For as long as I can remember, the Middle East has been in turmoil. Arabs and Jews appear to have been at each other's throats since the day Israel was reborn as a modern nation in May of 1948 (that very day also being known as “al-Nakba” or “the Catastrophe” in the Islamic culture).
Being a Jew born and raised in Paris and as a child of Holocaust survivors, I grew up in a culture that instilled in me the reality of anti-Semitism as well as the existing hatred between Arabs and Jews. While my own family never taught me to retaliate evil for evil, there was always an underlying uneasiness about “those Arabs who hate us!” as I often heard growing up.
Then I met my Messiah in the summer of 1981. While my growth in Yeshua (Jesus) was slow at first, it was steady and I grew increasingly aware of God’s love for ALL people, Jews, Arabs and anyone else. As difficult as it was for this Jew to really accept that concept, as a follower of the Messiah, I had no other choice but to accept that God not only loves all, but that He also requires us to love all, including our enemies: “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44).
This is why I am deeply saddened AND concerned by the recent conference known as “Christ at the Checkpoint” (CatC) that took place March 5-9, 2012 at Bethlehem Bible College. This was the second of its kind after the one that took place in 2010.
The subtitle of the conference was “hope in the midst of conflict”. The theme was advertised as being “peace and reconciliation”. In and of themselves, both the title and theme are commendable efforts to be recognized by anyone, assuming they are an accurate and ethical description of the events that took place. As it turned out, following in the footsteps of the 2010 conference, the 2012 event did not have reconciliation at heart, unless of course reconciliation was the result of a unilateral admission of Israel’s faults in the Middle East crisis. This would of course require recognizing Israel as a guilty occupier and perpetrator of crimes against humanity, hardly a fact!
Advertised on their own website as a huge “evangelical breakthrough” , CatC claims that over 600 local and international Christians gathered (including several Messianic Jews). Many evangelical figures spoke during the conference, bringing their support and endorsements to the cause. It was also stated that:
Conference organizers challenged the evangelical community to cease looking at the Middle East through thelens of “end times” prophecy and instead rallied them to join in following Jesus in the prophetic pursuance of justice, peace and reconciliation.
This prompted a unified response from several Messianic Jewish organizations (a small miracle considering that when you put two Jews in a room, you get three opinions). A response that rightfully so, showed great concern for the direction the Conference was taking.
Additionally, CatC organizers including blatant anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic Stephen Sizer, also published a manifesto that was agreed upon and signed by all organizers.
While that manifesto contains some truth, it is ambiguous and misleading at best, but also rather libelous in some cases. A closer look at it in light of God’s Word is necessary. Following in bold is the exact text of the manifesto along with Scripture to either validate its truth or rebuke its error.
The Christ at the Checkpoint Manifesto
The Kingdom of God has come. Evangelicals must reclaim the prophetic role in bringing peace, justice and reconciliation in Palestine and Israel.
DISAGREED: Kingdom Now Theology also known as a variance of Dominion Theology claims among other things, that Yeshua’s Kingdom was inaugurated at His first coming while Scripture states that He will reign as Messianic King on the throne of David from Jerusalem in the yet to come Millennial Messianic Kingdom (Psalm 72:8, 11, 17; Isaiah 9:7, 11:6-11; Jeremiah 23:6, Zechariah 3:10)
Reconciliation recognizes God’s image in one another.
AGREED: God created man and woman in His image, regardless of ethnicity. (Genesis 1:27; 5:1; 9:6; 1 Corinthians 11:7; Ephesians 4:24).
Racial ethnicity alone does not guarantee the benefits of the Abrahamic Covenant.
DISAGREED: The benefits of the Abrahamic Covenant as multi-faceted as they are promised to both the Jewish people and the nations through Abraham, yet the physical land is ONLY promised to the Jewish people, ethnic descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 12:1-3, 7; 13:15;17:7-8, 19; 25:5-6; 26:3; 28:3-4; 35:9-15
The Church in the land of the Holy One, has born witness to Christ since the days of Pentecost. It must be empowered to continue to be light and salt in the region, if there is to be hope in the midst of conflict.
