If you are a Christian, you have to recognize that the global crisis we face as humans is directly addressed by Scripture, and no amount of news coverage, social media squawking, or ill-informed opinion should trump our Scriptural mandate to love our enemy, pray for those who persecute us, and welcome the foreigner.
After the attacks in Paris (and in Beirut, and the ongoing ones in the Middle East, and the ones that have already happened in Kenya, Canada, and here in the United States) it is easy to be scared. You see the news. Your heart beats a little faster. The horrifying images.
Is it okay to go to the mall?
Should we stay away from the game this weekend?
How long before it happens again here?
Fear produces a lot of words, thoughts, and feelings we wouldn’t have in moments of peace. But the language we hear on television and read online does not calm us. It only stirs up more anxiety. This is by design, one could argue, or at least the logical consequence of living in a messed up world.
I saw a map in the aftermath of the Paris bombings. The headline was ominous:
“23 CONFIRMED ISIS TRAINING CAMPS IN THE UNITED STATES”
It was accompanied by an image meant to strike fear into the hearts of every reader.
I couldn’t help myself, so I counted the little location markers on the map. Sure enough, there aren’t 23…there are more than 50. Seemed like the headline was trying to snag my attention along with a scary graphic, but the graphic didn’t support the headline. So I did a Google Image search.
As it turns out, this image first appeared in a blog in 2013 about Muslim Student Associations on American college campuses. It’s not an article that looks fondly upon Islam, generally, but it has nothing to do with ISIS training camps, for sure. It has to do with Muslim students having dietary options in the cafeteria that comply with their religious obligations.
I point all this out to say this:
Fear causes us to see a lot of boogie-men who aren’t there. Are there radicalized Islamic individuals in the United States of America? I have no doubt. Will they someday strike? Quite probably. Is there a 100% chance that we can stop every incident of terror? No way. Should we try? Of course. Is ISIS our enemy? Yes. What should we do with our enemies? As Christians we have two options:
- Tremble in fear and support efforts to wipe them off the face of the earth.
- Love our enemy.
Lest you think I’m a pacifist, let me just say this: I’m not. I admit, I won’t be harboring any members of ISIS in my spare bedroom any time soon. But whatever it means to love my enemy, as a believer I have to do that.
And one more thing: If you think every Muslim on the planet is a member of ISIS, sympathetic to their cause, or rooting silently for them to win against western civilization, my guess is you’ve probably never met a Muslim.
We live in a messy world. One Facebook post, another blog on the subject, or one Fox News or CNN host opining won’t solve all our problems. Governments have much to consider. Nations — living by the rules of the Kingdoms of this world — have an obligation to defend their territory. Who they let in (or don’t), who they’re suspicious of (or not), and who they arrest (or let free) is a decision their leaders will make. These decisions will be made because of (or in spite of) much informed, uninformed debate. There will be no consensus. It’s too tangled of a web.
But this blog isn’t about that.
As I think about all the mess this world finds itself in, I can’t help but think that as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have the fortunate advantage of a much clearer mandate. It really is simple. It’s so simple it’s scary.
“Love your enemy.” — God (Matthew 5:44)
“Pray for those who persecute you.” — God (Matthew 5:44)
“Love those who are foreigners.” — God (Deuteronomy 10:19)
Christian, we worship a God who let his enemies kill him on purpose and invites all to come to His table. For us, at this time, in this global moment, we must wrestle with the question:
How can we call ourselves His followers if we’re not willing to do the same?