As I've been thinking more about the Israel situation, and reading and hearing the responses and debates on my last article, and the issue in general, it seems to me that people can't help but get stuck in the mindset of a geo-political debate. Yes, there's a place called "Israel" in the middle-east, and yes there's a war going on which is terrible for all involved — but from a New Testament Christian perspective, that shouldn't be our focus when it comes to thinking about the true Israel!
If you want to "support Israel" because you believe they are in the right or have 'just cause', then fine – just don't call it a God-sanctioned war or prophecy fulfillment and claim that others are "anti-Israel/Semitic" and unChristian for not pledging some kind of allegiance to a political situation like you do. Although, while you are out there "supporting Israel", maybe you should get a little perspective on the land mass of Gaza using this nifty little web app I came across earlier today: Gaza Everywhere.
But I want to take your attention away from a geographical mindset for the moment.
Israel the land isn't the point.
It's not about land anymore!
WDJS? (What Did Jesus Say?)
Let's look at what Jesus had to say about having a special place for worshipping God when a Samaritan woman asked him about where the proper place to meet with God was:
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem ... God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
The woman says to Jesus, 'our ancestors worshipped here, but you Jews say only in Jerusalem – which is right?' Jesus gives an answer which just flips it all up on its head and effectively says "neither and both". Neither, because a time was coming where things were about to change, where physical, geographical Israel was no longer the focus, yet both, because in that new time it would allow believers to worship God wherever they wanted to! A new and spiritual movement was coming and being brought about by Jesus; it was no longer about being in the right place, or performing the correct rituals – it was soon to be all about worshipping in spirit and truth.
As John 1:17 says, "The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." Jesus is that truth we must worship in, and only by the empowering of the new birth can we do that fully and thus worship in Spirit and Truth (John 3:1-10; 1 Peter 1:3-5).
"It's not a religion, it's a relationship..."
I've often heard that said in churches, and I was inclined to agree with it, but recently I think that I want to redefine that a little. While it's true that Christianity should be more than mere religion, and about a real relationship with the living God, I would also now say that it's even more than that.
Christianity is a new race. A new people group — a new creation in Christ.
The new creation isn't (just?) some far off future event, but was and is a current thing which happens right now! As far as Paul was concerned, once you were in Christ, the old was gone and the new had come already:
2 Corinthians 5:16-17
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!
As Peter also wrote, those who believe in and follow Christ Jesus are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people" (1 Peter 2:9-10), Israel was once the vine and symbolically referred to as such (Ps 80:8-9; Joel 1:7) but we are now grafted into the true vine which is Jesus (Jn 15:1; Rom 11:17).
If the vine represented Israel, and Jesus says he is the "true vine", then Jesus is true Israel and we are grafted in as spiritual Jews (Romans 2:28-29) as a new creation through him, which now has no physical, social or religious boundaries (Galatians 3:28-29)!
But we can only be in a race or people group by birth naturally, and spiritually it is no different – hence why we must be "born from above" by the Holy Spirit (John 3:5-7).
The Kingdom of God is a new creation of a new people group, birthed by God's own Spirit and not by natural means. To be "born again" means the old has to go; it has to die, which is precisely what Jesus and the Apostles taught (Jn 12:24; Luke 9:23-24; Mat 10:38; Gal 5:24; Col 3:1-7; Rom 6:11). We do this through faith in Jesus by putting away earthly things and desires which hinder our walk with God and life in the Spirit until such a time that we physically die and go to new life eternal.
Until then though, we should strive to "regard no one from a human point of view" as Paul wrote, and remember that we are a new people group in Christ.
Our home is God's kingdom; our culture is Heaven's culture; our family is Christ's family, which is why we are all brothers and sisters, adopted into the family of God as children and joint heirs with Christ (Titus 3:6-7; Eph 1:5; Eph 3:5-6; Galatians 3:29; Romans 8:16-17)!
Our focus needs to be less on where we fit in this world, or where we come from, or what social status we have, and should be more on living out our life in Christ, showing his love to all and welcoming any and all into the Kingdom. Likewise, our focus should be less about where others are from or where they fit into society.
Our Kingdom is a new society, and race of people filled and led by the Spirit to conquer this world and it's corrupt systems with the power of God's love and Spirit within us! The small mustard seed which grows into something large, overshadowing all else.
As Christians it is no longer about physical boundaries, race or nation for we are all one in Christ, born again into a new creation — a new race and people of God to worship in spirit and in truth!