The church in Israel should ask herself: How can it better serve the Arab Israeli community in particular, and the Israeli community in general, in the light of the recent elections?
I believe the church in Israel is doing a good job on the spiritual level by presenting the gospel message of salvation and hope we have in Christ.
However, we have very little involvement on the social level and almost nothing on the political one.
Just to make it clear, I am not saying the church should be directly delving into the politics of the country. Rather, she has to have a prophetic voice in the following directions:
First, the church should identify with the pain, suffering and challenges of its own people, in order to be able serve them.
In fact, this is exactly what Christ did with his incarnation – he became one of us.
That does not necessarily mean that we agree with everything our people do to face their challenges and solve their problems. At times, we need the courage to criticize what we believe is wrong.
But “identification” gives us the right, as part of the people, to relate to the challenges in a Christian way and with Christian values.
Second, as Christians we are called to “act justly and to love mercy” (Micah 6:8).
When the prophets of Israel raised their voices against injustice and the oppression of the poor, they were not called “politicians” but “prophets.”
I believe the church should have the same prophetic voice today. We should be advocates for justice and call and act for mercy for the oppressed and the poor.
We are called to pray “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
But might we not, besides praying with them, also have the opportunity and the right to share with God’s heart, love, mercy and justice with our leaders?
It seems, according to these verses, that Paul teaches us that we have a role in achieving “peaceful and quiet lives.” Why should we withhold this blessing from our leaders, our people and our country?
Third, the church must respond to the hateful rhetoric used during the election.
Much hatred was promoted during this election campaign. A major part of the election’s propaganda was calculated to frighten people, to alienate one’s constituents from an alleged “enemy.” This shocked me as well as many people.
Nevertheless, are we not asked to be the “light and salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13-16)? How important, then, in such circumstances to promote and show love to those who have been styled as our “enemies”?
We are asked to be peacemakers. Therefore, it would be important that the church at this dark time seek to build relationships and establish a dialogue with the Jewish community in Israel as well as the Muslim one.
If we want a better future for ourselves and for our children, a future built on respecting and loving “the other,” then let us take part in building it. Otherwise, those with other values will determine what this future will be.
Finally, the church must learn from the unity embodied in the Joint List.
Among other reasons, the issue of unity between the different Arab parties was an important reason for the support they enjoyed. Clearly, Arab people in Israel were looking for such a development.
Arab Israelis have been a divided minority for many years, and this division has not helped their case. And I wonder, “Is there not a lesson here for the church, too?”
Evangelicals in this region are a minority within a minority within a minority; yet still we manage to divide from one another. Is not this lesson of unity a lesson for us, the people of Jesus?
I believe it is, and I hope we will seek more and more ways of uniting in order to be light, salt and a blessing to the Arabs and Jews in Israel. God willing, one day we will speak of an election in the shadow of justice, mercy, love and respect.
Azar Ajaj is the president of Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary in Israel.
Editor’s note: This is the second article in a two-part series. Part one is available here. Ajaj spoke with EthicsDaily.com contributing editor Brian Kaylor at the 2014 Baptist World Alliance in Izmir, Turkey, about the role of the evangelical church in promoting peace in Israel. You can watch the video interview here.