Newspaper headlines continue to scream out stories of violence in the Middle East. Television news reports flash images of bloodshed that stains the Holy Land. Israel is a womb of disharmony wherein borders and nationalities seem to cause battle after battle. And yet the ultimate conflict in the Middle East is religious. The Jewish and Muslim disputes over holy sites are merely one chapter in a very ancient book. Into the midst of this age-old discord, the voice of Christianity speaks—sometimes muffled and indistinct, other times shrill and piercing.
Unfortunately, the latter voice has had quite an effect in Israel. The tragic and often violent history of the triumphalist church of the Middle Ages is indelibly fixed in the minds of the people there. Ancient Crusader fortresses dot the land, memorializing that history.
And what can be heard when contemporary Christians raise their voices in the Land? To many Israelis, official" Christianity sounds like so much squabbling over rights to dubious holy sites around the Land.
Evangelical Christians raise their voices over more pressing issues. Some ardent Christian Zionists show blind allegiance to the most extreme right-wing political positions, to the point of unChrist-like attitudes towards Arabs. On the other hand, some pro-Palestinian evangelicals feel politically and religiously correct in siding with the Palestinians because they view them as the underdog who, without Christian sympathies, will remain poor and oppressed. Their left-leaning theological convictions preclude any place for a Jewish Israel in God's future plan. Consequently, they confer an illegitimacy on the current government and accept Palestinian propaganda as gospel truth.
Yet despite the discord, I am hopeful for what can happen in Israel—because despite the current conflict, God has declared a bright future for the nation.
The Lord also will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; the heavens and earth will shake; but the Lord will be a shelter for His people, and the strength of the children of Israel. So you shall know that I am the Lord your God, dwelling in Zion My holy mountain. Then Jerusalem shall be holy, and no aliens shall ever pass through her again.
What a day that will be! In the meantime, we can sow the gospel of peace in the hearts of Jews and Arabs alike, knowing that some will receive the life-giving message. When the Prince of Peace rules in the hearts of Arabs and Jews, there will be a lasting peace from God. It will never come through politics. We know that true peace will only come to the city of peace when the Prince of Peace comes in power and glory.
We need evangelical Christians to commit to this task of proclamation in Israel. Not the triumphant proclamation of a crusader, but the humble voices of sinners saved by grace. Only when Christians agree that all people need the gospel will the church sow enough gospel seed to yield a good harvest. When believers accept rejection as an ordinary part of following Y'shua, the church will move as one to reach out to those who desperately need the Messiah.
I only wish more Christians were aware of the opportunities for witness in Israel right now. Because despite the conflict in the Land, or perhaps in some ways because of it, many Israelis are open to the gospel. We see some come to faith in Jesus each month!
Contemporary mission strategy makes much of the 10/40 window, but few who speak of that window mention that Israel is smack dab in the middle of it. No strategy for world evangelization is complete unless it includes cogent thinking on Jewish missions and specific plans to reach Israel with the good news of Messiah.
The Holy Land, said to be so because it is the place from which the gospel first emanated, desperately needs the attention and focus of the Church. One need not have a political agenda to fulfill the mandate of Psalm 122:6, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: may they prosper who love you."
Some point out that Jesus never limited his ministry to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. The Great Commission is to go into all the world. Yet Jesus started out "to the Jew first" knowing that His impact in Judea would be felt in Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth. Paul used the same strategy. Both kept a sharp, narrow focus. The Great Commission was first given to Jewish believers in Jesus. Those first Jews for Jesus did a pretty good job making that message known beyond the confines of Jerusalem and Judea.
Now, as we face the 21st century since that Great Commission was first given, we too need to sharpen our focus. We need to renew our commitment to bring the message back to the land where that command was first uttered.
Many Christians don't realize that it is possible to share the gospel in Israel in much the same way as it is in other democracies of the world. Our Israeli staff is doing this every single day. In fact, Jews for Jesus is recognized by the government of Israel as a not-for-profit organization. Our missionaries go out onto the streets of Tel Aviv or onto the college campuses to hand out our gospel tracts. We meet with Israelis, young and old alike, to share the good news of Messiah. God gives opportunities to lead Jews as well as Arabs to faith in Christ!
I am thankful that God has given us the opportunity to stand for Him in Israel. I am grateful to you for standing with us through your prayers and support. Thank you for enabling us to be your hands and feet to give that message of hope to the people and place known as Israel. Please continue to pray for our missionaries in Israel. Pray for their protection. Pray that God will grant them continuing courage and anoint them with wisdom and power to proclaim His gospel. Please pray that they will continue seeing much fruit for the glory of God.