While perusing a friend’s blog, I found the following comment posted by an anonymous author. It regards the continued conflict between Arabs and Jews and conforms to what I have found to be a rather stereotypical response among Christians. He writes:
“I’ve heard it “said” that Muslims descended from Ishmael (son of Abraham and Hagar). Is this true? If it is true, in Genesis 16:12, it is said of Ishmael”:
“He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”
“Does Genesis 16:12 only refer to Ishmael, or does it in some way, foreshadow the continual conflict between Muslims and Jesus’ followers?”
Is this assumption valid? Are those that trace their lineage back to Ishael still bound by this decree? Has anything changed in history that could potentially alter God’s pronouncement? Are Jews and Arabs (many of whom are Muslim) or Arabs and Christians destined for eternal strife and foreordained to an acrimonious relationship simply due to heredity? Is this truly an irreversible Hatfield/McCoy byproduct of genetic predisposition?
One might think so were it not for the New Testament’s divinely inspired commentary on the Old Testament. Too often we read the Old Testament without the benefit of New Testament revelation. At this point it may be of some value to consider the thoughts of the Apostle Paul since he was painfully aware of the division of Jew and Gentile. He was both persecutor and persecuted. Did Paul believe that differences were irreconcilable?
Consider the following New Testament passages that provide the backdrop for understanding the nature of the New Covenant. Let’s look at our world through the lens of this inspired NT author.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:13 (ESV)
We are all of one spirit. In Christ we are clearly homogenized.
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. Romans 10:12 (ESV)
There is no racial distinction.
Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Colossians 3:11 (ESV)
In this New Covenant world, genetics do not divide.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. Galatians 3:28-29 (ESV)
God has leveled the playing field. Who is Abraham’s offspring? Those born according to the flesh? Physical Israel? Absolutely not. Those who are “in Christ” by faith are Abraham’s offspring. Jews and Gentiles alike become “heirs according to promise” by a faith decision.
Paul even takes this a step further. In this New Covenant economy God has wiped the slate clean. Clearly, God has erased artificial barriers between both races and sexes. Any existing racism or sexism is not God-ordained but man maintained. Faith is the only dividing characteristic between people. There are believers and non-believers. However, is this division supposed to be an obstacle that separates?
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV)
Clearly the Apostle Paul is exhorting believers to be united, but this is not merely to those inside the Church but more so an extension of God’s mind for all. Through our faith in Christ we are to love all equally, not treating any people groups with preference. Our call is to preach the Gospel to all. We love Jews and Arabs alike. We aren’t to favor one over the other any more than we are to divide based upon skin color. At any moment, through faith in Jesus Christ’s shed blood, one can move freely from non-believer to believer. From a position of enmity with God to everlasting peace with God. How cool is that!
So may it never be said that this long-standing feud between Jews and Arabs, Christians and Arabs or Christians and Jews has anything to do with the ordinance of God. Its roots are in the depravity of man. (Rom 3:9-18) Racism of any kind is not condoned nor is tolerated by God—and neither is it inevitably destined to continue into perpetuity. Peace will abound when both Jews and Arabs alike meet the Messiah!
And lest there be any doubt we need look no further Jesus’ parable of the Samaritan. This came on the heals of Jesus issuing the summation of the law in the two greatest commandments: “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
So who is our neighbor? Jesus used the example of the Samaritan since they were utterly despised by His own race. They were considered less than human, much lower than a Gentile. Jesus was leaving no doubt as to His conviction regarding racial barriers. There were to be none! Further testimony came while Jesus engaged the Samaritan woman at well. Clearly, Jesus did not consider ethnicity a valid dividing factor. Jesus, of the lineage of David, was pronoucing to the world that this New Covenant economy was a new order where all could be brothers based upon their relationship with Him.
Let’s plunge deeper into the New Covenant. If we want to see how this relationship between Sarah and Hagar played out in history we need turn no further than the book of Galatians. In his allegorical analysis, Paul does a masterful job of untangling this perceived web of intrigue between Arab and Jew. What was going to be the disposition between these supposedly “irreconcilable”people groups?
