Paradox Ministries Reconciliation: translations of the word in English, Hebrew and Arabic

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Promoting ReconciliationParadox's Theological Position

1.      God loves both Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, equally and calls us to do the same. 


2.       God is a God of justice (for both people groups). He loves justice. The kingdom of God, established through Christ, is a kingdom of love, peace, justice and righteousness. Scripture teaches that: 

He will bring justice to the nations and particularly to the poor. He defends, sustains and secures justice for the fatherless, widows, alien, oppressed, weak, needy and poor.[1]  He commands us to rescue the oppressed and administer justice.[2] Under Old Testament law the poor are to be provided with food, not to be charged interest or sold food at a profit. Their debts may be cancelled. 

He hates injustice, oppression, extortion, dispossession, dishonest business, bribery and commands us to avoid them.[3] 

He watches over the stranger (foreigner, person from another tribe, race, social or religious background) and condemns those who ill-treat or withhold justice from them. All human beings are equal in His sight.[4]  He commands us to love the strangers as ourselves, to treat them as our native-born and help them where necessary.[5] Even the offender is to have humane punishment and is not to be degraded.[6] 

3.       God has not rejected the Jewish people, even though many of them transgressed by rejecting their Messiah.[7]  God has preserved a “remnant” who believe and are saved by grace.[8]  Ultimately “all Israel will be saved” through faith in Jesus their Messiah.[9]     

4.       Gentiles, including Palestinians, experience eternal salvation by the grace of God on the same basis as Jewish people, namely faith in Christ. They are grafted into the same covenant relationship with God.[10] 

5.       Not all criticism of Israel (or the Jewish people) is anti-Semitic, but, tragically, Christian anti-Semitism has figured widely in the history of the Church and is still partly present today, sometimes bringing bias into Christian reactions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and doing enormous damage to Christian-Jewish relationships. It can be partly combated by such means as teaching about the Jewishness of Jesus and the New Testament and the Jewish/Biblical roots of the Christian Faith.[11]   

6.       There is also much evidence of anti-Arab, anti-Muslim bias in the history of the church, highlighted in the Crusades which greatly damaged Christian-Muslim relationships. Sadly there is still evidence of this bias, which brings imbalance into Christian reactions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It may be partly combated by education about Arab culture and about the spectrum of religious views amongst Muslims. 

7.       After the terrible history of Anti-Semitism, culminating in the Holocaust, the UN decided by a majority vote that a Jewish homeland should be established in part of Palestine. Many Christians would see behind this a divine provision of a much-needed (relatively) safe homeland for the deeply traumatised and vulnerable Jewish people.  However it caused great trauma to the Arab residents of Palestine and violence was suffered by both sides, with many Arabs leaving the land. 

8.       Some Christians would go further and recognise this return of the Jewish people to the land as a fulfilment of the promises of an ultimate return recorded in the Hebrew Prophets. Paradox believes that a case can be made out for this.[12]  See “Christian Zionism: an attempt at a biblical basis.” However it is important: 

·         To take seriously the references to the radical development that took place through the incarnation and in New Testament teaching, especially concerning the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies in Christ and the reinterpretation of OT concepts. 

·         To remember that the land belongs to God, not the Jewish people (God calls them aliens and tenants in it),[13] and residence in it by any generation depends on obedience to God (which, in New Testament terms, is not the case with the majority of Israelis or Jewish people today).[14] Throughout most of history the Jewish people have not occupied the whole of the land promised to the Patriarchs so that promise does not rule out their occupying only part of that land or even, following God’s demands for justice and love for non-Jewish people amongst them, giving part of it to the Palestinians. Such sacrifice is not wrong in principle. Nor does it frustrate God’s purposes for the Jewish people. 

