(Delivered at NEM Conference at the Baptist Village in Israel, April 23, 2006)
Mt 5:9-11 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in Heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
I tell people who ask me what it’s like to live as a believer in Israel that Israel is a great place to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, because it’s difficult to be lukewarm about our faith. We have many first-hand experiences related to the passage we read from Matthew. The Middle East provides us with many opportunities to be “blessed, happy, satisfied” if we are motivated by the love and purposes of God.
Rom 12:17-21 There is no guarantee of success in our pursuit of peace or in our peace-making with others, but we are to live in the power of the Holy Spirit in us to demonstrate the truth – the reality – of our faith in Jesus and of His being our Savior and Lord.
It is the peace of GOD that we have which we are to communicate and strive to obtain with others. It is a peace which surpasses understanding. Any other peace will be only temporary at best; only Jesus gives what is true peace: it is a fruit of God’s righteousness; the price has been paid to secure it; it gives rest to the whole person, and nothing can take it away. It begins when we return to God through the atonement of Jesus and know that our sins have been forgiven and we have received the Holy Spirit and eternal life.
In our local congregation, Yeshua’s Inheritance/Nachalat Yeshua, we are each and all there because Jesus has placed us there. We must learn to accept whom He has accepted, to love one another despite great differences of background and personalities; to forgive each other because we are disciples of Jesus. In Israeli churches, we have a training ground to overcome natural prejudices towards other nations since so many of us have come from countries that were hostile or jealous of each other!
The Christians – whether Jewish or gentile – live in not only a non-Christian country, but an anti-Christian country. Both Judaism and Islam are opposed to the truth of Jesus as Messiah and the Son of God. Even secularized Jews and Muslims are naturally inclined to resist the gospel. Our congregation has twice been targets of angry irrational mobs, who were incited by false rumors started and spread by their religious leaders. This is no different than in the days of Jesus, Stephen, Paul. Jesus tell His disciples that if hate and persecute us, it is because they first did so to Him. This is a proof that they do not know God the Father who sent Yeshua His only begotten Son. To be anti-Semitic and anti-Christian is to be, first of all, anti-YHVH God and His sovereignty. We are chosen and saved by His grace to glorify Him.
A simple act of “giving a cup of cold water” to an enemy of the gospel can demonstrate our goodwill and desire to be at peace with him. After all, Jesus commands us to even love our enemies, which we can only do for the sake of the Kingdom of God. This is a clear demonstration that we are willing to deny ourselves, pick up our cross daily, and follow the Lamb wherever He goes.
In Jewish/Arab, Israeli/Palestinian, missionary ministries in the Middle East, which strive to reconcile people to God and to one another, it is the Word of God to which we must all be reconciled and bring forth with humility in our efforts to be right with God and to have His grace working through us. In such a region of conflict, which is firstly spiritual in nature, we have a moral responsibility to be in agreement with God on any issue, and then humbly seek to persuade others of the righteousness of God. This way results in joy in the Holy Spirit, when we acknowledge that it is God who has done it!
1. How does our understanding of what the Bible teaches about the “end-times”, the “last days”, affect our ministry and message of reconciliation, of pursuing peace? When is “in that day” referring to in Isaiah 19:23-25?
2. Does our expectation of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth make a difference in our efforts at peace-making?
–What if the Master “delays” His coming?
–What if nothing seems to indicate signs of His coming?
–Do we believe and know that Jesus will come again?
3. If the Lord Jesus is coming to judge the nations, how does this affect our ministry?
–Calling anyone and everyone to repentance and to believe the good news
–Being light and salt
4. If believers are commanded to love one another as Jesus has loved us, how does this affect our relationships with believers from unfriendly or enemy nations or people groups?
5. Would having a personal experience of suffering hatred and persecution for our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ make a difference in our approach to unbelievers who oppose the gospel?
6. Jesus said that His peace is not like the peace which the world gives. What are some of the differences?