AGREED: Yeshua’s last command to His disciples was to make disciples of ALL NATIONS (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:47)
Any exclusive claim to land of the Bible in the name of God is not in line with the teaching of Scripture.
DISAGREED: It must be understood first and foremost that the Land of Israel belongs to God Himself (Leviticus 25:23). God chose to make a covenant with Abraham that would include that piece of land as an eternal AND unconditional part of that covenant. Additionally, God’s gifts are irrevocable (Romans 11:29).
All forms of violence must be refuted unequivocally.
AGREED: Yeshua always taught against violence for believers, as a matter of fact, He taught the exact opposite between His followers as well as between His followers and unbelievers, making Christianity a most unique faith were disciples of Messiah must EVEN love their enemies (Matthew 5:39-48; Luke 6:27-35, Romans 12:17-21)
Palestinian Christians must not lose the capacity to self-criticism if they wish to remain prophetic.
AGREED: In any conflict, ALL parties must be willing to recognize fault and prepared to adjust accordingly. (Proverbs 18:12; Ephesians 4:2; Philippians 2:3; Colossians 3:1-17)
There are real injustices taking place in the Palestinian territories and the suffering of the Palestinian people can no longer be ignored. Any solution must respect the equity and rights of Israel and Palestinian communities.
PARTIALLY AGREED AND DISAGREED: While mutual respect of human beings as being made in God’s image is at the core of peace and reconciliation, what is meant by “injustices in the Palestinian territories” remains to be defined. (Genesis 1:27; 5:1; 9:6; 1 Corinthians 11:7; Ephesians 4:24)
For Palestinian Christians, the occupation is the core issue of the conflict.
PARTIALLY AGREED AND DISAGREED: While nobody enjoys living in a land that they feel is theirs and is occupied by a foreign people group, it remains to be proven biblically that Jewish people are the occupiers. All previous Scriptures cited about the Land lead to an opposite view (See verses under points 3 and 5).
Any challenge of the injustices taking place in the Holy Land must be done in Christian love. Criticism of Israel and the occupation cannot be confused with anti-Semitism and the delegitimization of the State of Israel.
AGREED: While it is possible to disagree with Israeli policies, much of what has been labeled as anti-Israelism or even anti-Zionism has really been anti-Semitism in disguise. Genuine Christian love is at the core of any reconciliation and is irrespective of color or race. (2 Corinthians 5:14; Ephesians 3:19; Colossians 3:14).
Respectful dialogue between Palestinian and Messianic believers must continue. Though we may disagree on secondary matters of theology, the Gospel of Jesus and his ethical teaching take precedence.
PARTIALLY AGREED AND DISAGREED: Respectful dialogue means that both sides must be heard and both sides must listen. Agreeing on the Gospel of Yeshua doesn’t negate God’s covenants with the Jewish people (Romans 1:16; 9-11)
Christians must understand the global context for the rise of extremist Islam. We challenge stereotyping of all faith forms that betray God’s commandment to love our neighbors and enemies.
AGREED: While again I find the statement misleading as it could be taken to mean that there is a justification for radical Islam’s violence, I agree that Christian love is always to be the foundation of any lasting peace and reconciliation (See verses under points 6).
I recognize that the breaking down of the manifesto into sections to be either supported or refuted by God’s Word is non-exhaustive at best. Nevertheless, it provides a bit more of a biblical foundation on which to rest for a more balanced approach to the Middle East conflict.
While CatC appears to seek justice and to be interested in hearing both sides (thus the few messianic pro-Zionists on the list of speakers), it is still obvious to me that the scale was heavily tipped by anti-Semitism at worst, and anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism at best. Unfortunately, the very fact that some evangelicals participated in the conference and that many more will endorse its false agenda of “peace and reconciliation” is proof to me that the Body of Messiah has lost its sense of discernment, an issue that we have been warned about regarding the last days.
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Messiah Yeshua, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5).