An American pastor who leads a church in Israel known to be targeted by anti-Christian extremists recently gave an inspiring speech explaining that although Jewish people are certainly called by God in the Bible, they were never intended to be the "teacher's pet," and urged Christians to be careful about choosing sides in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
The Rev. Charles M. Kopp, pastor of the Baptist Narkis Street Congregation, a 100-member Christian church in West Jerusalem, made his comments Thursday evening at a World Evangelical Alliance prayer meeting titled "A Call to Prayer for the Middle East" at the Salvation Army International Social Justice Commission in New York City.
Kopp was born in Los Angeles, California, and has been living in Israel for 48 years among both Muslims and Jews, and says he enjoys both groups equally. He has been leading the diverse Baptist Narkis Street Congregation for 22 years.
Kopp began his speech by acknowledging that Israel is "crucial to world peace" as it is "at the crossroads of continents...and of the 10/40 Window." The 10/40 Window includes areas of the world with the largest population of non-Christians.
"It's been a bone in the throat of the Islamic world," continued Kopp.
"Islam, the mandate that they have is to recover all land that was once ruled by them, and Israel was Islamic land for centuries. ... But you may think the question next to be answered is: 'What is our relationship with the Jewish people? Are they still chosen today? Do they have a special function in God's economy?' I think that it also needs to be answered," said Kopp.
"One thing that helped me was to consider the 'chosenness' question," he added. "The Jews were not chosen to lord it over the rest of the world. They were assigned to have a special position in God's economy, but they were chosen to serve."
"In God's economy, they were never intended to be the teacher's pet, but they were chosen to serve..." said Kopp. "They've given us the Holy Scriptures, they gave us the prophets, they gave us the apostles, through Christ they gave us the messiah."
"So the Church asks this question: 'how much of a part do they have to play in our day-to-day in 2014? Is there still a place for them?'" he asked.
After stating that "God will have to settle that question in your hearts," Kopp said it was not his place to answer that question, "But God will work things out in His way and His time," he added.
The pastor urged his listeners "to be careful not to jump into judgment and condemn either side," in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as God has "called us to love both sides" despite their differences.
He also encouraged attendees to "not be swayed by the media because the media lives on soundbites and slogans."
"And they want quick answers," he added. "They want to call international tribunals about war crimes. They want to wrap up the situation tidily and move on to the next issue, but this issue in the Middle East is not going to go away with one sweep of a magic wand, so we have a situation where we can be peacemakers if we'll get to know God's heart for the situation. That is to love people regardless of their background."
In concluding his speech, Kopp encouraged Christians to get to know Palestinians and Jews on a first name basis.
"Go to their homes, eat their foods. Or you invite them to eat your food. [In] that way to break down any stereotype that you might have, any prejudices that you might have for either side and just to hear the thing in their heart, the things that make them rejoice, the things that make them laugh and the things that make them happy. Get to know them, all peoples."
In his closing prayer, Kopp called on God as the "Father of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" and referred to Him as "God of the Palestinians. God of the Jews." The Christian minister prayed that God would "reach down and move on the hearts" of military leaders, politicians and everyday people. He asked that God would bring His order and the lasting peace that He "wants and desires for that region."