·         To realise that the very prophets who prophesied a late return to the land by the Jewish people made it abundantly clear that residence in the land by Jewish people requires them to uphold the justice of God in relationship to all non-Jewish residents of the land (see section 2 above). This contrasts with current humiliation or unjust treatment of Palestinians. Historically, to emphasise one aspect of biblical teaching in isolation from other aspects has led to imbalance, error and even heresy. 

·         To accept that, whatever the national consciousness of Arab residents in the Holy Land in history, there is now a Palestinian people with a national consciousness and desire for nationhood which should not be denied. 

·         To rest assured that God will work out his purposes whatever political decisions are taken. God’s sovereignty is complex, so any hasty, ill thought-out, simplistic application of eschatology to modern political reality should be avoided. Some events which seem to contradict God’s purposes might, in reality, ultimately be serving those purposes. It would be arrogant to think our application of biblical eschatology to current events is infallible. Rather we should approach current events in humility and prayer, and by paying careful attention to the emphasis of Scripture on justice, love and compassion for neighbour and stranger alike, and the importance of working for peace. 

9.       Deliberate or irresponsibly de-facto violent targeting of innocent people, by either side, is never justified but is rather a great evil. 

OTHER POLICY STATEMENTS 

1.       Paradox takes seriously the fact that, underlying the political conflict is a clash of theologies. Many Jewish people believe God has given them the land forever.  Many Muslims believe that a land which was once under Muslim rule remains perpetually Islamic. On the one hand, Jewish fundamentalists believe that no land, including the West Bank, should be given away. The most extreme believe that Arabs should be removed from all of the land. On the other hand, some Islamists are working, not for peace, but for the destruction of Israel. Consequently Paradox supports action to bring reconciliation amongst key religious leaders in the Middle East The aim of such reconciliation is to achieve reduction of violence and ultimately peace with justice - it is not about theological compromise. 

2.       To love someone will, at times, require constructive criticism of that person. To love people groups will require the same. Condemnation of either side by Christians does little, if any, good. If it is biased – as much Christian comment is – it can do harm. It also raises the possibility of hypocrisy. Our own nations are far from perfect. Any criticism can exacerbate historic hurts. The Christian Church has little credibility in criticising because of anti-Semitism. Also Arabs and Palestinians feel misunderstood and let down by the West. So any constructive criticism in “Paradox” is intended to help Christians to pray in an informed way, not to condemn. Those who claim to love Israel must pray about her faults and the same is true for those who claim to support the Palestinians. 

3.       The New Testament urges us to pray for all in national leadership and so we need to pray for Israeli and Palestinian leaders. We need to understand why they hold the views they do so that we can pray intelligently and strategically. Prayer with a loving motive is the most powerful force for good in the world. Paradox seeks to inform such prayer in the name of Jesus for Israelis and Palestinians, believing that God will use it in his purposes. But, where possible, we should also support those working for reconciliation.

 © Tony Higton

[1] Isa 30.18; Ps 11.7; 33.5; 61.8; Isa 9.7; 11.4; 16.5; 33.5; 42.1,4

[2] Lev 19.33-34; Ps 82.1-4; Isa 56.1; Jer 22.3; Mic 6.8

[3] Deut 27.19; Prov. 20.10, 23; Isa 10.1-2;  Amos 8.4-7

[4] Gen 1.26-27; Gal 3.28

[5] Lev 19.33f

[6] Deut 25.2f

[7] Rom 11:11-12, 17-24

[8] Rom 11:4-5

[9] Rom 11:25-27

[10] Rom 11:24

[11] Rom 11:17-18

[12] Isa 11; 60:4, 9, 21, 22; 61:4-5; Jer 3:12-18; 23:7-8; Ezk 38:8, 16; 39:25-29; Joel 3:1-2, 17, 20; Amos 9:14-15; Zech 12:2-3, 10-11; 14 cf Luke 21:24; Acts 1:6. See Commentaries..

[13] Lev 25:23

[14] Lev 18:24-28; 20:22-24; Deut 4:25-27; 8:1, 19-20

 

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