Christians cannot fix the war between Israel and Hamas

The way to resolve the war between Israel and Hamas is very simple, journalist Matt Yglesias recently explained. We could do it in just five steps:

It’s great, right? I love it! Only… well, that third step seems a little complicated.

And that is the point, as Yglesias wrote in greater detail in substack. Obviously, the five-step plan is a joke. But it gets to something that many commentaries on this topic seem to miss – certainly in the United States, and probably elsewhere – and that is that Israeli political leaders (not to mention Hamas murderers) are not ignorant of what we, the Outside observers, we believe it is the correct and prudent path to follow.

“They just don’t agree,” Yglesias notes, and it’s unlikely they’ll stop disagreeing, and we’re unlikely to change their thinking much, if at all. By “we” I mean in part the United States government, which, for all its power, has an objectively limited ability to change the behavior of combatants who believe, quite rightly, that they are in an existential struggle. But I’m also referring specifically to you and me, as well as our fellow Christians in America and around the world.

Us We cannot solve this crisis, no matter how faithful, objective and fervent we are.

I think it’s worth saying for two reasons. One is our modern habit of “consciousness”, as in, I am posting this article on Facebook because I want to raise awareness..

On many big issues, the reality is that most of us can do very little to make meaningful change. Sometimes we can donate money to a relevant cause. We can always pray (1 Thess. 5:17) and be careful not to sin in our hearts or words as we react to the news (Matt. 5:21-30). But most of us are not scientists who can find a cure for cancer, nor politicians who can rewrite American immigration laws, nor generals who can decide who the bombs will fall on. Our duties to God and neighbor are often more imminent and mundane, and if God answers our prayers, that is much more God’s work than ours.

Still, we come across a lot of information about problems near and far. It is the background noise of every digital conversation. We feel the need to respond, but how? What tangible good can we do? Often, as finite people in a fallen world, the frustrating answer is: nothing. Often the only visible action we can take is what we call “awareness,” and many times this amounts to a fun run or a social media post.

Conscience is not bad but rumor is not change. Awareness raising (and the opinions that accompany it) is not in itself a solution. Having ideas and information in your head will not solve a crisis on the other side of the world and completely outside of our influence. “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life” or subtract a single hour from some distant conflict? (Matthew 6:27).

Not only that, but this type of worry can also sap our attention and energy from better uses. Is it better for me to raise cancer awareness or make dinner for a member of my church who is undergoing chemotherapy? This is not difficult to answer.

The other reason is that, as Christians, we rightly have a high opinion of faithfulness and its effects. By faith, God’s people have “administered justice,” “closed the mouths of lions,” and “received his dead resurrected” (Heb. 11). We can be “laborers in God’s service,” as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, whose faith rests “in the power of God” (1 Cor. 3:9, 2:5). The “prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective,” James taught, reminding us of the story of Elijah, “a human being just like us,” whose fervent prayer led to both famine and plenty (5:16-18). ).

But faith is not magic, nor is it a guarantee of a happy ending on this side of eternity. It does not always manage to protect us or keep others away from evil.

The heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 did not reliably triumph over adversity in any immediate sense: “Some faced mockery and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were executed with stones; They were cut in two; They were killed with the sword. They walked around dressed in sheepskins and goatskins, abandoned, persecuted and mistreated” (vv. 36-38). They “were tortured, refusing to be released to obtain an even better resurrection”—and even though they will obtain it, they were still tortured (v. 35).

Christian fidelity cannot have effect where it does not exist. TO recent essay about the war between Israel and Hamas in Red Letter Christians ends with an exhortation from a Palestinian Christian peacemaker, who, “when asked what he believes will do the most to end this violence,” said, “When we follow the Jesus we speak of, this crisis will end.”

The part of me that is convinced that Jesus calls his followers to achieve peace and nonviolence wants to agree, but the realist part of me says this simply isn’t true.

Yes, Christians must follow Jesus, in war as in all circumstances. But Christian faithfulness will not end this crisis, largely because most of the people at war here are not Christians. There is some Messianic Jewish Christians in the Israel Defense Forces and among Israeli civilians, and some Arab believers are part of the civilian population of Gaza, where they and their churches have not been spared from attacks. But overall – especially at the top levels, where strategic decisions are made, and entirely within Hamas – this is a conflict between non-Christian combatants.

We cannot expect them to follow Jesus if they have not followed their Lord. We should not expect them to value a Christian perspective on what to do (1 Cor. 2:14, 5:12-13a). That is the Christian version of Yglesias’s third step, which is as much a joke as the secular variant.

That’s not to say our faith doesn’t matter here. is beyond our power to end this crisis, but it is not beyond the power of God.

We often say that Elijah’s famous prayer brought abundance, and in a sense it did, but when “the heavens gave rain and the earth brought forth its crops,” it did not happen by the hand of Elijah. It was the work of God. And we may be “co-workers in God’s service” whose faith rests “in the power of God,” but it is still Godthe service and GodThe power. When God’s people “administered justice,” “shut the mouths of lions,” and “received their dead and rose again,” it was not actually them, but God working through them.

What would it be like for God to end this crisis? I don’t know. The practical difficulties it seems insurmountable to me. Anyway, I have no good ideas and no power to implement them. I can only put my “hope in the Lord now and forever” (Psalm 131:3), refrain from worrying about “things that are too difficult for me” (131:1, NASB), and pray for peace. Maybe God could continue with the Second Coming. “Wouldn’t this be a good time for him to come?

Bonnie Kristian is the editorial director of books and ideas at Christianity today.

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