October 10, 2023 Israel, Hamas and the Church’s Response
How can the Church and its people respond to and pray for the violence and conflict going on in Israel?
News of international conflict and war seem to dominate the headlines. It’s hard to watch, read about and process, and as churches and individuals, it’s hard to know what we can do to make a difference. What should we do and how should we live in light of global conflict and all the other brokenness we see in the world? And how will we communicate and encourage our congregations and communities as well?
The conflict in Israel is far deeper and more complex than I am qualified to write about, but what I do know is that God reigns over all the nations of the earth (Ps. 7:7). His Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom (Ps. 145:13), His Word is true (Ps. 119:160) and we are empowered through the Holy Spirit to participate in His Kingdom now and to push back the darkness around us with the light of Christ (Acts 1:8).
Because of these truths, followers of Jesus are to live as citizens of Heaven (Eph. 2), and as we live in this Kingdom and in light of these truths, it reframes how we process the brokenness of the world and moves us to compassionately engage the hurting around us.
Even though we aren’t proximate to Israel or other regions of the world that are at war, we can live in the reality of the Kingdom of God that doesn’t wage war against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world (Eph. 6).
As the people of God, we are called to fight evil by living as citizens of Heaven where we are; and in a supernatural way, God moves and light triumphs over darkness. The Kingdom of God breaks out where the people of God live in way that’s consistent with his reign, and here are a few ways that we are mandated to live as citizens:
You don’t have to go to Israel to know that there is fighting in every sphere of life these days. For every opinion that’s out there, there is an equal and opposite opinion ready to square off.
Those who represent Jesus in this world are called to be peacemakers, and when we cause fighting, we’re living in opposition to the Gospel.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9).”
This is about action. It’s about pursuing peace. It’s not maintaining peace or falsifying peace through passivity but rather being the one that seeks out peace.
Practically, this is the choice to hold that social media comment about a contentious subject or initiating a conversation with the person who you aren’t on great terms with. It’s your church choosing to talk about the hard things that divide people in order to make space for peacemaking and encounters with the Prince of Peace.
Jesus followers go where there is division and bring peace that is consistent with the Kingdom of Peace (Ro. 14:17).
This war that’s raging in Israel is a war that is entrenched in thousands of years of religious and ethnic division. This type of ethnic division and violence has ravaged the world throughout all of history.
However, in the Church, it should be different. As followers of Jesus, we are commanded to be reconciled to each other (2 Cor. 5), and when the Holy Spirit is among His people, reconciliation is one of the outcomes and Jesus said that it proclaims the Gospel to the world (John 17).
The Church is supposed to be a place that stands in stark contrast from the world where people from every nation, tribe, tongue and language are together, worshiping Christ (Rev. 7:9)! In the Church, there should be vast diversity and deep unity at the same time.
Israelis and Palestinians, Russians and Ukranians, Republicans and Democrats, every race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status … there is no person that does not have a seat at the table in the Kingdom of God. Jesus tore the veil, and his presence is available to all!
How can you prioritize diversity in your church and in your life to more fully experience the beauty of the Kingdom of God?
Pray for the Nations
I’ve heard it said that prayer is the primary work of God’s people. The people of God should be people of prayer, petitioning God to come, heal and bring His Kingdom here on earth. Yes, pray for the day to day things, but also pray for the nations regularly.
It can be hard to know how to pray for the nations in times like these. International conflicts, political violence and oppression seem like impossible topics to comprehend from where we are in America, so praying may be challenging.
A few things that help me pray include:
- Pray the news – Anytime you see something on the news, pray about it. Pray that the Kingdom of God would come to that place. Pray for followers of Jesus who are there and pray for people to encounter Jesus in supernatural ways.
- Operation World - This resource provides daily prayer prompts for specific nations. It will change the way you watch the news. You’ll learn a lot about the world, and you’ll learn how to pray through suffering in the world.
- Pray scripture - My favorite way to pray is to simply use God’s Word to direct when I don’t have the words. Here are a few that are go-to passages that can help guide your prayer in times like these:
- 2 Chronicles 7:14 - If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
- John 14:27 - Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
- Psalm 46:8-10 - Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
We are to be like the persistent widow (Lk. 18) relentlessly petitioning God to move, and Jesus said that the Church was always supposed to be a house of prayer for the nations (Matt. 21:13). As we persistently pray for the nations, we are actively joining the very real spiritual battle and taking ground for the Kingdom of God!
How can you communicate about these difficult issues with your congregation? It really matters that you make room in your worship services, small groups/Bible studies and in your social media efforts to pray for this conflict in Israel and pray for the nations at large on a regular basis. This helps your congregation develop a global vision for the Church, it helps your people develop language for how to pray through the hardest things and it redirects the focus on the One who is actually able to bring peace and hope.
I pray that you and your church would reflect the Kingdom of God where you are. May peace, diversity and prayer be lived realities where you live and work, and may the peace of Christ dwell in you amidst the instability of our world.
Written by Justin Langebartels