(Author's note: This article was written for those Christian fundamentalists who believe that they must totally support everything the state of Israel does because the Bible tells them so.)
Some leaders in the Protestant community of the United States have urged the endorsement of far-reaching and unilateral political and military commitments to the government of Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, citing Holy Scripture as the basis for those commitments.
It is good and necessary for Christian leaders to speak out on the great moral issues of our day in obedience to Christ's call for his disciples to be salt and light in the world. It is quite another thing, however, when leaders call for commitments that are based upon a serious misreading of Holy Scripture.
At the heart of the political and military commitments in question are two fatally flawed propositions. First, some are teaching that God's alleged favor toward Israel today is based upon ethnic descent rather than upon the grace of Christ alone, as proclaimed in the Gospel. Second, others are teaching that the Bible's promises concerning the land are fulfilled in a special political region or "Holy Land," perpetually set apart by God for one ethnic group alone. As a result of these false claims, large segments of the Christian community, our fellow citizens, and our government are being misled with regard to the Bible's teachings regarding the people of God, the land of Israel, and the impartiality of the Gospel.
The entitlement of any one ethnic or religious group to territory in the Middle East called the "Holy Land" cannot be supported by Scripture. In fact, the land promises specific to Israel in the Old Testament were fulfilled under Joshua. The New Testament speaks clearly and prophetically about the destruction of the second temple in A.D. 70. No New Testament writer foresees a regathering of ethnic Israel in the land, as did the prophets of the Old Testament after the destruction of the first temple in 586 B.C. Moreover, the land promises of the Old Covenant are consistently and deliberately expanded in the New Testament to show the universal dominion of Jesus over all the earth.
Bad Christian theology regarding the "Holy Land" contributed to the tragic cruelty of the Crusades in the Middle Ages. Lamentably, bad Christian theology is today attributing to secular Israel a divine mandate to conquer and hold Palestine, with the consequence that the Palestinian people are treated as prisoners in their own land. This doctrine is both contrary to the teaching of the New Testament and a violation of the Gospel mandate. In addition, this theology puts those Christians who are urging the violent seizure and occupation of Palestinian land in moral jeopardy. Are we as Christians not called to pray for and work for peace, warning both parties to this conflict that those who live by the sword will die by the sword?
There are those who claim that those who curse Israel will be cursed by God and that Christians must not criticize Israel. This is a false claim. The inheritance promises that God gave to Abraham were made effective through Christ, Abraham’s True Seed. Since Jesus Christ is the Mediator of the Abrahamic Covenant, all who bless him and his people will be blessed of God, and all who curse him and his people will be cursed of God. These promises do not apply to any particular ethnic group but to those who believe in Jesus Christ, the true Israel.
The danger for U.S. Christians is that having made an icon of Israel, we fall into the trap of condoning whatever Israel does—even wanton murder of civilians as we have witnessed in Gaza—as orchestrated by God. This is blasphemy.
The present secular state of Israel is not an authentic or prophetic realization of the Messianic kingdom of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, a day should not be anticipated in which Christ's kingdom will manifest itself in a particular place called Israel. Instead, Christians believe that this present age will come to a climactic conclusion when all eyes, everywhere, will see the King in his glory. As Christians, we need to return to the proclamation of the free offer of Christ's grace in the Gospel to all the children of Abraham, to pray for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and to provide humanitarian support for those on both sides who are suffering in this current vicious cycle of violence. As Christians, we cannot continue to blindly support the government of the secular state of Israel and its continued military occupation of Palestinian land.