Onward Messianic soldier? Israeli believers weigh in on Gaza war

Wednesday, December 31, 2008 |  Ryan Jones

During these times of wars and rumors of wars, one of the hottest debates among believers in Jesus - be they Messianic Jews or Gentile Christians - is whether or not we should participate in or support the use of armed force against our physical enemies.

Verses like Matthew 5:9 (blessed are the peacemakers) and Matthew 5:39 (turn the other cheek) are presented by many as evidence that as the Body of Messiah we are forbidden to use force or support its use by others.

Many others insist that the opposite is true, and that the above verses are being misinterpreted and taken out of context when applied to national situations. This side points to the many instances where God Himself ordered Israel into battle against its physical enemies.

And if God is unchanging (Numbers 23:19) then surely using and supporting the use of force for righteous purposes remains acceptable for believers today. Right?

It is difficult to adequately speak to this issue without ever having been directly threatened by an armed and hostile enemy. Most Christians in the West have never experienced that, nor have most had to deal with loved ones being called up to defend their nation against looming and potentially existential threats.

Israeli believers, however, are able to speak to the issue from a position of intimate knowledge and experience. For Israelis, the question of whether or not to use and support the use of force is perhaps more relevant than for believers anywhere else in the West. It is not merely an academic exercise in religious morality, but rather a matter of life and death.

With violence flaring in and around the Gaza Strip, we asked local Messianic leaders how they view the use of force against the terrorists, considering that many of their own sons and friends may be participating in the fighting, and that unlike for most Christians in the West, the terrorists pose a direct daily threat to their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

David Silver of Out of Zion Ministries in northern Israel had no qualms about supporting the war effort, and said he believes Israel "should use all force necessray to remove the Hamas leadership and destroy the [Gaza] rocket factories and the teams that fire them."

Seth Ben-Haim, a Jerusalem-based Messianic leader and former executive pastor at King of Kings Assembly, said that while he supports the current action in Gaza, "unfortunately it is too little too late."

He hopes that Israel will soon elect a new leadership that will consistently take the battle to "where our enemies sit, and not where our kids go to school," but insisted that even that will not go far enough.

"The situation became much worse after the tragic uprooting of Jews from our homeland in [the Gaza Jewish communities of] Gush Katif. This provided a fertile ground for the increase in strength of Hamas and the dramatic and qualitative increase in terror," explained Ben-Haim.

"Israel needs to create a change in the strategic balance of power in the area. In order to accomplish this we need to be located in all of our land."

Howard Bass is pastor of the Nachalat Yeshua (Yeshua's Inheritance) congregation in the southern Israel city of Beersheva. Bass and his congregants found their city under attack by Gaza rockets for the first time ever on Wednesday morning.

He voiced support for Israel waging war against its physical enemies, but stressed that the Jewish state will never obtain the peace it truly needs and desires until it likewise engages its spiritual battles.

"A time for war, and a time for peace. To our sorrow the time is not yet when war is no more," said Bass. "As a nation, Israel is obliged to act to defend itself against Hamas, a self-proclaimed enemy, which has armed and trained itself to wage war against Israel and her existence.

"On the other hand, Israel continues to resist turning back to the God of Israel and His Messiah Yeshua, the Son of God, who alone gives peace, security, healing," Bass continued, concluding that "only the righteousness of God can bring true and lasting peace to Israel and to all the other nations."

In their nearly unified support for military action, Israeli Messianic leaders did not forget Jesus' command to also love Israel's enemies (Matthew 5:44).

Most local ministries sent out newsletters urging their supporters to pray at this time, both for Israel's victory and for the protection and salvation of Palestinian Arabs trapped in an ideology of hate that is ultimately directed against the fulfillment of God's will.

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