By G. Ryan Brown, Crosswalk.com
With the war between Hamas and Israel continuing to devastate the Gaza Strip, Israeli and Palestinian Christians are among those crying out, pleading for the world to be aware of their plight. Palestinian believers, especially, are asking people around the globe – including the Church – to not forget about them. We are reminded in God’s Word that we are one with God’s people in Gaza, the West Bank, Israel, wherever; “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called” (Ephesians 4:4).
Feeling trapped between their identity as Arabs and their faith as Christians, Palestinian believers are treated with suspicion because of their ethnicity; yet many fellow Palestinians don’t trust them because of their belief in Jesus. Jewish believers experience a similar tension; many fellow Israelis see them as traitors to Judaism while many Arabs distrust them for being Israeli.
When we as believers journey spiritually alongside our persecuted family, neither nationality, government nor religion should matter.
We, like all believers around the world, were shocked and horrified by Hamas’ brutal attacks on Israel, and we strongly condemn their acts of depravity and violence. We continue to be concerned about the impact to civilians of the ongoing war. We know they are being hurt and killed by the bombing and shelling, and we are very concerned for the Gaza, West Bank, and Israeli Christians – whether of Arab or Jewish descent.
So, as we remember and are concerned for these believers in harm’s way, here are three things we can do to show our support for them.
First, we must listen to their voices.
The global Church must listen to the Israeli and Palestinian Christian communities’ voices and witness. Their vulnerable condition is of grave concern as they are already marginalized because of their faith, which has been compounded by this new crisis. We must prioritize hearing the voices of the believers in the region rather than being so quick to take sides in the conflict. We do this out of commitment and love for our sisters and brothers, as we are commanded in 1 John 4:21, “And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” Our actions should be driven by this posture of unity, which should also drive us to our knees in prayer.
For so many of us, this posture is neither natural nor comfortable. Our culture is quick to leverage social media to announce our loyalties or decry those we oppose. We have a difficult time embracing the James 1:19 admonitions to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.
We must be willing to listen to our suffering brothers and sisters. They have something to say and they are saying it. The question is if we are willing to listen.
Second, we must pray with and for them.
We implore believers around the world to pray for peace in the Middle East and stand with our brothers and sisters in the region.
We come together in agreement with them in praying for peace, and protection from the schemes of Satan which attempt to divide and foster violence during this conflict. We pray against the ideologies that aim to bring down nations and destroy lives and communities.
Most importantly, we join with Christians in the Holy Land in praying for belief in Jesus to be recognized as the lasting answer to this conflict, and that those who would seek to destroy would be thwarted and have their hearts changed. We also pray for wisdom for leaders from throughout the region, that God would soften their hearts and bring the peace that He alone offers, and that the war would come to an end.
Praying such bold prayers is bigger than either political action or protest. In doing so, we see that we are united with our sisters and brothers in Christ—all members of one Body.
Third, we must seek the unity of the Church.
The prayer that we would see one Church rather than a fractured body is our heart’s cry, along with Christians in the Middle East. An evangelical pastor in Egypt recently preached about this unity: “Our neighboring countries are in severe crisis. In the New Testament, we find that God loves all nations equally, Jews and Gentiles, slaves and masters, poor and rich; in Christ, there is no man and woman, Jew and Greek, He loves all equally. He loves those who believe in Him, His children, as much as those who do not believe in Him. He loves them, and He died for them. Blood is flowing in the lands, and God is watching in great sorrow. For every life that is taken from either side, it breaks the Father’s heart, because He loves both sides equally.”
Open Doors founder Brother Andrew’s writings remind us that we should speak out against injustice, even in complicated situations. Following suicide bombings in the Middle East some years ago, he wrote: “Who was going to the terrorists? Was anyone prepared to confront them and give them a reason to live that was greater than their motivation to die? How can they know about the Prince of Peace if no one goes and tells them?”
This is the kind of radical faith that love for others should cause us to emulate.
We love Jesus’ followers on all sides of this conflict, as people made in the image of God, no matter their faith or ethnicity. Jesus died for one Church, one Body – His Bride. We implore the global Church to wake up and join us as we listen, pray, and seek unity in support of our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Liorpt
G. Ryan Brown is the President and CEO of Open Doors US, one of 25 national Open Doors International (ODI) bases located around the world. Founded in 1955, Open Doors has continued to serve persecuted Christians in more than 70 countries, and is known for its annual World Watch List, the ranking of the top 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution.
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