How Should Christians Respond to ISIS? We should at least consider the “old response”- the one lived out in the New Testament. The true message from The People of the Cross.
And maybe we should have tried it back in 2001. The church should have prayed loud and clear, “Osama Bin Laden will be saved!”
Maybe we missed the moment.
Understandably after 9/11 we reacted with grief and begged for justice, war, and our version of peace. We forgot the supernatural Jesus-formula to, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” And because of that we denied ourselves the possibility of having another Book of Acts, version 2.0. Possibly better than the original.
Stay with me please, there is precedent for the madness I speak.
Saul of Tarsus was a terrorist. That’s right, the writer of more than 40% of the New Testament used to be a kind of Al-Qaeda. An ISIS of sorts. Actually, the first Christian martyrdom happened with his active support. His victim was Stephen, a young man whose only crime was preaching Jesus. His “just” reward was lawful murder (stuck inside a hole, while rocks disfigured his head). And when Stephen was breathing his last, he asked God to forgive the ones who were killing him.
“Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Acts. 7:60
I think God liked that prayer.
Because the Lord that Stephen prayed to, forgave the Saul that terrorized His people. And not only did God forgive Saul, but He changed him. The murdering, savage, religious fanatic became the Apostle Paul. In just one encounter with Jesus he was transformed to be one of the greatest heroes of our Christian faith.
So what if this Saul-to-Paul story is an invitation? A biblical reminder that allows us during these current events to not forget the history of the church. What if Paul is there in the Bible we love, so we begin to hate the theology we have formed? A theology that somehow justifies wars and drones and racism and hate. A theology that somehow values an American-Canadian-British-Australian life more than a Iraqi-Afgani-Iranian-Syrian one. What if the church would have stood in one voice and asked our governments to spend all the money that was used for war, on building schools, sending missionaries, bringing clean water, assisting refugees and loving the poor. What if?
Seriously, what if?
Because most of the theology preached in western churches was formed and perfected by an ex-terrorist from the middle east. So what if the “Road to Damascus” experience could have happened to Bin Laden in 2002? Yes, his terrible crimes demanded serious consequences; but what if from prison Bin Laden could have become the greatest evangelist to the Muslim world?
You see, the Jesus we worship over here, died for the sins of the Romans that crucified him over there. He gave His life for the Pharisees’ who accused him, the Saul who persecuted him, the Hitler who brought the Holocaust and the hooded man from ISIS who is beheading our Christian brothers and sisters.
The Son of God could not help it,
“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:2
I agree with Carl Medearis on this, “The way of the cross is perhaps the most aggressive stance towards evil ever taken. The love that God offers the world, in Christ, is not wimpy – it is a robust affront to the systems of our day that cry out for blood and revenge. The way of Jesus is the hard way. Forgiveness, love, choosing to lay down our lives is the most difficult path in the face of real enemies. Evil is real. But love is far more powerful.”
I’m sorry for being naive. I know it’s ignorant to simplify something that is so very complicated. Actual people are dying while I sit here and write. It’s not fair.
I also have friends and family members who have sacrificed so much in the service and protection of our nations. To them I am grateful. But their courage demands that we challenge the system that puts their lives at risk. And I wish it was us, the church. The body of Christ speaking with the loudest voice. Not to complain and criticise and point the finger. But a voice that expresses love when hate is expected. That gives grace when justice seems fair. That forgives 70 x 7.
We, His people, the ones with the guts and the willingness to pray, to love, to go. Jesus Christ Version 2.0
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best when talking about the ministry of Jesus, “The relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking out against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the Good News was meant for all men, for communists and capitalists, for their children and ours, for black and white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the One who loved His enemies so fully that he died for them? What, then, can I say to the Vietcong, or to Castro, or to Mao, as a faithful minister to Jesus Christ? Can I threaten them with death, or must I not share with them my life? Finally, I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men, the calling to be the son of the Living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood. And because I believe the Father is deeply concerned, especially for His suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come today to speak for them.”
I am no MLK (not as bright, as handsome or as brave) but I write today to speak for them myself. And I pray.
I pray for the displaced children in Syria. I pray for our Christian brothers in Northern Iraq. I pray for peace in Jerusalem and Gaza. I pray protection for our troops and wisdom for our government leaders. I pray for the families of the 21 Egyptian Christians martyred this week.
And I know this is just one side of the issue, but I hope you can join your voice with mine and declare with faith, “The hooded men from ISIS will be saved!” For them I also pray.
In Jesus name… who according to 1 Tim. 2:4, ” desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
PS. Normal rules apply – if you like it, please share it. If you don’t like it, let me know your thoughts on the comments section below.
*The ultimate challenge your faith and theology book: The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne. It’s so good.
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