As with many of you, I was appalled to hear of the beheading of the 21 Coptic Christians by the hands of the Islamic terrorist group known as ISIS last week. My heart certainly goes out to their families. I cannot begin to imagine what they are currently going through. We absolutely must be praying that they experience the comfort of Christ at this time. What this group has done for the lie they have bought into in their blindness is unjustifiable.
As a pastor who is committed to helping people have a biblical worldview; to understand and view the world around them through the lens of Scripture, I want to take a moment to remind us of some things that God's Word teaches us about this situation.
Don't Forget Jesus' Commands
While our natural reaction to this injustice is to desire to see the US drop a hellfire missile to take this group out, we can't forget what our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ commanded us in regards to our enemies. He said, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say unto you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."
The Christian response to this tragedy, according to Jesus is love and prayer. We are not to hate the members of ISIS and wish the worst on them but love them and pray for them. Sound hard, difficult, almost impossible, you think? Yes, but such is why we need God's grace to enable us to do this. If we have hatred in our hearts towards this group and are not praying for them then we are being disobedient to Jesus. A place no genuine believer should want to be.
Now, I am not saying how the government itself should respond to this. Basically, ISIS has declared war on this nation. They have killed American citizens and threatened our leaders. God is clear that the government has the right to bear the sword and that it is designed to serve as "an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil" (Romans 13:4). There may be a case for military action on the part of the government in this instance. But as for the Church, we are to love and pray for our enemies. This would include ISIS as well as the Boko Haram and other terrorist groups out there.
Don't Forget That We Deserve Hell Just As Much
The sobering reality that we must also remember is that we deserve Hell just as much as these terrorists. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We have earned death, both physical and spiritual (Romans 6:23). Our hope can only be found in Jesus Christ who experienced that death in the place of those who turn from their sin and place their absolute trust in Him and who conquered death in His resurrection. Apart from Christ and His righteousness, we are no different than ISIS or any of these terrorist groups for that matter. As R. C. Sproul, Jr. has said, "Measured by holiness I am in myself far closer to ISIS than I am to Jesus. Praise Jesus I am not in myself." As much as we may hate to admit it, we must recognize that the same is true for each of us. Praise God for His grace and mercy!
Don't Forget The Power of God
Speaking of God's grace and mercy, let's not forget that the members of ISIS are not so far that God's grace and mercy cannot reach them. After all, there was a man named Saul, who was also known as Paul, who stood by and approved the murder of a Christian named Stephen (Acts 7:58; 8:1). This man served as a leader in the persecution of the Church, dragging men and women to prison (Acts 8:3), "breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord" (Acts 9:1), and zealous in seeking to put an end to the Church (Acts 9:2). However, the Lord Jesus Christ confronted him on the way to Damascus, blinded him physically, but opened his eyes spiritually. And the former terrorist who set out to destroy the Church became a chosen instrument of God through whom the Lord continued to build it.
If God has the power to save a terrorist such as Paul, certainly He has the power to convert any of ISIS or Boko Haram. Part of our prayer for them should be their salvation. That the Lord would change their heart and draw them to Christ. In fact, this is the very reason that Paul states that he was shown mercy, to display God's patience to the most wretched of sinners whom He chooses. "Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life" (1 Timothy 1:16).
I fear too often that we have what I like to call the "Jonah Syndrome." (And I intentionally say "we" here because that includes me.) We would rather see God's judgment upon our enemies instead of His mercy. The reason why Jonah went the opposite way of Ninevah at first was because he knew it was in God's character to forgive those who repent and he wanted to see the entire city with their people destroyed (Jonah 4:1-2). If he didn't give them the message, they would not have known of their need to repent and would have perished under God's wrath. Examine your heart. Is this the attitude that you have towards ISIS or Boko Haram? Do you want God to pour out His judgment upon them or for God to bring them to repentance in order to show mercy to them? Remember God's desire as expressed in 1 Timothy 2:3-4, "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." That "all men" would include terrorists.
So, let's approach the events of this world biblically. To see and handle things as the Bible instructs us to. Including cowardly acts of terror from those who hate the triune Creator God.
Soli Deo Gloria!!!
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. ~2 Timothy 2:15
- I am a young man who is following God's call into pastoral ministry. I have been so blessed with the privileges which the Lord has granted me. I am blessed to serve the Mt. Joy congregation in Mt. Pleasant, PA. I am constantly humbled and amazed at what the Lord is doing in my life.