Should Christians Support Israel?

How Just War can help us think through the conflict in Gaza.


John Stonestreet

Almost eight months after the war began in Gaza, it has no signs of letting up. While we were all horrified by the attacks on October 7, many in the media and academia have been quick to shift the blame from Hamas to Israel for what they say is a genocidal overreaction.  

Last fall, Dr. Eric Patterson, now President and CEO of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, discussed with me how the Just War tradition can help us think through the atrocities of Hamas and the retaliation by Israel. 

In our conversation, Dr. Patterson argued that governments have a God-given obligation to defend the innocent. As he put it, 

There’s a whole superstructure in the Bible on certain principles. One is governance. God created the family as a unit of governance. He created the Church as a unit of governance within its sphere. And we know in the Old and the New Testament, such as in Romans 13, there’s a principle of government authority to protect and defend. The Bible has a lot to say about vocations, including those called the security and foreign policy vocations: Nehemiah, Joseph; in the New Testament, centurions and others. And so, there’s never a teaching in the Bible that Christians are supposed to step outside of those public service vocations to protect and defend. 

Still, some Christians who take seriously Jesus’ command to love their enemies have a hard time seeing how that should play out when it comes to nations at war.Ultimately, it is the command to love our neighbors that grounds the Christian responsibility, of both individuals and governments, to oppose evil through proper channels of authority. The love of our enemies, which Christ commanded, should inform how we oppose evil. In as much, Dr. Patterson argued, intentions matter:   

I think what the Just War tradition helps us with is looking at Israeli politics, looking at leaders and things and asking the question, “Is the reason you’re doing this out of love of neighbor, love of country, or have you strayed over this line where you are full of hate and what you really want to do is out of wrath, out of hatred, out of bitterness?” 

When the enemy is dehumanized, Patterson asserted, the war devolves away from justice. Of course, Hamas has never seen Jews as fully human. Israel, on the other hand, has placed itself under the obligations of international law, which has been shaped by the Christian Just War tradition.  

They’ve committed to be proportional in their response, though that is not measured mathematically. They’ve committed to distinguish between civilians and combatants, though that does not mean they are responsible every time a civilian is killed. They’ve committed to treat prisoners humanely and to wage war with a view toward peace in the end.  

Of course, like any fallen group of people, Israel will fail to fully abide by its principles. At the same time, failing to live up to principles is far better than rejecting those principles altogether.Israel’s commitments impose a heavy burden on those who fight and stand in stark contrast to Hamas, Boko Haram, ISIS, and the Taliban.  

Still, if as many Palestinians have died as is claimed, you may be wondering if Christians should still support Israel in this war. In response, on June 6, the Colson Center is hosting a Breakpoint Forum with Dr. Eric Patterson and Dr. Jeff Myers of Summit Ministries.  

While Dr. Patterson will bring his expertise on questions of Just War, Dr. Myers will bring his long experience applying a Christian worldview to tough issues. His new book applies a Christian worldview to the Gaza War. Please join us for this important livestream conversation, at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday, June 6, followed by a Q&A time. Breakpoint Forums are free, but you must register. Go to 

For more resources to live like a Christian in this cultural moment, go to   

This Breakpoint was revised from one released on 11.8.23. 


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