First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 1 Timothy 2:1,2
I have been steeped in reading and researching for my two lectures on the different views of the Millennium which is being taught at the Diocesan Theological Studies. It is a challenge for me as I am by no means a “specialist” on end times issues. These things of course are best taught by fulltime theologians.
That said, for centuries, pastors were theologians and vice versa. While immersing myself in this area, the crisis in Israel and Gaza broke out. How should Christian respond? How should we pray for Israel? How should we pray for Palestinians and other nations in the Middle East?
I will share some preliminary thoughts and hopefully, share more through other avenues.
Christians are followers of Christ. We do not advocate genocidal violence (by that I mean, a kind of violence based on race or religion). Neither are we pacifists. Christians do serve as professional soldiers for the purpose of defence and in some cases, for the causes of a just war.
Christianity has embraced Jewish writings as a part of her canonical Scripture via the Old Testament books. There are ancient and historical Jewish perspectives as expressed in some OT passages that are genocidal in nature. This is one reason why the Church should not read some OT passages literally. In fact, a literal reading of some of these led to Jews not believing that Jesus is the Messiah.
The way we read OT needs to be illuminated by Jesus teachings and the New Testament. And of course, the Church need to continue to reflect on these in the midst of changing times.
I was talking to a church leader from Myanmar recently. Those who advocated arm resistance were quoting some OT verses to him. He said he is a Christian, a follower of Christ. “I will only follow Jesus.” On the basis, he cannot see himself as advocating violence in his context. While it may sound simplistic, what he said was profound theologically.
The list of tragedies in our human history of people who insist they have a God given right as a race to dominate others. We can think of the rise of fascism, Nazism, the Rwandan crisis as well as some of the claimed motivations behind the Russo-Ukraine war.
If we are followers of Christ, if we are the Church (hopefully a true one), then we have to focus on what this means. It is when we have these creedal fundamentals in place that we can begin to reflect on how we can pray for Myanmar, Ukraine, Russia, Israel, Palestine and so on.
When it comes to the Middle East conflicts, I will say that unless we are well read in their histories, it is best that we hold in abeyance our political views. If we have to express them, to admit that it may not be well-informed.
While acknowledging that the Church from “every tribe and nation” is now the bride of Christ, we do believe that in some way, God will save Israel as a people and honor some ancient prophecies which are apparently unfulfilled. We may imagine what this may mean but as these are in the yet unknown future, it is best to be left to the hands of God.
We read Psalm 122:
6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! “May they be secure who love you! 7 Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!” 8 For my brothers and companions' sake I will say, “Peace be within you!” 9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.
Yes, we need to continue to pray for Israel for these beautiful verses in Psalm 122 to be true for them. Likewise, we can easily insert Singapore, Myanmar or Malaysia in these verses.
We need to continue to pray for Israel, Palestinians and other Middle East nations that justice, wisdom and peace may prevail. And we should end our prayers and laments with: Maranatha, Even so, come Lord Jesus! (Rev 22:20)
For those interested in history, you can visit this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNf40sBcvKk