I am a Palestinian-American Christian, born and raised in the Holy Land. And I am pro peace. My wife is a Gazan-American Christian, also born and raised in the Holy Land. And she is pro peace. Our loving families, still dwelling in the West Bank and Gaza, are pro peace. And millions of Palestinians living beside them are pro peace.
Words cannot describe the pain that has filled my soul in recent days. It has been heart-wrenching to see so much death and destruction sweeping across my beloved homeland. I can hardly endure my grief, while watching the never-ending cycle of violence, hate, and savagery that continues unabated against so many innocent people on all sides. The back-and-forth attacks, followed by retaliations, which in turn incite more attacks, that lead to additional assaults, prompting more violence, and now war… must stop. Precious lives are being obliterated on a scale so vast, and in ways so heinous, that it is too much to fully comprehend. I am, to say the least, broken of spirit.
The question we must ask ourselves in such dark times is this: where do we stand as followers of Jesus in the midst of such chaos? How do we align our emotions, attitudes, and actions with God’s perspective to view this turmoil through a Gospel-centered lens and to respond biblically to the horrors that are taking place. Hypothetically speaking, what would Jesus do today? Where would he go? Who would he visit right now?
With respect to those in Israel who were mercilessly killed, traumatised, wounded, and grief-stricken by the deplorable Hamas terrorist attacks, Jesus would no doubt show up to comfort them with his love and strength. I also believe he would mourn the loss of life of innocent Israeli civilians, while consoling the families of those who have been taken hostage.
As for those now suffering in Gaza, I believe without a doubt that Jesus, if he were today present in the region, would be going to Gaza. He would be pulling men, women, and children out from underneath the ruins of their decimated homes who were brutally killed for no reason. He would be helping the more than 2 million innocent civilians find safety, passage, and shelter. Jesus would be visiting the remaining Christians in Gaza who have taken refuge in churches to pray for protection and call upon God for deliverance from death.
This is the Jesus I know. This is the Jesus I follow. This is the Jesus I preach.
We as Christian Palestinians unequivocally condemn violence against all people on all sides. There is no doubt that Hamas does not represent the legitimate grievances of the people of Gaza, and they do not represent the genuine aspirations of Palestinians who desire to live in peace, dignity, and freedom. In the same way, the aggressive response of Israel’s military against innocent Gazans will never bring peace and stability. As followers of Jesus, we cannot allow pain, fear, terror – or even legitimate anger – to justify an untenable retaliation and collective punishment against both Palestinians and Israelis. That path will certainly lead only to more killing and destruction for all sides. War crimes cannot be justified by war crimes.
As Christians, we must unapologetically advocate for peace. We are to be Christ’s agents of healing and restoration to a broken world. We are commanded by Jesus to be peacemakers. We are called to reconcile all people together and to reconcile all people to God. This is what Jesus modeled and preached when he lived and ministered in the Holy Land. Remarkably, when Jesus received a death threat from Herod Antipas in Luke 13, he explicitly responded with a call to love and a call to serve others; he promoted God’s agenda above all else. Violence is not, and must never be, a defensible act to bring about peace and security. We are instructed to pray for all who are in authority and trust God to guide them to a righteous course of action. We must never seek nor promote vengeance because vengeance is the Lord’s (Romans 12:19).
If we, as Christians, can respond biblically to what is now happening in the Middle East, I believe it will be yet another moment in time when Jesus’ followers will be able to turn the world upside down, or rather, right side up. Conditions 2000 years ago in that region were much the same as they are today. Religious institutions were largely inwardly focused, plagued by legalism and division, and religion and government worked together to silence any expression of the Gospel and its life-transforming power. And there existed a great deal of racial disharmony and prejudice. Yet, in that very environment, Jesus mobilized twelve young people into a movement that shook the earth through peace and love.
We mourn alongside countless innocent families on both sides. We grieve the loss of both Israeli children and Palestinian children. We must stand together, as the body of Christ, to not only oppose terrorism and destruction, but to also reject entrenched oppression and violence in all forms. May we commit ourselves to prayer against all acts of hate and plead that such evil deeds be thwarted. Let us be challenged today by the Psalmist to seek peace and pursue it (Psalm 34:14). Please join me, and all peace-loving Palestinians, in praying for everyone caught in this ongoing tragedy, asking God to help them, interceding on their behalf, and giving thanks for them in Jesus’ Name.