Faith & Family

Whose side will you choose?

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Pastor Ben Windle

If you’re a believer and you’ve read your Bible then you know the significance and early history of the Promised Land and God’s chosen people Israel. We are commanded to pray for Jerusalem and compelled to bless Israel (Gen 12:6-7, Ps 122:6, Ex 4:22). We prioritize Israel because God does; Paul writes in Romans 1:16-17, “I am not ashamed of the gospel… for the Jew first…” Scripture is clear that there is not a superiority or an exclusivity to Israel or Jewish people, but there is a priority. 

When Moses dies, God hand picks Joshua to lead the nation of Israel. Joshua miraculously leads the nation of Israel across the Jordan River in the same way Moses led God’s people across the Red Sea. Joshua circumcises all of Israel; I mean that’s some major commitment to a covenant with God. They celebrate Passover – all the things – I mean these are God’s people!

And yet, when Joshua stumbled upon the commander of the Lord’s Army with his sword drawn and ready for battle, Joshua asks him, “Are you for us (Israel) or for our adversaries?” The response is one of the most humbling things I’ve ever read. The man replies, “Neither; but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” (Joshua 5:14) In other words, “I’m not on your side, I’m on God’s side.”

Let’s be on God’s side. 

With that said, the great majority of us have no understanding of the Christian history of Gaza and Palestine. 

Christians have lived in Palestine ever since Christianity was a thing. In the fourth century, the Church historian Eusebius of Caesarea documented Christians who died under Roman persecution, including many from Gaza in his “Martyrs in Palestine.” Early Christianity flourished in the port city of Maiuma before spreading to the main city of Gaza. In 325, Bishop Asclepas represented Gaza at Emperor Constantine’s famous Council of Nicaea, which established the Nicene Creed that defines the central tenets of most Christians today. 

After a series of politically charged theological differences in the 400s, Christians in Palestine began to fracture and divide over beliefs, creeds, and councils. 

Islam’s prophet Muhammad died in 632 and less than a decade later his followers now governed Palestine Christians. 

The 1922 census of the British Mandate of Palestine reported over 73,000 Christians in Palestine. Sadly, that number dwindled down to just over 1,000 in 2022. And it’s not just Palestine: at the end of 2022, Christians made up just 1.9% of the Israeli population. This whole region needs Jesus.

There’s much more complexities in between all this history, dates, names, and theologies, but my fear is that in oversimplifying the story of the Middle East, we lose the ability to understand the deeply layered history of a complex region. 

Even more egregious is we lose sight of the fact that these are people created in the image of God (Gen 1:27, Mat 6:26). There are over 1,000,000 children in the region that didn’t choose to be born there. They aren’t radicalized. Now they are traumatized and forever altered by incredible violence and loss of life, many witnessing the death of their friends and loved ones. This is what Hamas wanted by provoking Israel. My heart is broken. 

It’s important to remember that Hamas, the terrorist regime ruling Gaza, does not represent all Palestinian people.

As believers, we need to have empathy and compassion for both Jewish and Palestinian people. 

We need to pray right now, right after you read this sentence, that Palestine would be set free from the wicked terrorist regime Hamas that has controlled the Gaza Strip for 18 years while using Gazan civilians as human shields. Pray. 

We need to pray that Gazan civilians are able to safely and quickly evacuate from areas the IDF has instructed them to leave. Pray. 

We need to pray that Justice would prevail and God would raise up leaders that care about the safety and wellbeing of the people in Gaza and their freedom to pursue King Jesus. Pray. 

We need to pray for the Christian community in Gaza and Israel, that although they are a tiny minority God would protect them and use them to bring salt, light, and hope. Pray.

We need to pray for healing from a spirit of hatred and vision, that Love and Peace will prevail in the Palestinian community. Pray. 

Let’s pray that heaven is filled with Palestinians, Gazans, and Israelis. 

Let’s be on God’s side. 

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:9–12

Pictured above is Pastor Windle and his family.

Ben Windle is the pastor at Discover Church.