What Does Real Estate Have to Do with the Gospel? – Greg Albrecht
Thanks for your interview with Bishara Awad – posted in a blog on October 29. His comments as a Palestinian Christian, founder and former president of Bethlehem Bible College, are most helpful and eye-opening. However, I have a question. You and Bishara both talked about “the land” and how claims to “the land” lead to all kinds of violence, on “both sides.” But I thought that God promised the land in question to Abraham. Can you respond a bit more?
Thanks for your comments re. the interview I had with Bishara Awad, founder of Bethlehem Bible College… some years ago, but because it is the “same old story” of grievances and hatred it sounds like a commentary about the Middle East in this fall of 2023. You asked about “the land” – does the real estate from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates—Genesis 15:18, Exodus 23:31, Deut. 11:24, Joshua 1:4, etc not rightfully belong to the Jews, given God’s covenant with Abram/Abraham before what we know as the codification of the Old Covenant. That’s a fatally flawed dispensationalist construct. In fact it’s fatally flawed on any level, physically or spiritually.
For a Christ-follower any claim to ownership of land, and for that matter, any desire to return land to “original” residents is a bit of a fool’s errand. A fool? Yes, that’s the word Jesus used in the parable of the rich fool, which followed after he was asked to arbitrate in a debate about inheritance, “who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you? (Luke 12:14). The battle to return lands owned by earlier inhabitants, to make right wrongs of evil perpetrated by others … this is not a matter for people of faith. Governments – armies – militants – revolutionary political parties – that’s their bailiwick. But it is not the Jesus Way – Jesus to Pilate – “my kingdom is not of this world…. my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36).
So we find another war in the Middle East to bring “justice.” War brings justice? Really? No, war merely more deeply imbeds hatreds, particularly in those who “lose.” Eye for an eye …. leaves us all blind. So the cries go out that Israel has a right to defend itself from the brutal carnage of October 7 – and the continuing bloodshed on both sides, as well over 200 hostages who we must assume are being treated with all sorts of indignities and cruelty. Will an Israeli victory over Hamas (however it might be defined) make for peace? Not if history teaches us anything. More resentment. More acts of terrorism. More plans for pay back. An endless cycle of misery.
With the Israeli response comes cries that the Israelis are aggressors and oppressors. Young people in US colleges, as well as rallies all over the world wave signs proclaiming “from the river to the sea” – the sign demands the “cleansing” of the land from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean, which of course is a blatant call for genocide, an agenda for another Jewish Holocaust – killing every Jew in Israel and “reclaiming” the land they have taken as what their haters define them as, settlers/colonialists, etc. If one universally applies such an “ethic” (a generous use of that term) for colonialists and settlers one will be hard pressed to make a case for the boundary of any country on a map of the world as “belonging” to an original people, whomever it is claimed they are. Who “owns” what and who has the most “just” case for ownership of what real estate is not a platform of the kingdom of God.
In an amazing flip flop of cancel culture and defund the police, claiming to proclaim equity, justice, fair play and tolerance, some signs are reported at US colleges and some chants in marches here in the US demanding “gas the Jews.” Perhaps this new Hitler Youth does not remember Hitler’s Germany demands for lebensraum – perhaps the “final solution” is no longer assigned reading in universities. When calls for obliteration of people groups deemed to be unfit, bad, evil, impure, unfair… even in the guise of defending the underdog in the fog of ignoring and rewriting history… it doesn’t end well.
When human society is reduced to the level of who owes what to whom – the call for reparations, for payments, for new land boundaries, for the expunging of “warlords” who took the land, then we are reduced to war, bloodshed and savagery. Jesus has nothing to do with such lust and violence. Neither do modern day peace lovers like Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi and Mandela. Let us not shoehorn the gospel of Jesus Christ into something we believe is fair and equitable for this blood soaked world. Still, as citizens of the kingdom of God living as resident aliens in this world we must ask how far will a peace-loving nation in which we reside allow its citizens to go in demanding that all Jews be gassed? Would another racial or ethnic or gender or religion as the focus of such evil hatred be allowed?
The answer in brief to your query is given below, in an article I wrote 13 years ago (see below). The cross of Christ sets aside all exclusivity believed or conjured up by any “special” people on the basis of ethnic or religious status. Ephesians 2 – the middle wall of separation is set aside. Galatians 3 – we are all one in Christ. Acts 10 – the vision of Peter, of “unclean” animals, and God’s message, vs. 15 – “do not call anything unclean/impure that God has made clean/pure.”
Before the cross it was blessings and curses – “do this or else” – obey and you inherit and get to keep and stay in the land, as opposed to being taken captive and even deported away from the land.
After the cross the physicality vanishes – the eye for an eye – the pay me back because you owe me — now the relationship of Christ-followers with God is of a new creation in Christ, a spiritual relationship, and our inheritance is in God’s house where there are many rooms (John 14:1-4) and the new heavens and new earth (Rev 21-22) which will cleanse the earth from all the corruption and bloodshed of humanity. All of the new heavens and new earth will belong to the heirs of the kingdom – no heir will have any particular claim on any piece of real estate – it will finally and truly be this “Good” earth.
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