Palestinians and Jews: Working Toward Godly Unity

Christian Palestinians
What would happen if Christian Palestinians really began to understand God's love and mercy for Israel? (iStock photo)

Many Western Jews and Christians believe that Christian Palestinian­ism aggressively promotes anti-Semitism, replacement theology and the delegitimization of Israel. They say it represents a dangerous resurgence of the church's historic, anti-Jewish doctrine that has led in the past to the widespread murder of Jews. At a minimum, it is appropriate to ask if the Palestinian church has heeded the exhortation of Romans 11:17–25 not to be ignorant or arrogant toward Israel, but to tremble in humility.

A Christian Zionist leader from the U.K. pointedly comments:

"The big lie is Christian Palestinianism, the anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian crusade going on in the church today that will say from one corner of its mouth, 'We love the Jewish people' and from the other corner of its mouth, 'We hate Israel.' That is not possible. You cannot love the Jewish people and hate Israel."

In 2012, a highly regarded rabbi in the United States stated that Christian Palestinianism had so influenced the church that relations between mainline Protestants and Jews in America had hit its lowest point. He did not know if the relationship could recover.

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Israeli Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, a leader in the Jewish-Christian interfaith movement, explains:

"As long as you believe in replacement theology ... and that the Jews no longer stand in covenantal relationship to God, then [you believe] we have no right to be in Israel and you join our enemies."

As a follower of Jesus, an Israeli and a mother, I am sobered to realize how many evangelical brothers and sisters are attempting to compel the world to take action that, apart from divine intervention, could lead to the slaughter of millions of my people—including my own family. To my knowledge, none of them is suggesting outright that any of us be killed. But as Rabbi Riskin remarks, some have unwittingly joined forces with the enemies of Israel who aim at nothing less.

In no small part, the spread of Christian Palestinianism is related to the current Western trend to dismiss the concept of absolute truth. Today, more and more Christians say the Bible cannot be read according to any objective hermeneutical standard—because there are no objective standards. Each individual and each culture perceives reality differently, so any given standard is as valid as the next, they say. Palestinian victimization, in this view, provides a framework for Scripture interpretation just as sound as any other.

 Israeli Messianic scholar Lisa Loden describes the dilemma:

"The question of whether or not the [Bible] text has meaning in and of itself, [or] if meaning is derived from the interaction between the reader and the text, is a crucial question in contemporary hermeneutical studies. The primacy of the text has been the gold standard of biblical scholarship ... but is currently under examination and attack."

Forgiveness at the Cross

Palestinian believers freely share that their theology stems in large measure from personal pain and offense. To be sure, some have suffered much and are in need of compassionate help. God does not want us belittling or ignoring them. At the same time, let us remember that they are not the first Christians through history to feel offended or victimized. Countless believers have unjustly suffered extreme, prolonged pain. But they did not seek to reinvent the message of the Scriptures to accommodate their suffering. To the contrary, those who identified intimately with Messiah in their deep distress often gave the world a lasting witness of the gospel.

Please do not misunderstand: I am not suggesting that Palestinian believers stay silent in the face of injustice. I merely point out that Jesus is greater than any of our circumstances—and can give us the love, peace and joy with which to overcome them. Personally, when I have unjustly suffered, I have heard the Lord lovingly ask: "Are unforgiveness and self-pity going to limit your response to My ways? If you meet Me at the cross with your pain, I will transform it." Some of my most intimate, life-changing encounters with Yeshua have been at the cross as I released forgiveness toward those who deeply mistreated or offended me.

Is it possible the cross of Yeshua could offer our Palestinian brothers and sisters some of the same overcoming grace and comfort? I recently asked a Palestinian pastor this question, after spending hours listening to him and his church members share personal grievances about the Jewish state. He replied that Palestinian preachers generally did not discuss taking pain and offense about Israel to the cross. With his next breath, he said they probably should start.

A New Christian Zionism

Some Christian or Biblical Zionists attribute the new Palestinian theology to a demonic force opposing God's promises to the Jews. As we have seen, the devil works in many ways to discourage Israel's restoration. I believe, however, we must forthrightly hear our brothers and sisters. We must embrace them with prayerful love, discernment and practical help. In the process, God might even use them to point out areas in us that He wants to mature.

What might we learn from Palestinian believers and how can we best respond to them? First, we can acknowledge that certain Israeli policies, forged in the context of the state's struggle to survive, have caused unwarranted suffering and sometimes abuse. We must not ignore or excuse Israel's disobedience, reflected in those policies, to God's ethical commands. We can focus support on Israeli policy makers who advance biblical righteousness.

Second, some Christian Zionists have in the past expressed little concern for Palestinians due to an emphasis on Israel's fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Because Palestinian believers usually reject the idea of Jewish covenant election, they do not regard Israel's existence as anything prophetic at all. They feel they have been marginalized by the Western church—and many deeply resent it. To rectify the past, we must seek the Lord for His compassionate, honest and wise response. We can pray for Spirit-led opportunities to engage with Palestinian believers. We can also pray for reconciliation efforts between Christian Palestinians and Israeli Messianic Jews to deepen and expand.

Third, we are to intentionally remember that being pro-Israel does not—and must not—mean being anti-Palestinian. It has been aptly said that if our love for Israel means we cannot love Palestinians, then something is wrong with our love for Israel. If we lack love for Palestinians because we have been offended or injured by them, we must take that to the cross.

Last but certainly not least, we must remember the Lord does not want our ultimate focus on either Israel or putative Palestine, but on Him. Those who care passionately for the Palestinian people may be tempted to confuse love with unsanctified mercy. Unsanctified mercy seeks to alleviate suffering at any cost, regardless of the injustice that may result. It does not align with God's will or His Word. It does not flow from a focus on Him.

Therefore, Christ-like love for Palestinian Christians will not be expressed by aligning with them against Israel. It will be expressed by aligning with them for Jesus and His heart for the Jews. When Palestinians understand God's love, mercy and grace for Israel, they will experience it at new levels for themselves. Healing from heaven will flow to them. Palestinian Christians will begin to walk in the manifest power of the gospel of the kingdom as never before. Could God even use them, together with Israeli believers, to help minister peace to both peoples?

A leading pro-Palestinian theologian has stated that Christians must choose one side or the other: Israel's or Palestine's. He writes: "The question is, am I as a Christian going to view the Middle East through the lens of prophecy or the lens of justice?" In response, I propose the time has come to drop the dichotomy. God does not choose between presumably pro-Palestinian justice and presumably pro-Israel prophecy. His immense love, expressed in His Word, beautifully reconciles prophecy and justice. It is not a matter of either/or, but both/and. In the end, each evidences the reality of the gospel. But neither is itself the gospel.

The gospel of the kingdom revolves around Jesus and His restoration of all nations in mercy and grace. This gives Palestinians, Israelis and everyone else a bountiful future and a hope.

The preceding is taken from Sandra Teplinsky's book, Why Still Care About Israel? Used by permission from Chosen Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group (, copyright 2013.  

Sandra Teplinsky has been in the Messianic Jewish ministry since 1979. She is president of Light of Zion, an outreach to Israel and the church based in Southern California and Jerusalem.

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