This article first appeared in the March issue of Israel Today Magazine.
Christians in the West Bank city of Jenin have a message for believers in the West. It is simple and clear. And it includes an addendum specifically for Christian Zionists and Jews who claim Jesus as Messiah.
Pastor Steven Khoury invited me to join him on the visit to Jenin, to touch base with believers there. Khoury is pastor of East Jerusalem's Calvary Baptist Church and vice president of Holy Land Missions based in Bethlehem. Last year he made first contact with followers of Jesus living in the heart of Samaria. Jenin, he informed me, is a well-known base for anti-Israel endeavors. The city and its refugee camp remain a place where tourists do not venture. Nor should they.
Upon arrival, we begin our circuit of meetings with Arab Christians in their homes. They are taxi drivers, nurses, kindergarten teachers, young men working for the PA police. Unlike Khoury, an Evangelical Christian, all of them are Roman Catholic.
Jenin is, my host informs me, home to "five hundred, maybe seven hundred Christians. Twenty years ago, there were less than 10. See how much we have grown? Still, most Christians move away if they can."
Jarringly out of place in a culture that is less than encouraging to Christian faith, these people, especially parents, feel utterly alone, unknown, if not abandoned, by all Christians elsewhere in the world. Khoury and his staff are the first and only Christians to make an effort to be here, to listen, to teach, to care. I see this and I fear.
If Khoury is not able to continue his outreach, how easily these Christians could be, will be, drawn into the Palestinian Liberation Theology (an offshoot of Replacement Theology) that drives so much anti-Israel antagonism both here and abroad. Will those of us who advocate the integrity of Jewish Scriptures, including the Jewishness of our Messiah, passively permit such recruitment?
I suspect we will.
The believers of Jenin wear crosses, go to confession, pray to saints, and venerate Mary. The prism of their faith is an ancient anti-Jewish tradition established in Nicaea seventeen hundred years ago. Can such faith be genuine, so devoid of grounding in Judeo Scriptures? Although I will not say so, I am skeptical. The severance of this olive branch from the vine of its Jewishness seems too severe.
Later we arrive at the home of Abu Lias, the “attorney of Jenin.” Abu Lias has gravitas. His successful law practice includes cases argued in courtrooms that hold Islamic law in highest regard. Known to be a Christian, he is nonetheless respected.
Sitting in his living room with family members and honored guests seated in a circle, I put the question to him. What then do you, a Christian attorney in Jenin, say to Christians in the West? What is your message to them? I expect the plea, "Remember us." But that is not his answer.
"My message to Christians in America," he replies, "is that they get back to their Christian roots, that they return to Christ. There is no other hope or health, wealth or power that matters in this world."
That should have shut me up. But once again I press him. And what especially would you say to Christian Zionists and Jewish believers? He replies:
"If you are really believers in Christ, in your heart and not for the sake of political or financial gain, then stand with your fellow believers who are suffering in the Holy Land. When someone says, 'I believe in Jesus as my Savior,' that should link us all. Are we not a part of you? Are you not a part of us? My message then is this: in all your passion, pursue justice for us, your brothers and sisters in Christ."
Brian Schrauger is a Christian media consultant reporting from Israel and the Palestinian-controlled territories. Brian can be reached at BrianSchrauger@GMail.com
Learn more about Pastor Steven Khoury's outreach to Palestinian Christians: www.HolyLandMissions.org