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This Week's Teaching: "Three Conversations We Should Have About the Israel/Gaza Conflict"
Anything I say about the Israel/Hamas/Gaza conflict has the danger of having a short shelf life--if I speak too much to the current state of affairs. Today what I have to say is a long shelf life comment about it all.
I'm speaking to Christians here and I'm specifically imagining those who are in my network of microchurches or who are gathering together with other believers.
Like you, when I saw the atrocities, I cried out for vengeance, just at a guttural level. And then when I saw how divided the world is, I realized this is not just an easy thing to address.
As you have conversations with others, like, we're all going to be bringing our political biases and the things that we saw on the news that we thought were true and someone else said it wasn't true, and we believed them, or we didn't believe them, and we're going to argue about all sorts of things that the world argues about. What I would suggest, what I think is helpful: Focus on Justice, Witness, and Promise.
As you talk about Justice, yes, we should rescue the oppressed. And God says, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay." And historically, he has called his people to exact vengeance for him. We have to be slow to that. And so I think the best word is Justice. Be ready to rescue. If it's in your power to rescue the oppressed, rescue the oppressed.
The second word is Witness. We need to be ready to preach. Anything we do has to be consistent with this gospel. It's tempting to imagine, if it comes down to a fight, going down in this hailstorm of bullets with a "yippee ki yay" kind of mindset. That's an ugly way. For the church I'm talking. I'm not saying there's not a place for nations to war. I'm not saying that.
But if we think of the church's witness, we could go down fighting for our rights, fighting for our freedom, fighting for this and that. Or go down with a witness of: "Repent, the kingdom is near. Repent while there's still time." Because for us, the gospel is you can repent from all this evil. the gospel is preached across enemy lines. It hurls not grenades across the line. It hurls this promise across the line, that you can be free from this sin, from this evil. You can be restored to God. You can be reconciled. You can be renewed. It's a gospel that preaches across the enemy lines, "Come here. We will receive you. We will give you life. Come here. Jesus loves you. He died for you. He wants to give you life."
As you think about the church's response, let it be a witness that we believe God wants to reconcile all who have alienated themselves through sin. And that includes our enemies.
And then third: Promise. Promise. We live with a promise of eternal life. We believe in this, and it affects everything we do. Even if we have to lay down our lives right now, we believe that we will be raised up.
In my reading right now, it just so happens that I'm reading in Psalms, Judges, Matthew, and Revelation. And it affects my perspective on this whole thing. And I would suggest that you read Psalms, Judges, Matthew, Revelation. Start today with Chapter 1 of each book, and then tomorrow Psalm 2, Judges 2, Matthew 2, Revelation 2. Psalm 3, Judges 3, Matthew 3. Revelation 3. Just start reading and let it affect your perspective more than what news channel you listen to. Sure, stay current on the news, that's fine. But let your perspective be influenced by scripture.
The reality is that this conflict goes back millennia. In Judges 1, you will read "Gaza," when Judah overthrows Gaza, 3500 years ago or whatever. It's not a current thing. We think in terms of 20 years, 60 years, 80 years. It's millennia. And so let that affect you.
And when you read Revelation, there are two witnesses of God. Revelation 11 says that these two witnesses will be defeated and will lie dead in the streets three and a half days. And their enemies will refuse them burial, they'll come and gloat over them and they'll give each other gifts and the whole world will celebrate over it. And then after three and a half days the breath of God will enter those two witnesses and they'll rise to their feet and they'll be taken up into heaven. There's different ways you can read it. I believe those witnesses are Israel and the Church, what God has put on this earth as prophetic witnesses . Even if Israel and the Church don't do it well, still God's prophetic desire is that Israel and the Church live as a witness against evil and for good. I believe this is God's holy people. I believe Israel and the Church represent that.
As we interact with this, we need to focus on justice, witness, and promise. And so my appeal is this: as you're around the table with other people. Talking about this. Don't fight politics. Discuss justice, witness, and promise. And let our prayer be for those things, and for peace.
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