THE TAKE AWAY
The Christian Response to Terrorism
By Kersley Fitzgerald
We recently got a question from a gentleman who wanted to know why it was that in all our articles and posts about Islam, we don't talk about the evil done in the name of Islam. In the more formal articles, we don't talk about ISIS killing babies and Boko Haram kidnapping and marrying off girls.
I answered that there are plenty of other sites that detail the atrocities going on in the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere, but our focus is on comparing the teaching of Islam to what is found in the Bible as objectively as possible.
That answer was, perhaps, incomplete. Because our focus is also on finding a biblical response to religious extremists — and any other hard and evil situation we find ourselves exposed to.
But the appropriate response is not universal. It is not universal for the situation or the individual responding or the time. This is something the Bible illustrates well in the lives of three of God's servants: Joshua, Jeremiah, and Jonah.
The Children of Israel have had their forty-year traipse through the desert. Moses is dead. It's Joshua's time. God commissions him as a military leader to invade and destroy the incredibly evil people of Canaan. God starts by telling him not to fear (Joshua 1:7, 9) and reaffirms His covenant with the people (Joshua 3-5). Then God lets Joshua loose. Despite a couple of hiccoughs (Joshua 7, 9), the Israelites do a pretty good job at defeating their enemy.
We may find ourselves in that position too. Perhaps literally, for those in the military or law enforcement. Perhaps figuratively as we help a friend who is struggling with a lifestyle they need to leave. This is total rejection, destruction of the enemy, take no prisoners. The stuff of movies. It's not easy, but the focus is simple.
But sometimes our job is a lot harder. Jeremiah was one of Judah's last prophets before the people were taken into captivity in Babylon. He didn't fight the invaders. In fact, God commissioned him specifically to tell his people not to fight (Jeremiah 27:8-11). Instead, they were to submit to their conquerors and know that God would deliver and bless them in the future (Jeremiah 29:10-11). This was really, really not easy. Jeremiah is known as "the weeping prophet" because both his message and the reality of the situation were so horrible (Lamentations 3:48-49). Despite this, he kept his faith in God.
A couple of weeks ago, ISIS killed several Coptic Christians in Libya and then broadcast the murders. A brother of two of the martyrs thanked ISIS — not for killing his brothers — but for allowing his brothers' declarations of faith to be aired in their entirety. Horrible, inevitable situation, and God was glorified. Like Jeremiah, it's okay to mourn even as we trust God.
Jonah's problem was that he trusted God, but he didn't like what he trusted. The people of Nineveh were probably on par with ISIS when it comes to brutality in war — or worse. God commissioned Jonah to travel to Nineveh and tell the people to repent. Jonah didn't want to because he knew if the people did repent, God would have mercy on them and refrain from squashing them like bugs. Finally, after a detour of mythical proportions, Jonah did as asked. And just like he feared, the Ninevites changed their ways and God relented.
When we hear the story of Jonah, we chuckle and shake our heads. Foolish Jonah. What was he thinking going against God's word? An object lesson to us all. But how many of us would be willing to travel to ISIS-controlled territory to preach the gospel of repentance? How many would rather volunteer to be on the first ship to Mars? Would we be willing? Would we eventually go? Very few of us, I think.
There's another example that encompasses all three and more. Unlike Jonah, Jesus willingly came to preach to a hostile audience, knowing that if people listened, God would be merciful. Like Jeremiah, He told His followers several times to expect persecution, fixing His sight on the future glory. On the cross, He fought like Joshua against sin and Satan, completely defeating His enemies.
But He went beyond. He sacrificed His life. He forgave His enemies. He mourned, but He wasn't characterized by sorrow. He lived with joy and trust in God and most of all a love that we are too quick to set aside in our fears and self-righteousness.
As a Christian, interacting with wide-spread hardship and evil isn't simple. We have to be willing to hear and obey God's commission in each arena and for each day. There is no one right way to face worldwide horrors; we each have our place in God's plan. Whether God calls us to conquer like Joshua, submit with hope like Jeremiah, or preach like Jonah, we need to be sure of our place and rely on His big picture. But, even in light of these examples, it's telling that the One we are told to emulate is Jesus.
Image Credit: Curtis Alan Jackson; "After this, I give up. Probably."; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Truth | Christian-Life | Current-Issues | Hardships
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