An American pastor of a diverse congregation in
Israel known to be targeted by anti-Christian vandals, reminded
those in attendance at a recent Mideast prayer service that,
according to the Bible, the Jewish people were chosen by God in
special service to the world, and never designated as "the
teacher's pet." He also called for Christians to be careful in
jumping to judgement and picking sides in the long-standing
The Rev. Charles M. Kopp, pastor of the Baptist Narkis Street
Congregation, a 100-member Christian church in West
Jerusalem, made the remarks last Thursday evening at a World
Evangelical Alliance prayer meeting at the Salvation Army
International Social Justice Commission in New York City.
The occasion of the prayer meeting was "A Call to Prayer for the
Middle East," with additional remarks made by the Rev. Gabriel
Salguero, President of National Latino Evangelical Coalition; Dr.
Munir Kakish, Chairman of the Council of Evangelical Churches in the Holy Land (representing Evangelicals in Palestinian
Territories); and the Rev. Harry Tees, WEA Ambassador to the
Holy Land. During the prayer meeting, opened by WEA United
Nations Permanent Representative Deborah Fikes, mention was
made of conflicts raging in Syria and Iraq, as well as in other
countries in the Middle East.
that, naturally, was the focus of remarks made by the Rev. Kopp,
who in addition to pastoring a church, is the chairman of the
Evangelical Alliance of Israel. Kopp was born in Los Angeles,
California, and has been living in Israel for 48 years. He has been
leading the Baptist Narkis Street Congregation for 22 years.
"Remembering that part of the world is so crucial to world
peace," Kopp told the dozen or so people in attendance at the
prayer service. "It's at the crossroads of continents. In and of
itself it's insignificant, significant territory — it doesn't have the
oil like the rest of the Middle East. It doesn't have … reservoirs of
minerals [and] precious metals, but it's at the crossroads of the
10/40 Window. … You have Israel located at the very heart 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," added Kopp,
noting that he has lived among Muslims, among Jews, and "lived
on both sides of the political equation, and enjoy both peoples
"But it's good to have a little background to understand what
we're dealing with, the crux of the problem," he said.
"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 regard to their belief the Jewish people were "chosen" by God,
Christians generally point to Old Testament passages like
Deuteronomy 7:6, which reads: "For you are a people holy to the
Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the
peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured
possession." In their distinctive relationship with God, the
ancient Israelites, according to Christian interpretation of
passages like Isaiah 43:10-13, were to be witnesses to the
world of His existence.
"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 insisted that it was not his place to deal with that
question. "But God will work things out in His way and His
time," he added.
The pastor and EAI chairman cautioned attendees "to be careful
not to jump into judgement and condemn either side,"
referencing the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"The Arabs are the most hospitable people in the world bar
none," he added. "You can go [into an] Arab neighborhood and
they will welcome you into their home to eat, to drink, to stay
with them. And the Israelis have another culture. They are hard
to get to know. It's been said, they're like the prickly pear (or a
sabra , slang for native Israeli Jews) — prickly on the outside but
sweet on the inside once you get to know them. So each have
their unique positive points and negative points, but God has
called us to love both sides."
Kopp begged 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 irregardless of their background."
Sharing about his congregation in Israel, which includes Jews,
Arabs, and other ethnic groups, Kopp stated that everyone is
encouraged "to get to know Palestinians on a first name basis,
make real friendships with Palestinians." They are also
encouraged to get to know their Jewish neighbors personally.
"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."
Kopp has previously stated that it was "imperative" for
Christians to "remember that our first allegiance and citizenship
is from above and that we cannot use the Bible selectively to
defend the cause with which we identify."