Rather than addressing this in totality, I am going to explore one tiny facet of this third question: Has the Church replaced Israel and, therefore, is Israel excluded from relationship and participation with God?
Before wading in to this, I want to offer eight brief thoughts that form some of my frame on theology:
1. We are all theologians: We all have thoughts about who and how God is.
2. We are all practicing theologians: Our thoughts about God inform how we live. Therefore, thinking carefully about the who and how of God is essential.
3. Our theology will eternally shift: God is fully committed to our process of becoming…our becoming like Him will take forever.
4. Theology unites and divides: For good and for bad, we tend to pitch our tents near those whose theology is like ours and far from those whose theology is different.
5. Theology is mostly retroactive: We tend to develop theology to justify what we do to others.
6. Theology is but a thin mist of reality. Language that is created to describe our thoughts about God represents the slightest fraction of who and how God really is.
7. Sometimes our theology is wrong. It is when we convince ourselves that “our” theology is “right” that we wade into a kind of calcified arrogance that interrupts our relationship with God, and others.
8. God longs to be known…thus, the reason He created us with a mind and with senses. His knowability and longing to be known is THE reason He put on flesh and camped in our neighborhood.
Thinking theologically is a comprehensive, life-long pursuit. From my perspective, God is always in the process of forming, adjusting, shifting, and even changing our theology. I see this most explicitly in Acts 10 as God very clearly changes Peter’s theology.
In the story, Peter has a very clear theological stance that, in his opinion, is right, complete, and air-tight. His calcified theology told him that God was for Israel, that God had a “side”, that the gospel was for Israel only, and that, therefore, his attention was to be directed exclusively on Israel. He was crystal clear on who God was, how God worked, and who God was for…or so he thought.
In a hunger-induced vision on the rooftop of a taxidermist’s house (read the irony here!), God began to change Peter’s theology: Don’t exclude anyone…I AM for everyone!
With shifting theology, Peter moved toward people whom he’d never imagined that he would move toward: Gentiles (the nations)! Because he did, the Story of a Redemptive God flooded into the home of a Gentile and the viral, global movement of the Kingdom of God was ignited.
Peter allowed his theology to shift.
He was humble, curious, and teachable.
Peter found himself among those he formerly referred to as defiled.
His shifting theology caused him to humanize others and to stand in solidarity with them. He crossed their threshold. He became the resident in the embrace of Gentile hospitality.
Peter, no doubt, was scratching his head, wondering if it was okay that he was there.
It was a huge risk. It could have cost him is reputation and standing. He could have been wrong…it might have been the voice of hunger rather than the voice of God that he had heard.
Peter participated with God in initiating a viral, world-wide revolution of love.
Peter, a Jew, fully embraced the vocation and destiny of Israel: in word and action, He put God on display among the nations. Because he did, the multi-cultural, global Bride began to take shape and, empowered by the Holy Spirit, assumed the same vocation and destiny of Israel: to become the accurate demonstration of God in the unique soil of the now.
This raises our theological questions: What about Israel? Are there now two distinct communities with the same vocation? Did the Church replace Israel?
Some would suggest that Israel has been punitively replaced by the Church due to Israel’s rejection of Jesus and His work on the Cross.
In response, I would suggest that, while many reject God, God rejects no one. He zealously chases after us…all of us. I would suggest that goal of the Cross is to reconcile, not to divide; to include, not to exclude.
Some would suggest that Israel has been functionally replaced by the Church due to Israel’s rejection of Jesus and His work on the Cross.
In response, I would affirm the teachings of the Scriptures: Gentiles have been grafted into the Jewish vine. That is, Jesus did not plant a new tree; rather, through the Cross and Resurrection, He had the authority to graft us in.
Some would suggest that Israel made her final decision in her rejection of Jesus and, therefore, has no hope of being included in the New Community that God is making.
In response, I would suggest that, like everyone else, contemporary Israelis must decide what they do with Jesus. Like me, they can choose to acknowledge that their sin has interrupted their relationship with God, themselves and the other or not. Like me, they can either choose to identify with the crucified or with the crucifier. The choice that we make will radically impact they way we see, interact, and participate with God, ourselves, and the “other.”
Thus, in exploring this tiny facet of our larger third question, perhaps we have addressed the entire question. That is, we are to think about the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict through the lenses of the redemptive, all-of-humanity-focused, Cross. For, on the Cross, God says to every person of every tribe: “YOU are worth my Son!”