Our ‘counter manifesto’ has been written in response to the CATC4 manifesto:
This response has been written out of genuine concern and love for the Palestinian Church whose plight and suffering we publicly acknowledge, stuck as they are between a rock and a hard place: a highly defensive militarised Israel on the one side, and the intransigent hardening hearts of their Palestinian Muslim neighbours on the other.
As Jesus/Yeshua suffered, so we too as His disciples must expect to suffer. Such suffering must of course be for righteousness sake, for which we are blessed. “For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3). Amid suffering, Jesus’ disciples first and foremost must stand on the immutable word of God and obey it. For God’s ways are not like man’s. When we do, and “when our ways please the Lord He can make our enemies be at peace with us” (Proverbs 16:7). So this counter manifesto was written to our Palestinian brethren out of love and we ask them to prayerfully consider what we have written.
The Emmaus Group – 7th March 2016
1. Bethlehem Bible College (BBC): The Kingdom of God has come. Evangelicals must reclaim the prophetic role in bringing peace, justice and reconciliation in Palestine and Israel.
Emmaus Group (EG): The opening statement, “the Kingdom of God has come”, is misleading. The Bible says in many passages such as Matt 10:7, Mark 1:15, Luke 10:9 and others, that the Kingdom of God is ‘at hand’ or has ‘come near’, implying that it’s now accessible, but it hasn’t actually arrived here on earth yet, and won’t do until the Messiah returns (Luke 17:20-24). Prophecy in the bible rarely if ever pertained to peace and reconciliation: it was instructional and frequently carried warnings to rebellious people, seeking primarily to reconcile man to God, not man to man. Therefore evangelicals seeking to reclaim a prophetic role must first understand its true purpose as given by the Holy Spirit. They must also understand what the Bible actually says about end-times, the rise in regional conflict and Christian persecution which we are witnessing now, and the place of prophecy within this context.
2. BBC: Reconciliation recognises God’s image in one another.
EG: Whilst seeking reconciliation between believers is commendable, and commanded by God, biblical reconciliation such as alluded to in Matthew 5:9 refers to making peace between God and man through Christ; there is only one Mediator between God and man, Jesus/Yeshua. As His disciples, we are primarily called to reconcile man to God; not man to man. So although peace making in the political sense has merit, it’s not the Christian’s primary role. If man is reconciled and trusts and obeys God, then peace will be one of the fruits.
3. BBC: Racial ethnicity alone does not guarantee the benefits of the Abrahamic covenant.
EG: This is true but as always with scripture, context is important. True followers of Jesus Christ/Yeshua Ha Mashiach, the Jewish Messiah, are likened to wild olive branches grafted into the cultivated tree, symbolic of Israel (Romans 11). Therefore, all true (gentile) born-again spirit filled believers are citizens of the ‘spiritual commonwealth’ of Israel. To this extent anyone from any tribe and nation can become a beneficiary of the Abrahamic Covenant. But the point is we are grafted into it (Israel), and if we reject it, we can be cut out and the original natural branches re-grafted back in. Hence it is written that God will curse those that curse it and bless those that bless it. For Israel is His. So when people take a set against Israel curses will come for God is a God of justice. History is full of casualties of God’s reproach.
4. BBC: The church in the land of the Holy One has borne witness to Christ since the days of Pentecost. It must be empowered to continue to be light and salt in the region, if there is to be hope in the midst of conflict.
EG: We find this statement strange as it is already empowered by the Holy Spirit and has been for 2000+ years: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). To suggest that it needs to be empowered (by man?) in order to do what it’s called to do demonstrates a lack of understanding of biblical truth.
5. BBC: Any exclusive claim to land of the Bible in the name of God is not in line with the teaching of scripture.
EG: This statement we wholly refute. The land belongs to God (Lev 25:23). God is not man that He should lie (Num 23:19). The Holy Land was His to give to whomever He chose, and He promised it as an everlasting covenant to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – the fathers of the Jewish people. God is not a covenant-breaker. The land has been given to Israel as a covenant forever. God does not change (Malachi 3:6). It is a land for Israel and those sojourning with her – not in opposition to her. To claim this is not true today makes God out to be a liar.
6. BBC: All forms of violence must be refuted unequivocally.
EG: We agree entirely but with one caveat: we are called to wage war spiritually! “The kingdom of heaven is taken by force and forceful men lay hold of it.” (Matthew 11:12) So there is a battle to be fought but not using earthly weapons.
