One of the best secular history books I ever read was “Power, Faith and Fantasy, America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present” by Michael Oren, an Israeli diplomat and scholar who is currently serving in the Knesset.
As the title suggests, this book covers the grand sweep of history, including many sub-plots. Among them is the story of American Christians who came to the Middle East throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, building hospitals, universities (including several which are still in operation) and many other institutions providing humanitarian aid and social development services. They did this with one purpose in mind, to show the love of Jesus Christ to the Arab peoples and use that as a platform to share His Gospel of salvation with them.
They didn’t have much success sharing the Gospel, but there WAS a very dramatic long-term result of all this activity.
The children and grandchildren of these Christian missionaries to the Middle East, who were often born in the region and grew up here, naturally developed deep wells of sympathy and identification with Muslim culture. Most of them eventually returned to the US and attended elite Universities, especially Princeton. From there, they were recruited by the US State Department because of their language skills and knowledge of Middle Eastern culture. And that, as Oren explains, is a big part of why the US State Department has a history of deep ambivalence at best and outright hostility at worst to the Zionist movement and Israel and affinity with Arab and Islamic culture.
(I’m giving you a very brief overview of the story and I strongly encourage you to read the book for yourself, you won’t regret it.)
There are several hospitals, schools, etc. in Jerusalem which were built in the same period of time by Christians who had the same idea as those American Christians described in Oren’s book. One group in particular, a German Protestant society calling themselves the “Templars” built an entire neighborhood in Jerusalem which is still called “The German Colony”.
They were part of the “restorationist” movement, the precursor of today’s Christian Zionists, who came here in the 1880s as soon as they heard that small groups of Jewish people were coming back to the Promised Land, because they wanted to help them build their community through direct, on the ground action. They helped the Jews build businesses, farms and everything else they needed to establish a functioning economy which would serve as the basis for a future state.
Time passed, and some things changed. The second generation of Templars who were born and grew up in Jerusalem started to see the success of the Jewish businesses that their parents had helped get started as competition to their own commercial enterprises. The two communities began to have less and less love for each other. More time passed, and the Nazi Party came to power in Germany, arousing great interest in what was now the third generation of Jerusalem’s German Colony. As the years went by, nearly all the members of that third generation left Jerusalem for Germany, with many serving in the Nazi military, including the SS.
These are sad, sad stories about groups of Christians who started out well with very good intentions to serve the Lord. But somewhere along the way, they forgot why they came here. More than that, they forgot who they were. They forgot what it’s all about. They lost their love for the God of the Bible and got distracted by other gods, including money, ideology, nationalism and culture.
I obviously wasn’t there, but I have a guess as to why and how it happened.
The Christians who came here simply had no idea how powerful the demonic forces they would encounter would be. They had no idea how much the Enemy would oppose them, or maybe they did but they forgot that he doesn’t play fair.
So, in the end, he not only defeated them and turned them back from their purpose, he actually ended up recruiting their children and grandchildren into his own forces and got them working AGAINST the plans and purposes of God.
Brothers and sisters, this can happen to anyone. It could happen to me or you.
It recently happened to a man who leads a large Christian volunteer organization in Samaria. I once considered him a dear friend and a staunch Christian brother, but like so many others before him, he forgot why he came here and now he’s lost his way. He recently told a National Religious website that when he first came to Israel, he thought Jewish people “needed to be saved” but now he knows better.
He also lamented the “ignorance” of those Christians who believe Jesus meant it when He said in John 14:6; “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” as well as all the follow-on passages all through the New Testament which affirm that declaration.
The “great apostasy” Paul warns in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 will happen just before Jesus returns to this Earth at the end of this age will manifest itself in many ways. Dual Covenant Theology is the manifestation of this sad but inevitable event which I see most commonly in the Hebrew Roots/Messianic/Christian Zionist community.
So be advised, if you come to Israel to work in this vineyard, or even if you never come here but enter into efforts to build communal relations between Jews and Christians in your own home country, you need to be aware of the fact that there are some VERY strong spiritual forces here that will seek to distract you, misdirect you and just plain jam you up.
As a practical matter, I will simply say that you can’t grow closer to Jesus Christ by studying the spiritual and/or theological teachings of people who reject the New Testament in general and specifically the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
So what SHOULD we do?
First of all, cover (and I mean COVER!!!) yourself in prayer. Ask brothers and sisters in the Lord to pray DAILY for you to be protected mentally, emotionally, physically and most of all spiritually, that you will not be tempted by the lies and deception of the Enemy.
Second, partake of the Word of God daily, and take what you read there seriously! Remember that the Enemy also knows that Book, as he demonstrated when he temped Jesus in the wilderness (Mark 1:13) so remember to study the Word in TOTALLITY and in CONTEXT!
One of Lucifer’s favorite tricks is to take a passage of Scripture out of context and build a false doctrine from it. Don’t let him trick you.
Finally, spend time in regular fellowship with other Believers who also regularly read the Word and pray. That way you can re-enforce, strengthen, correct and encourage one another.
May we all have the courage, strength, maturity and grace to remember why we came here, avoid distractions and stay focused on the Main Thing!