Tag Archives: Israel

Letters January 2017

Directives On Treating Foreigners

If we read the Old Testament promises to Israel in the way Don Plett has encouraged us to in the last issue [Oct. 2016] of The Messenger, we also need to read the Old Testament passages where God gave very specific directives as to how the people of Israel were to treat the foreigners in their land.

The taking of Palestinian land for Israeli settlements is one example of what has been happening in recent years that does not fit well with the Old Testament’s focus on how to treat the poor, the oppressed, and the foreigner with love, mercy, and justice. We know God had strong words for the His people about failing on that.

Another question I have is can we apply what the Old Testament says about the people of Israel in the Old Testament to the secular state of Israel today? Maybe some Bible scholar can help clarify that for us.

– Irma Janzen, Winnipeg, Man.


A Great Article!

I have just read Paul Walker’s article titled: Resurrecting Our Belief in the Resurrection of the Body [Nov.-Dec. 2016]. How encouraging to find an article like this in The Messenger! He hit it right on when he says that the point is not “going to heaven when we die,” but the resurrection of the body after heaven, when Jesus comes back.

This is the promise of the Father to all who believe in his Son, Jesus. I think that for a long time we’ve largely missed it when we thought he meant eternal life in heaven. That was, at least, what I was taught growing up, and what I also taught our children.

From the very beginning in the garden, Adam was not told that he would go to hell if he ate of the fruit of the tree, but that he would die! His physical body would die. And we’ve been dying ever since.

Eating of the fruit was, I believe, when he took into himself—or fell into the doctrine of—the serpent, the belief that he could have life by his own works, knowing good from evil, and choosing the good, instead of continuing in the life freely given by God, lived in innocence of both good and evil!

Jesus repeatedly said that he came to bring life. Could it be that that life is best lived with the knowledge of our innocence restored, in the death of Jesus, where all sin and death died with him! That that life is not by the law, which is the platform from which knowledge of good and evil operates.

Glory! Thanks for a great article, Pastor Walker.

– Helen Teichroeb, Grande Prairie, Alta.


What To Do With Our Dead Bodies?

I enjoyed the article in the November/December issue [Resurrecting Our Belief…]. I secretly hoped that the author would comment on what to do with our dead bodies. As I anticipate my own demise I wonder if I should opt for economy (very Mennonite) by cremation, or burial without preservation (not pretty or suitable for viewing), which is what a large portion of the world does by necessity and Jews do by custom/faith.  The most expensive form is the embalming and casket route.

Does the disposition of my body affect my resurrection?  I hope not.  The skeletal remains of those in the catacombs I suspect would echo my query.

Great questions to discuss and explore. My first job was at a cemetery, which led me to want to avoid what I saw as excess (cement vaults, carved walnut caskets, large headstones, etc.).

I have yet to decide on options for myself. My family reminds me that my preferences may have no impact on what happens to my body anyway. The topic remains intriguing.

– Gordon Dyck, Steinbach, Man.

Letters November/December 2016

God Himself Corrects Israel

I agree with Don Plett (An Ill-Advised Resolution Against Israel, October 2016) that Scripture tells us that Israel is a nation chosen and loved by God. I disagree with Don Plett about how to bless Israel. God has spent all of history loving and drawing unfaithful Israel back to Himself through correction and discipline, often getting very angry! I do not feel that blessing the nation of Israel means turning a blind eye to the atrocities taking place in Palestine.

Scripture is clear about how Israel is expected to behave toward the alien and stranger. Leviticus 19:34: “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” Exodus 22:21: “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him….” Deut. 10:19: “So show your love for the alien….”

I don’t know if sanctions on Israel are the appropriate Mennonite response to the oppression being wrought on Palestine. But I certainly feel that Mennonites can despise the ungodly actions of the Israeli Defense Force and ought to support some form of non-violent response to illegal settlements and brutality.

– Jen Kornelsen, Winnipeg, Man.


Conflict and Friends

I appreciate the balanced approach featuring a column by Senator Don Plett and a response from Dan Dyck, representing Mennonite Church Canada.

