passively accepts death if required to sanctify the name of the Lord. How then can anyone say we all worship the same God? The writer is media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and contributing editor for this publication;