Can we love them both?
July 24, 2020
In 2006, I released a CD of songs I wrote based on scripture. It was called apple of His eye and its mission statement was “Worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and pray for His people Israel”. I gave all the proceeds to two mission organizations. One was Messianic and the other focussed on Muslims. Knowing that Jews and Arabs are considered “stepbrothers”, I was thinking the best gift to give the Jews was Muslims who had learned to love and follow Jesus. I took a weekend training course to acquaint myself with ministries to Muslims so I could let people know what they were contributing to when they gave their donation for the CD. From that weekend on, I’ve had a passion for this area of ministry. I was reminded of Romans 1:16, “first to the Jew, then to the Gentile”.
Immediately I noticed that, although some believers were willing and able to love everyone, my new passion wasn’t very popular among some who were enthusiastic about the CD. Comments ranged from neutral (“I know Jesus loves Muslims, but it’s not my thing”) to hostile (“I’m not going to pray for Muslims!”). Another group of believers were very offended by the state of Israel because of its perceived occupation of Palestine. The first group was taking trips to the “Holy Land” out of love for Israel and to support the state; the second were visiting the “Holy Land” to learn about the oppression of Arabs and support social justice and lobby against Israel. For many Christians it is an either/or choice: love either group and the other becomes your enemy.
Can’t we love them both?
The roots of the controversies between Jew and Arab (including Messianic Jews and Christian Arabs) are deep. The ancient conflict between Abraham’s sons Ishmael and Isaac (Ge 21:8-14), and then grandsons Esau & Jacob (Ge 25:19-34, 27), including God’s sovereign reversal of the rights of the firstborn in both cases, has been entrenched in mindsets and worldviews and reinforced by experience, ideologies and bloodshed. Tiny Israel is surrounded by Arab nations, overwhelmingly Islamic and avowedly intent on destroying it. Resolution seems impossible!
What does Scripture reveal to us about God’s purpose? He told Abraham, “…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Ge 12:3 ESV). Jesus told His disciples to address Him as Father and pray for His will to be done on earth as in heaven. Our Father’s will is to establish His [spiritual] family on earth and bless all the [physical] families of the earth. His Messiah came as a Jew through Isaac’s line according to God’s promise to Abraham. Yet Ishmael remains part of Abraham’s family and part of the covenant of circumcision (Ge 17:23, 25, 26). Through Christ, God has already “reconcile[d] to Himself all things…making peace by the blood of His cross” (Col 1:20). We are ministers of that reconciliation (2 Co 5:18-20). Our assignment involves reconciling Abraham’s family. Can we love them both? We must.
I recently heard testimony from a worker in an Islamic context in the Middle East: “As Muslims come to know Jesus, they automatically love Israel. They have dreams and visions about it. They don’t receive much teaching about it – they just pray and receive God’s heart.” I personally know two former Muslims, one Iranian and one Iraqi, who love and pray for Israel and bless the Jews.
Father, as we build a highway of love (GHPL June 10/20), help us remove stones from the way – offense, judgments, unforgiveness, hardness of heart, ignorance – that exist in our own hearts toward both Jews and Arabs. Forgive us for taking sides. Help us seek to see them from the perspective of being seated with You “in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:6). Impart to us Your heart for all Your Middle Eastern children!
US Embassy Jerusalem photo, Dec 2011, Public Diplomacy Tel Aviv course for Arab and Jewish youth on how to communicate and negotiate with one another