I agree with brother Plett that as Christians we have a connection with the Jews and are called to seek the blessing of Israel and pray for her peace.  I certainly affirm her right to exist as a sovereign people in the land.  With brother Dyck, I deplore the violence that has been perpetrated against Israel by groups such as Hamas.

While brother Plett warns that the resolution affirmed by Mennonite Church Canada delegates is “an extreme position against Israel,” he offers no alternative solution to address the ongoing conflict. Granted, no simple solution exists.  But I believe that as Christians seeking to be peacemakers, we have an opportunity and an obligation to start somewhere.

The resolution in question may in the long run achieve very limited results. But it is a way of responding to the pleas of our Christian Palestinian brothers and sisters, and can raise awareness of the issues.  To do this does not mean that you are anti-Semitic or against Israel.

I would hope that to be a friend of Israel includes being willing to challenge her on current destructive policies, and encourage her to take steps that make for peace and dignity for all within her borders.  True friends tell you what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear.

The biblical record shows that Israel’s occupation of the land was always conditional on her faithfulness to God, including the treatment of the alien and stranger in her midst.

– Ward Parkinson, Morris, Man.


Restoration

The October 2016 issue hit on some important issues hopefully precipitating further discussion: forgiveness of sins (Harvey Plett), The Gospel defined (Darryl Klassen), and policing (Layton Friesen). Two of the articles touch on an issue needing further clarification—reconciliation.

Dr. Plett states at the end of his article that after forgiveness, “reconciliation and renewed relationship should happen” (my emphasis). Layton Friesen similarly states “we have to find more peaceful, humane and effective ways of resolving conflict. For example ‘restorative justice’….” Dr. Klassen also hints at “reconciliation” in his last paragraph.

These statements tantalizingly imply processes that are involved and far from automatic. My concern is that where there is offence, for example, in domestic abuse that there is also a justifiable loss of trust that is not easily repaired (Do we put a thief back in charge of accounts receivable?). The loss of trust often makes it pragmatically impossible for a relationship to be restored to where it once was.

The church has sometimes forced (coerced?) an abused and vulnerable spouse back to a partner who cannot be trusted, and it is predictable that the offence will recur. This puts a double onus on the person wronged—to forgive the abuser again and then to refrain from lawsuit against the church for foreseeable harm done. It is not enough merely to put the couple back together assuming that this is the biblical answer!

Some of us have also experienced cases where the church has intervened to protect the wronged spouse. These actions have at times lead to a healthy and happy remarriage or contented “singleness” opted for while the abuser usually finds little in the way of healing.

We are left with the question, then, “What is the church’s responsibility in bringing about reconciliation and healing?”

– Ray Hill, MacGregor, Man.

Letters October 2016

Seeking Peace in Israel-Palestine

Thank you to Senator Don Plett for raising his concerns about justice in Israel and Palestine [An Ill-Advised Resolution Against Israel]. It is important to discuss these matters if—and perhaps especially when—our views do not agree.

It is important for readers to know some background to the resolution that was affirmed by delegates. Mennonite Church Canada has been engaged in understanding the Middle East conflict for decades. We were asked by Christian Palestinians to advocate on their behalf in their plight. In this regard, it is important to know that we are not conflating all Palestinians into one category.

Certainly there is Palestinian violence against Israel that we do not support, but these acts do not represent the Palestinian Christians we know. We would challenge leaders of other Mennonite conferences and churches to also consider how they would respond to such a request from fellow Christians in light of the Bible’s over-arching call to the faithful for justice and mercy.

We are not seeking to deny Israel or its people the right to exist. Rather, we seek to make Israel the best country it can possibly be. Our own Canadian government and the United Nations have called for human rights for Palestinians. Canada’s own policy statement in regards to Israel states, “Canada does not recognize permanent Israeli control over territories occupied in 1967” (http://tinyurl.com/ygtd6p2).

It is important to not conflate all Israelis, their government, and the Jewish people into one homogenous group acting in unity. There are numerous groups of Israelis and Jewish people who support justice for Palestinians, including Rabbis for Human Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace, and others.

These are undoubtedly complex issues. Readers wishing to learn more about the issue in general and the Mennonite Church Canada resolution specifically (http://tinyurl.com/zrotfxq) have vast resources available to them, such as the Kairos document by Palestinian Christians at http://tinyurl.com/jxz9d7h. Mennonite Church Canada encourages Mennonites belonging to any conference to become deeply acquainted with the subject matter, and to listen with openness.

