Against all the odds, and in the face of a “lethal-veto” from the U.S., the Palestinian Authority lodged an official request to the United Nations that it recognize a Palestinian State among the nations of the world. I am not a geo-political scientist or strategist and I am certainly no expert in international law or diplomacy. Even so, I am convinced that if Jesus had a vote he would cast it in favor of recognizing a Palestinian State.
Jesus would vote “yes” as a matter of simple justice (though I am sure it would not be simple actually to work out!). Shouldn’t every people group have a place they call “home?” Shouldn’t everyone’s home enjoy whatever protection the community of nations enjoys and affords? I think the answer is yes, and Jesus would vote accordingly. (I know there is no chapter or verse on this per se, but Jesus was passionate about matters of justice) This is not to deny that injustice and atrocity and even crimes against humanity have been committed by some Palestinians and of course also by some Israelis, not to mention other parties with some stake in the region and this particular question. It is to affirm, with Jesus I believe, that people should have a place. Surely those who claim to love people—all people in fact—would back their claim up by supporting the Palestinians’ right to a place, a homeland, as much as any others’ right.
Jesus would vote “yes” to a Palestinian homeland, in my judgment, because in the biblical story even those not chosen, such as Ishmael and Esau for example, are never denied their place. Even within biblical Israel herself—the nation chosen by Yahweh for a special role in redemptive history—when only one tribe is chosen to bring the world its Messiah, the importance and value of “place” for the other tribes are not diminished. Certainly the other tribes are not denied their places as a consequence. In other words, the story doesn’t show us that God’s choice of one can justify denying others a place. Quite the contrary in fact, we see God granting a place to those clearly not chosen. Surely, God’s Son would do likewise and vote accordingly.
Jesus would favor a Palestinian State because his Father did not tolerate even God’s chosen People’s persistent unfaithfulness. Of the twelve tribes the northern ten lost their land, their place, to an exile that never ended. This portion of the chosen people simply disappeared from history. Similarly, the southern tribes were also exiled, though not permanently. A remnant returned from the exile. But God never promised that remnant, or any future remnant, a homeland independent of their faithfulness to the God who called them, who eventually reveals himself as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, Jesus’ harshest words consistently targeted those who would claim, not to mention fight and die for, an inalienable right to a homeland, whether they honored God or not. Clearly, Jesus did not support their right to have it their way. Therefore, Jesus would not, as is commonly done, deny Palestinian people a homeland out of a blind commitment to protect the right of Israelis to “feel” safe by depriving others of a place.
Jesus would favor a Palestinian State because Jesus would never identify the people of God, “True Israel,” with the modern or future state of Israel. Even during Jesus’ ministry he consistently refused to make “Israel” or “Judea” equivalent to the Kingdom he declared and demonstrated. Jesus himself gave his followers no basis for pinning the hope of God’s kingdom upon an earthly kingdom called “Israel” or anything else. Instead, Jesus redefined who his family was. His family became those who hear and live by the word of God which he himself embodied and taught (see Mark 3:31-35). And Jesus asserted that his Kingdom was not of this world. The “of” is important. Jesus’ Kingdom was and is in this world and grows and deepens in this world and, according to God’s plan, will transform this world. But Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. Its origins, nature, and way of working do not derive or depend on the way kingdoms or nations of this world do—whether they are called Israel or the United States or something else. Therefore, Jesus would not offer blanket support to the nation of Israel. He would not connect the final coming of the Kingdom to the worldly nation of Israel. He didn’t do this in his day and he doesn’t in our day, which suggests another reason for Jesus’ vote.
Jesus would vote in favor of a Palestinian State because he wants Palestinians (no less than any others) to know him—Jesus—as the way, the truth and the life. He wants Palestinian peoples to discover that only a life oriented around him creates the kind of home, and the sense of homeland, for which humans deeply long. Since Jesus loves the Palestinians and wants them to know him in this way, he would favor anything that creates a context where they might discover the blessing and wisdom of his way. And followers of Jesus would follow suit. Since they want everyone to know their Lord and Friend they will seek to bless them with a place to call home.
I know that some will object to what I’ve written, pointing out the threat of many nations against Israel, that some Palestinians have sought to destroy Israel and have carried out terrorist campaigns against Israel. Nothing I have said about a Palestinian State necessitates denying justice, security and peace for the people of Israel. Of course, as a matter of love and justice for Israel’s people, we should pray and act for the peace of Jerusalem and Israel. Of course we should.
Even so, and finally, Jesus would vote in favor of a Palestinian State because Jesus would name and deny the eschatological (end-times) elephant in the room. Jesus does not endorse the dispensational view of some that insists that the modern and future state of Israel plays a decisive role in his own final appearing and in the New Heavens and Earth that will follow. I haven’t the space and time to discuss this adequately, and there are others who could do it better than I, but … Nowhere does Jesus ever assert that certain things must happen with the state of Israel before, or as a help to, his final appearing.
What Jesus did say in no uncertain terms is that it is not for us to know the times and seasons (see Acts 1:7, specifically in response to restoring the kingdom to Israel—a notion that Jesus neither confirms nor denies in this context); he said that no one knows the time, not even he but only the Father (see Mark 13:32) and so … we must be “prepared” and being prepared is explicitly linked to sharing the good news with the whole world (the focus is on the whole world, not just one area of the world—not just ours or Israel’s but on all of it). Jesus did say that this good news must be proclaimed everywhere (see Mark 13:10), in all nations, to all peoples, and then … and then … the end, which turns out to be a new beginning. Everywhere includes Palestine. The gospel must be shared there (and it is, by the way), and the good news will be received more readily there in Palestine if people can call it home in the same way we like to call our place “home.” Jesus would vote for this.
One final word: Dear brothers and sisters, the gospel is being shared and embraced in Palestine. Therefore, we have brothers and sisters in Christ in what would become whatever a Palestinian State would become. How sadly and profoundly ironic it would be if, out of an errant view of the end-times (and therefore of the gospel itself since the final appearing of Jesus is part of the gospel), followers of Jesus protected a worldly nation whose ways at least sometimes reflect the spirit of anti-Christ and in so doing actually hindered the advance of the good news and put part of Jesus’ beloved family in harm’s way. Jesus would never vote for that.