When reporting or lamenting over the gross human rights violations and genocide by the modern state of Israel against the Palestinian people, many Christians immediately freak the heck out.
In fact, I am often told that I am “not a Christian” because I dare criticize the state of Israel’s behavior, as if blind support of a modern nation state were an obligation of being a True Christian™.
Upon being stripped of my membership card in Christianity, many of these “internet Bible scholars” quickly remind me: God commands us to stand with Israel! But is that even true? I mean, for those of us who grow up in EvangelFundamentalism we’re taught that from day one– but just because our childhood pastor taught us this, and just because Grandma believed it, doesn’t make it true.
I’ve long written on this topic both on a theological and geopolitical standpoint, but wanted to quickly and concisely lay out a few points in response to the whole, “you’re not a true Christian if you don’t stand with Israel” nonsense.
As your Bible Explainer in Chief, let me quickly break it down for you– because no, the Bible doesn’t command we stand with Israel.
1. The entire “stand with Israel” theology is based on one verse, and the verse had nothing to do with any modern nation state born a few thousand years later.
Preachers will claim God commands we stand with Israel in order to be blessed, but that’s not what the Bible says. In Genesis 12:3 God is reported to have told Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.” This was a promise to Abraham- neither biblical Israel nor modern Israel existed when this was written. It was a promise to Abraham as part of God’s covenant with him.
2. The Bible teaches that the true descendants of Abraham are spiritual, not ethnic.
The same preachers say, “Yes! It was a promise to Abraham and that extends to his descendants- Israel” but that’s not the whole story, either. The Bible actually teaches that “not all that descended from Israel belong to Israel” (Romans 9:6) and that a true descendant of Abraham is not ethnic but a matter of the heart (Romans 2:29).
Israel as a nation state is not what the Bible talks about when it talks about Israel. The New Testament Israel is comprised of all those who accept the King of Israel: Jesus.
3. Not even the prophets in the Bible blindly stood with Israel– including Jesus.
The biblical prophets are the last people who would seem “pro-Israel” because they were constantly rebuking Israel for bad behavior. And they didn’t hold back forceful language, either– some wrote that God utterly hated every expression of their religion because they were ignoring justice for the poor and marginalized.
On top of the prophets, remember that Jesus was executed as a traitor and a threat to Israel.
4. The Bible doesn’t command we blindly support people who are committing evil acts.
This is a concept we seem to understand in day-t0-day life, but all logic goes out the window when it comes to standing with Israel. For example, yes– God wants one to be faithful to their family, but does that mean you stand by and support them if they want to drive drunk? Do you support them if they want to shoot their neighbor and steal their car? Of course not- that’s nonsense.
Blindly supporting Israel would be like supporting a friend or family member regardless of their behavior, and I see nothing in the Bible or the teachings of Jesus that suggests we are supposed to support those who do evil, as they do evil.
Israel is an apartheid state where the indigenous people are oppressed and victims of untold daily discrimination and violence; it is a state that offers government subsidized abortions regardless of the reason, a place where Christians have had to petition the government so that they can walk down the street without being spat upon, a place where Christian places of worship are routinely attacked, where Palestinian children are mercilessly oppressed and even slaughtered, and a nation that is consistently rebuked by the international community for human rights violations that would not be tolerated anywhere else in the world.
Any theology that tells you to support all that is garbage, and you can figure it out without even having to dig deep into the theology. Like they say, you don’t have to stick your head in a trashcan to know that garbage smells.
The bottom line: What the world calls Israel is NOT what the Bible calls Israel. The world is referring to a nation state that was created just a generation ago– the Bible is talking about the people of Abraham, which are a spiritual people who have accepted their king: Jesus. It’s not a people group one is born into, but a people group you join by pledging your allegiance to Jesus.
So is standing with Israel a biblical concept? No. In fact, the stronger biblical case would be standing in opposition to Israel’s ungodly behavior.
Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with graduate degrees in the fields of Theology and International Culture, and holds a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. www.Unafraid-book.com.