Chapel Speaker Encourages Students to Honor Israel
By Amanda Morad | April 18, 2013
When Robert Stearns was a Bible school student, he didn't have an inkling of Israel's significance to his Christian faith. But at Regent University's weekly chapel service on Wednesday, April 17, Stearns spoke about the nation that has driven his life's mission since his first trip to Israel 25 years ago.
"I never really understood the true promise God made to Israel before I went there," Stearns said. Having been to the nation close to 50 times, taking 10,000 "pilgrims" with him over the years, and having lived there twice, Stearns has committed his life to the people of Israel. He is the founder and executive director of Eagles' Wings, a global missional community based outside of Buffalo, N.Y., with a special focus on Israel.
"The question of Israel will, in many ways, shape the framework of global conversation over the next 10-30 years," Stearns posited. "It's not going away."
The turning point in Stearns' life came when he lived in Israel in his early 20s. He encountered the Jewish faith for the first time praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. "It was an 'aha' moment for me to realize the covenantal continuity of God through history for the people of Israel," he recalled. "We cannot continue to take Israel, Jerusalem and the Jewish people as a Biblical metaphor. This a real people with a real impact on our faith—past, present and future."
He encouraged the audience to consider the origins of their Christian faith not as 2,000 years ago at the advent of Christ, but thousands of years earlier when God said to Abraham, "Go," and he went. That moment, Stearns explained, was the beginning of the covenant God has held to every day since.
"We have to take seriously the fidelity of God to His Word," he said. "The Jewish people have not been preserved because of the righteousness of Israel but because of the righteousness of the God of Israel. They are still here because God is faithful to His Word."
In light of the historical division among Christians and Jews, Stearns made three suggestions about repairing the breech between the two faiths. First, he said, "We as believers owe a debt of gratitude to Israel and the Jewish people. We live in the blessing of God because of the people of Israel's commitment to God's covenant. We are grafted in."
Second, Christians also owe the Jewish people a debt of repentance. "If we are concerned about the reputation of Jesus Christ, we must repair what has been done in His name against the Jews."
But regardless of whether centuries of history can be mended, it's important that Christians realize they share with the Jews two common threats, Stearns explained: militant secularism, which harbors growing intolerance for God; and radical Islam, which continues to spur violence in and around Israel.
"Israel has time and time again given land for peace," Stearns said. "If Israel's enemies laid down their weapons tomorrow, there would be no more war; but if Israel laid down her weapons tomorrow, there would be no more Israel. ... [And still], God desires the peace of all His children, sons of Isaac and sons of Ishmael alike."
Stearns left the audience with the words of Isaiah 62:6, which describes every believer's imperative to be a "watchman on the wall," diligent to stand for Israel. Put simply, he said, "If you're going to access relationship with God, you love what He loves and prioritize what He prioritizes."
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