7. BBC: Palestinian Christians must not lose the capacity for self-criticism if they wish to remain prophetic.
EG: In truth no Christian should think themselves above reproach or criticism, especially from their brethren, so in this matter we agree entirely. As for retaining the prophetic gifting (which in point 1 implies is lost) we must understand prophecy is a gift from God that comes to those who show obedience and humility before him. In this matter we suggest the Palestinian Church stop focusing on the speck in Israel’s eye when there is a plank in their own. This plank is a plank of misunderstanding God’s word, a word that is unchanging and of which every word is given for reproof, training and equipping the saints (2 Tim 3:16). The word says that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28). God defines our love for Him as obedience and submission to His ways, which are higher than ours (Isa 55).
The Palestinian church is actually in a unique position; to win the hearts and minds of Israelis through love, endurance and patience in the midst of suffering, which is God’s will for them. The Palestinian Church has a remarkable and enviable opportunity; to be salt and light in the midst of trouble – without judging or blaming or taking sides.
8. BBC: There are real injustices taking place in the Palestinian Territories and the suffering of the Palestinian people can no longer be ignored. Any solution must respect the equity and rights of Israeli and Palestinian communities.
EG: We acknowledge there are real injustices taking place. However, an important value of Christianity is honesty; and in this matter we see the root cause of many injustices being hidden. Blaming Israel for most or all Palestinian woes is simply disingenuous. The world knows that much Palestinian Christian suffering is rooted in the actions of their own people, notably the Palestinian Authority and Islamists ruling it and society. The Palestinian territories are Islamic territories now ranking 24/50[i] in the top 50 worst countries for Christians to live in. The Christian minority represents just 4.8% of the population. Gaza is 99.99% Moslem, from which many Christians have fled to the West Bank because of persecution. The Palestinian church must be honest about the true situation, “thou shalt not lie.” (Leviticus 19:11) “While man judges by outward appearance God judges by the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Man may seek to hide truth but God sees right through this strategy and rewards accordingly.
9. BBC: For Palestinian Christians, the occupation is the core issue of the conflict.
EG: This statement conflicts widely with what Palestinian Christians say to us in private/off record. The biggest problem by far is Moslem discrimination and persecution, even by the Palestinian Authority, along with threats to life and property. Israel’s actions are secondary to simply surviving the growing enmity of the 95% Moslem majority. Many Palestinian Christians are paralysed by fear. The extra levels of security last Christmas at the lighting of the manger square Christmas tree, the vandalism of Christian cars by their neighbours over the Christmas period, and threats of death for those who whistle-blow, all silence the Palestinian Church.
10. BBC: Any challenge to the injustices taking place in the Holy Land must be done in Christian love. Criticism of Israel and the occupation cannot be confused with anti-semitism and the delegitimisation of the state of Israel.
EG: We agree, however, aggressive and disproportionate criticism to the extent of demonization is not brotherly love. In addition, the commonly-seen interchangeable use of the words ‘Israelis’ and ‘Jews’ do confuse anti-Israeli rhetoric with anti-Semitism, and this is not acceptable.
11. BBC: Respectful dialogue between Palestinian and Messianic believers must continue. Though we may disagree on secondary matters of theology, the gospel of Jesus and his ethical teaching take precedence.
EG: Respectful dialogue is highly commendable but honesty is even better. If Palestinian Christians spoke the truth (a truth many outside the region already know well) the world would gladly come to their aid but sadly truth is often a casualty of conflict. When fear forces us to cede on matters of theology (truth) because the consequences of teaching such truth would be too costly, then we have crossed the threshold of fearing man more than God. As we have learnt, the truth often gets you into trouble – ask people like Pastor Naim Khoury!
12. BBC: Christians must understand the global context for the rise of extremist Islam. We challenge stereotyping of all faith forms that betray God’s commandment to love our neighbours and enemies.
EG: The global context in this matter is actually very simple. We are rapidly approaching the end of days and the Islamic State seek to subjugate the world under one caliphate starting in the Middle East. Loving one’s neighbours and enemies is absolutely right in God’s sight, but let us not be foolish and unaware of the times we are in. Jesus forewarned us that such persecution will come, only to accelerate now as we close in on the final phase of human history as we know it. This said, Palestinian Christians do not have a monopoly on suffering; if they pause to look outside their own dilemma, to the east, south or north, they will see hundreds of thousands of Christians in far worse conditions. Look at the many African states, India, China or Indonesia where brutal regimes have and are persecuting Christians daily.
In conclusion we repeat the Lord’s words: “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)