What I found extremely interesting was the angle of the Apostle Paul’s argument. He didn’t trifle over who the father was e.g., Abraham, but instead totally focused his attention on the mothers. Through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, Paul asks the simple question, “Who’s your momma?” The religious leaders of Paul’s day proudly proclaimed their heritage to father Abraham. Yet, as we shall see in a moment, Paul rather abuptly made the rather shocking judgment that physical bloodline was no longer of consequence.
As John the Baptizer began his public ministry he greeted his fellow countrymen rather offensively. (I don’t believe he’d ever read Dale Carnegie’s, “How to Win Friends and Influence people”!)
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath [about] to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Matthew 3:7-9 (ESV)
The Jews were beginning to find out early on, that genetics were of no value in this New Covenant Kingdom. Without faith it was impossible to please God. (Heb 11:16) (I might add that it has always been about faith, but God was no longer working through nations to mete out that faith—Gal 3:6) So in Paul’s day which people group was the representative of Hagar and her son Ishmael? Paul turns Genesis 16:12 upside down!
For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. Galatians 3:22-24
These women and their offspring represent two covenants—the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. In this New Covenant world the relationship between Sarah and Hagar is treated allegorically. Notice which of the two represent the physical Jews of Paul’s day. It may shock you if you haven’t yet considered the ramifications of this passage. Those born physical Jews are from Sarah, right?
One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. Galatians 3:24-26
Are you kidding me! Hagar, the slave woman is the representative from ARABIA and she corresponds to then “present Jerusalem” which was “in slavery” according to God’s economy. This threw me for a loop! The Jerusalem above is free (New Jerusalem) and Sarah is our mother. Not to be overly repetitively redundant 🙂 but in this New Covenant order, Hagar is the representative of the Jews not the Arabs. This was a monumental revelation to me.
For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.” 28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. Galatians 3:27-29
Who is the “desolate one”? Sarah and her offspring. And who does Sarah represent in this new equation? The Church—those “born according to the Spirit” who were being severely persecuted by the Jewish non-believers. But who was actually being persecuted? Until Paul took the message of Christ to the Gentiles (many years after his coversion) it was predominantly Jews persecuting Jews. Those adhering to Judaism and those that had committed their lives to Christ. The Jews who denied the Savior, thinking that their religiosity would give them Kingdom rights, were “in slavery” while the Jewish believers (and eventually Gentiles by faith alike) would be part of this New eternal Kingdom.
But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. Galatians 4:30-31 (ESV)
So what’s the disposition of the physical Jews? What was to come of them? They were to be cast out just as it was predicted by Jesus prior to His Olivet Discourse.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! 38 See, your house is left to you desolate. Matthew 23:37-38 (ESV)
So in this new Kingdom there is neither Jew nor Gentile, Arab nor Jew. The only distinction in this New Covenant regards our faith choice—those who are with Christ and those who have not yet chosen Christ.
We need to become peacemakers knowing that God does not ordain genetic barriers. It is only through the redemptive blood of Christ that frees us from these racial chains. Is there hope for peace in the Middle East? Absolutely. But if Christians continue to divide people groups based upon non-Biblical parameters, there will always be strife. It’s up to us. So let’s stop practicing racism and begin to love all people equally, knowing that both Jews and Arabs need Jesus.
God is interested in the condition of one’s heart not the pigment of one’s sin. The cross of Jesus Christ is the historical dividing line. On Nisan 14, 0030, the landscape forever changed. Three days and three nights later God’s New Covenant economy was inaugerated. Through faith in Yeshua HaMashia, those born according to the lineage of Ishmael can forever be redeemed and those who consider themselves Israelites can enter the eternal Kingdom as brothers in Christ. And the current Kingdom dwellers offer all who live outside the Kingdom the opportunity to come dine with the King of Kings! (Rev 22:14-15, 17)
Is there potential for peace? You bet there is!