– Dan Dyck, Director,  Church Engagement-Communications Mennonite Church Canada


Do We Love the Whole Church?

Layton Friesen’s article “Is Your Congregation the Real Church?”(July-Aug.) encouraged us to accept para-church partners under the umbrella of “The Church,” thus broadening our idea and practice of Church. I would like to extend his idea a little.

Christ left no blueprint for the Church save His “walk” and command to “love one another.” Differences in visions of the Body of Christ has splintered the Church into Syriac, African, Roman, Eastern Orthodox, and a myriad of Protestant denominations—all who consider themselves the “true” Church.

Even the earliest Church was split into two camps. The early Jewish believers waited in Jerusalem for the imminent return of the Lord. Ready acceptance of the gospel caused the Hellenistic Jews to be received as equals. Philip who loved the Samaritans also reached out to an Ethiopian eunuch. Jewish purity was being eroded!

Saul, the Great Persecutor, was commissioned to preach to the Gentiles of all things—fodder for early schism. Indeed, Paul had to visit Jerusalem 12 years later to counter the Judaisers and address the growing rift. He later returned to fulfill an oath to the Temple knowing that it would lead to his death.

He literally willingly sacrificed his life for the love and unity of the Church. Not just the Gentile Church that he loved, but the whole Church, the True Church.

Do we love the whole Church? How would that affect our prayers, words, and actions? What are we willing to sacrifice for its unity?

– Ray Hill, MacGregor, Man.

Don Plett: An Ill-Advised Resolution Against Israel

By Don Plett

At its recent Assembly, the Mennonite Church Canada passed a resolution calling for boycott-divestment-sanctions (BDS) measures against Israelis.

Specifically, the resolution called on Church bodies and members “to avoid investing in or supporting companies that do business with Israeli settlements and the Israel Defense Forces, and companies that are profiting from the occupation of the Palestinian territories,” and called on the Government of Canada “to support measures that put pressure on Israel (including through economic sanctions).”

As a Mennonite, I am extremely discouraged to see any Mennonite conference in Canada take this stance.

Ever since scripture was translated into common language, over 500 years ago, it has been explicitly clear that the nation of Israel was given a land known as Canaan and that the gift came directly from God himself.

As Christians, we know that biblical text is the written word of God. The message of God when it comes to support for Israel and the Jewish people is abundantly clear, and is illustrated in several examples of scripture.

In Genesis 12:3 (NIV), God is speaking to Abraham as he says: “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Many Christians believe that history has shown that those nations who have blessed the Jewish people have received the blessing of God; while the nations who have cursed the Jewish people have experienced the curse of God.

Likewise, scripture tell us that Christians are indebted to Jews, as their contributions gave birth to the Christian faith. The Apostle Paul recorded in Romans 15:27 (NIV), “They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.”

And, of course, the Bible confirms that the Lord Jesus Christ was a practicing Orthodox Jew.

However, most Christians’ support for Israel goes well beyond scripture. The historical legitimacy of Israel, in all of its territory, as a nation is indisputable. And, as it stands today, Israel is a nation of democratic choice, individual freedom and modern thought standing alone in the middle of backwards, regressive dictatorships.

It goes without saying that there will be times when we, as Christians and as individuals, will have ideological differences with the political leaders of Israel, as we will with any nation’s government. However, Mennonite Church Canada has taken an extreme position against Israel, which I maintain is in direct contradiction to the written word of God.

We need to remember that, with the exception of Israel, all nations were created by mankind. Israel was created by an act of God. This is something that needs to remain sacred, and on our support for Israel, Christians need to remain consistent.

Senator Don Plett
Don Plett, member at Prairie Rose EMC

As a Mennonite and as a Christian, I would like to make it explicitly clear that, despite the name of the conference, Mennonite Church Canada does not speak for all Mennonites in adopting this ill-advised resolution.

Editor’s Note: A reply was issued by Dan Dyck, Director of  Church Engagement Communications, Mennonite Church Canada. It can be found here