Friday, November 17, 2006

Evangelical Zionism and World Missions

Antonio Peralta (not his real name) has been a missionary in North Africa for 20 years. His plenary message this week to the audience gathered at the COMIBAM conference in Granada was a "spiritual bombshell." He was not afraid to speak clearly on several issues of great practical relevance for evangelical missions in today’s world. Although his message was directed more towards the Latin American church, I believe that what he had to say contains some very convicting food for thought for us as North Americans as well. What follows is an excerpt I have translated from the text of his message in Spanish…

Living in an Arab context, it is frankly shocking for me to see the naivete with which so many Latin American evangelical churches have identified with different aspects of Zionism (such as the prominent use of the Israeli flag), and the ease with which, in the name of a supposed "fulfillment of prophecy," practically any act committed by some individual from among the chosen people is justified. I wonder if at some time we have ever sat down to think how far this is from the universal message of all the biblical prophets and apostles, who did not shrink back from proclaiming the judgment of God on all human sin, without showing partiality (Deuteronomy 10.17, 2 Chronicles 19.7, Galatians 2.6, Romans 2.11).

It is essential for us today, just like it was for the disciples of yesteryear, to leave the fulfillment of prophecies and the details of eschatology in the hands of the sovereign Lord of history, and dedicate ourselves to the task He commended to us: to live and announce among all peoples (including the Jews) the only Gospel of salvation, that is through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ unto everyone that believes (John 3.16, Romans 1.16).

It seems to me that more or less related to this topic of evangelical Zionism is the tendency that I perceive in many evangelical circles to mix together the Kingdom of God and the national interests of countries where believers are numerous or influential. Apparently, we believe that with the political, economic, or military power of this world we can bring about the advance of the kingdom that is "not of this world." When in the national press of many Muslim countries articles regularly appear attributing the bellicose foreign policy of the current President of the United States to his evangelical faith and the influence of evangelicals in North American politics, all that is left for me to do is to worry about the credibility of the gospel message we are communicating to these peoples. In the same way, when I hear recognized Christian leaders publicly support, as supposed spokesmen of all the evangelical churches, undertakings such as the invasion of Iraq, or the bombing of Lebanon, I can only wonder when and how the gospel of peace through Jesus Christ will come to be understood by the Iraqis, Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians, etc.

We would do well, as individuals and as churches, to decide clearly, just as Joshua and Elijah long ago (Joshua 24.15, 1 Kings 18.21), which kingdom do we want to represent—that of Jesus or of someone else?—remembering that no man can serve two masters. On the mission field, we need workers dedicated exclusively to Jesus, to His values, and His kingdom, men and women who show no partiality towards people or towards people groups, and who leave the future in the hands of the Master.

8 comments:

Bryan Riley said...

Wow. Good words, David. Very difficult. I've struggled with the back and forthing in my mind about how Christians can be involved in politics generally.

Anonymous said...

Ditto. Your words are good ones indeed, David. Wondering if you have seen "Roots of (Warlike) Christian Zionism" on Google. It is truly a thought-provoking read. Lord bless. B.N.

Publius said...

How hard it is for a politician to enter the Kingdom of Heaven!

It would do us well to remember that Jesus steadfastly refused to become involved in politics at all, even causes that seemed worthy. He didn't fight the oppressive Romans, didn't lobby for freedom of religion, didn't set up soup kitchens. He did His own thing, anonymously if necessary.

So many diatribes against Christian political activity seem to rail against an unfavorable position, implying that true Christians would support the opposing party. It's an easy trap to fall into, but one that this author avoids (so far). Thanks for translating, David.

A 10-40 Window Missionary said...

David,

As one who has worked in the 10-40 Window for many years, I an appreciate what Antonio P. said. I would go further than just Latin American churches identifying with Zionism. Before the advent of secure e-maiil, I was always worried about letters from well meaning Southern Baptists and their affinity for the Zionist state, and their unquestioning support for all that it did.

Paul Burleson said...

David,

Excellent post with words timely for the Body of Christ everywhere.

You've been prayed for with regularity. Blessings.

Paul B.

Strider said...

Once again David, amen and amen. My father used to speak out against some things that Israel did and some in the Church would call him 'anti-semetic'. He would always reply, 'Yes, I'm anti-semetic like Jeremiah was.'
We need to move on from worldly politics to understanding that we are in a new Kingdom now. Let us be tireless in lifting up the politics of the His Kingdom- Love, peace, forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness.

Missionary to Spain said...

David,

I appreciate you touching on this area of Israel and Zionism. If in the Old Testament God judged Israel for their wrong decisions, actions and alliances, I don't believe we can take the modern nation of Israel and rubber stamp our approval for everything they do (especially militarily). God certainly didn't rubber stamp the greatest king Israel had in David. Does everything a secular state does today have prophetic implications? Is there a 1 to 1 prophetic line up for everything they do? Can Israel mess up and still be God's prophetic people? Can Israel sin against Palestinians? Many God loving Christians seem to take a position of uncritically embracing Israel's policies and they forget that even when Israel was a theocracy, they were called on the carpet and judged for their actions. God still loved them and graciously fulfilled His promises, yet they still were guilty of sin. Could that be true today?

I appreciate your courage to address this issue. Besides, this issue has implications for missions today. There are 1.2 billion Muslims who are more than "firewood for Armageddon." They are people who need Christ. One of the major roadblocks to reaching them is to overstate Israel's political and miltary actions (I am not saying minimizing Israel's prophetic role). Those who work in Muslims areas address this issue with their Muslim friends. So should we.

James Hunt said...

You're a brave man to postulate such an opinion that is largely unheard in current Evangelical circles; yet, true.

Good job.