Faith and Obedience: A Calling to Support Israel

Some people are called to be leaders for their generation. Emilio Navarrete is one of those people. His resume is already impressive, and he hasn’t even graduated from college yet. As a Junior at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona, he’s not only the Vice President of his CUFI on Campus chapter. He’s also the president of his school’s College Republicans chapter and serves as the Finance Secretary of the Arizona Federation of College Republicans, along with serving in four other student organizations. He’s already been a Congressional intern, and it’s safe to say he’s passionate about politics. But he’s even more passionate about his faith, and for Emilio that means being passionate about Israel.

Emilio visited Israel for the first time last August as a CUFI on Campus Bonhoeffer Fellow. Before going on the trip, he was asked to study the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. While reading Bonhoeffer’s book, The True Cost of Discipleship, he took note of the idea that faith and obedience cannot be separated. Bonhoeffer wrote that it is impossible to be faithful without being obedient to God’s Word, and that it is impossible to be obedient without having faith. In Israel, Emilio discovered what that meant.

There were three experiences that deeply impacted Emilio on his trip. At the Western Wall on Shabbat, he was overwhelmed with the spiritual significance of where he stood praying. In the place closest to where God’s physically manifested presence once inhabited the Holy of Holies, Emilio felt closer to Heaven than he’d ever been. Sharing that special moment with his friends bonded their hearts to Israel and to each other in a powerful way. It set the stage for everything they would see and learn throughout the rest of the trip.

Then when their group toured Israel’s security fence along the border, Emilio was struck by how much compassion Israel had shown toward the Palestinians who were affected by the construction of the fence. The architect of the fence explained to them how he had carefully tried to balance the security of the Israelis who needed to be protected from the constant threat of terrorism with the desire to limit the fence’s inconvenience to the daily lives of Palestinians as much as possible. The route of the fence was carefully planned and adjusted several times to accommodate the individual concerns of the people along its path. While explaining this, the man who built the fence expressed his deep regret that it needed to exist in the first place, and his hope that one day there would be a true peace and he wanted to be first in line to tear the fence down when that day came. For Emilio, this example represented a common theme among the Israelis he met. They all strongly desired peace and wished to be able to live in harmony with their Palestinian neighbors, and were dedicated to doing anything they could to make that dream a reality.

But the experience that really changed Emilio’s life was meeting a man who had embraced Bonhoeffer’s mantle of inseparable faith and obedience. Pastor Khoury, an Arab Christian living in Bethlehem, told the Bonhoeffer Fellows how intensely he’s been persecuted by members of his community for standing up for Israel and for preaching that God loves the Jewish people and has not abandoned His promises to them. Emilio was impressed by Pastor Khoury’s courage, and saw in him a living example of the kind of bold faith and obedience that Bonhoeffer wrote was necessary for being a true follower of Christ.

Inspired by the example of Pastor Khoury, Emilio reflected on his own life and ways in which he could be more obedient to God’s Word. Back home in Arizona, he realized that it is one thing to believe in God’s Word and another thing to follow and act on it. If Pastor Khoury could go through all of the trials and tribulations he’d experienced and still be an ardent follower of Christ, Emilio decided there was no excuse for himself or anyone else to not live with that same obedience and faith. He wanted to be a modern-day Bonhoeffer just like Pastor Khoury.

Bonhoeffer was someone who knew the dangers he faced for being obedient to God’s Word, but still chose to combat the evils of Nazi Germany because he was so rooted in his faith. He cared more about standing up for others and obeying God than he did about his own personal well-being. He was a selfless leader who would not allow evil to triumph.

“All of us can do something in our own way to follow Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” Emilio said after his trip to Israel. “I think there are a lot of leaders within the community of CUFI on Campus that emulate the ideals of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. These are the ideals that I want to use to advocate for the Jewish people and to follow God’s Word.”

Emilio plans to continue advocating for Israel and working with CUFI, not only as a student, but also after he graduates. As a young Catholic, he wants to be a voice for Israel within his section of the Church body. But he also plans to use his future career as a platform to not only speak up for Israel but also to literally work to defend Israel from threats to its security. He plans to get a Master’s degree in Public Policy and Transportation Policy, and then to work for his father, whose international cyber security company and global security logistics think tank will allow him to contribute to Israel’s safety. “However God’s plan works, I want to be involved in making sure that Israel is a secure and prosperous nation,” he said.

Emilio knows there are some Christians who would rather avoid the messiness of politics and the controversy of taking a stand for Israel. But to them, he issues a challenge drawn from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life. “Not to act is to act, and not to speak is to speak. Just because you want to be neutral, and you do not want to be politically involved, doesn’t mean that you are not taking a side. It means that you are taking a side.”

“Read the Scripture. Genesis 12:1-3 clearly states exactly what God’s intentions are and the covenant that God has with the Jewish people. There are numerous other Scriptures that show God’s connection with the Land of Israel and the Jewish people. Christians are clearly mandated to support the nation of Israel. As Bonhoeffer said, you cannot possess faith if you are not obedient to God’s Word. Part of obedience to God’s Word is supporting Israel and being advocates for the Jewish people. That is a clear mandate from God to all of us who believe in His Word.”

You can help produce more leaders like Emilio by supporting CUFI on Campus. Investing in these students is investing in the future of CUFI, Israel, and the United States as we empower a new generation of fearless advocates for God and Israel.

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