PERSPECTIVE: A DEEPENING DIVIDE

Why did hundreds of American Christians from varying denominations, holding convictions shared by millions more, gather in support of Prime Minister Netanyahu in Washington last month, and insist that Jerusalem remain undivided and under Israeli rule?

Why did church leaders representing millions of other Christians in the United States sign a statement a few months earlier calling for Jerusalem to be shared between Arabs and Jews?

Why did the powerful Roman Catholic Church reach out in support of Libya's evil regime which is committed to the violent "liberation" of Jerusalem from Jewish rule?

And why is it that some Christians work pro-actively to stand with and defend the Jewish state, while others join in the global attempts to attack and smear Israel, and often defend, condone, or even justify Arab terrorism against civilian Jews?

From the Jewish perspective of history, which largely revolves around their relationship with the Gentile world, the Christian era has been a long, dark tunnel, broken only rarely by short-lived shafts of light. It has always been the greater part of Christendom which has rejected or persecuted them, while small groups or handfuls of individuals have gone against the flow.

Recent decades have seen the line dividing Christianity on this issue become clearer, and a greater although still relatively small number believe that Israel continues to have a vital, central and positive part to play in unfolding world history.

The same line pretty accurately divides those Christians who believe what is written in their Bible, and those who do not.

For centuries, church institutions forbade or restricted public access to the Scriptures, while preaching lies and deception about Israel. The Jews murdered God, wrote the second-century Bishop of Sardis in what was to become Christian dogma for ensuing millennia, in some places until today.

Their punishment, taught influential Christian homilists like Tertullian, was to wander homeless across the earth until they accepted the messiahship of Christ. Before that happened, they would never be permitted to return to their ancient homeland.

This falsehood came crashing down when, a little over a century ago and not long after a small but politically powerful group of Bible-believing Christians began actively to promote the right of the Jews to come home the first wave of Jewish immigrants started flowing into the Holy Land.

Today, despite the fact that millions of Jews now live in Israel, those churches long subscribing to the lie of the Wandering Jew still have enormous difficulty in accepting that Israel's rebirth was a divine act even though it was clearly and repeatedly foretold in the Bible and that it portends great and wonderful things for all mankind.

"The battle for Jerusalem has begun", Israeli minister of police Avigdor Kahalani said a few weeks ago, when the world erupted in outrage at Israel's decision to build Har Homa.

In fact it had begun long before.

It is time Christians of every persuasion and in every land decide whether or not they believe the Biblical promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and, if they do, act accordingly. Those believing this know that God promised to return the Jews to their land, to bring them specifically to those parts of the land the world calls the occupied territories, and to eventually restore Jerusalem to Jewish rule something Jesus, too, foresaw.

There is no time for vacillation; the hour is very late. We who believe God's Word concerning Israel should shelve our other differences and stand together on the question of Jerusalem; we should align our forces and insist on our inclusion and participation if and when Jerusalem is placed on the negotiating table.

And we should stand solidly alongside the man raised up to lead Israel into this battle in these days.

The history of Christianity's relationship towards the Jews is shame-filled. For a little while now the tide has been turning. May it not be already too late.

(Stan Goodenough)

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