Friday, January 14, 2011

Whose promise?


We’ve back in the states for almost two weeks, and the transition is relatively smooth.  It’s great to come back to America with some fresh perspective and new appreciation as well as the sobering truth that no country, including ours, is perfect.

Our time back has seemed to fly by.  It’s hard to believe that it’s only been two weeks.  We’ve had lots of time to meet up with old friends again and naturally, they all want to know how the last several months have been.  The question I get asked about a lot is “what’s the deal with the conflict?” 

What’s the deal indeed?

I can’t presume that I would have all the answers, but I am definitely forced to assess the situation through the lens of my experience.  Like it or not, I am connected now.

The more I spend time thinking through this, the more there is to it.  First off, I had to decide from which perspective I should approach the issue.  The outcome will be different coming from an Israeli, a Palestinian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Democrat, a Republican, and so on…  Naturally, The only filter I can justifiably hold up to this is scripture, viewing the problem through the  lens of my faith.

Since this whole debate is supposedly over land promises, I went back to Genesis to check it out.  In chapters 15 and 17 of Genesis, God makes His covenant with Abram/Abraham and promises him and his descendants “the land of their sojourning's.”  While that’s all well and good, God also promised his descendants that He would walk with them and they would be marked through circumcision. 

Thus the history of Jews and God were set.  And for the Jews, that’s where the story ends.  That’s where they are in the story.  But I am not a Jew, and for me the story does not end there.  With the old covenant, God’s people were an exclusive group with specially shaped penis’s.  From what I can tell of Jesus’s ministry, the presence or absence of a foreskin was of little importance.  As a Christian, I have to view everything through the grid of the New Testament and the promises of Jesus.  The question becomes then, what gives me (a gentile) the right to walk with God.

Rom 4:13-16 Lays it out pretty nicely.  In fact it is not through keeping any law or custom that we are heirs to the promise.  It is by faith.

Pretty much all of Galatians, especially chapter 3, deals with everyone (not just Jews) being justified by faith.  It seemed there was a lot of confusion about upholding the Jewish customs and that only true descendants of Abraham were privileged.  Paul states pretty bluntly at the end of chapter 3: “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.”

By this information, it seems to me that if the land should belong to anyone, then it should be those who believe in Christ, the Christians.  But compared to the promise of unending mercy and grace, life to the fullest, unconditional love and eternal salvation.  A plot of land hardly seems the point.  Especially after Jesus wandering through the land telling stories like the good samaritan, it seems much less plausible that Jesus/God is terribly concerned with who is sitting on what land. 

We obviously can’t hold Israel to any new testament texts if they don’t believe them.  So what?  As a follower of Christ, what should my response be?

The first step is to do my homework and question.  I’ve been told all my life that Israel is the victim, they can’t seem to catch a break and since we share a common root, we need to support them.  Support them in what exactly?