Thursday, April 23, 2015

What Does a Christian Response to ISIS Look Like?

Once again ISIS (Islamic State in Syria) has beheaded a group of Christians. This time they were from Ethiopia. Previously, the Christians that were murdered were from Egypt. As I think about these recent events what strikes me is just how much the reactions of Christians in America are out of line with what the Bible states that they should be. I do understand the outrage that people feel, but understanding that outrage does not make many of the reactions in line with what should be the Christian response to such horrific scenes.

The average response seems to be one of immediate military action in which we begin to send in troops, or at the very least launch missile strikes, or fly-overs of drones, in order to "decapitate" those that have decapitated Christians. That type of response certainly seems very far removed from "Turn the other cheek . . . Walk the extra mile . . . Give your coat also." We must remind ourselves that Jesus made those statements at a time when an extremely oppressive Roman force was occupying the land that God had promised to the children of Abraham. We should also note that it was the thief on the cross that challenged Jesus to call down warring angels. Jesus offered forgiveness instead.

What about the hooded men holding the knives? Do we pray as Jesus did, "Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing"? Would that not be a more appropriate response. Would that not be a response that would be more in keeping with what our Lord and Savior would desire? Why are we so quick to think such a response is "weak."  What takes more strength, pulling a gun on an assailant or turning one's cheek for a second blow? Which is more likely to win the Middle East for Christ: missile launches or martyrdom? Is the real answer to blow up a mosque for every church that was destroyed, kill a Muslim family for every Christian family that was affected by a beheading? Why is it that the average Christian response looks more like a script from talk radio than it does scripture?

Why do we seldom stop to consider that perhaps the martyrdom of the saints in Egypt and Ethiopia is a part of the plan of God to build His Church? Why does such a statement shock so many people? Does the New Testament not clearly tell us that we should expect persecution. Did not the Apostle Paul just prior to his own beheading state, "Join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life -- not because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day" (2 Timothy 1:8-12). Paul didn't call for missile strikes or commando raids. He called the Church to join in the suffering!

I would submit that Church History will reveal that ISIS has fallen into the hands of God and is being played the fool. Those kneeling on beaches and spilling their blood because they refuse to denounce Christ and convert to Islam are crying out to those that are watching that there is something worth dying for! There is no more powerful message than that. "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command" (John 15:13-14). I fully anticipate that what ISIS has meant to destroy the Church will serve to embolden her and will bring revival to that part of the world like we have never seen before.

This is my prayer as I see these events unfolding in the Middle East: "May the men in black be touched as the Roman centurion at the cross was touched at the execution of Christ. And may the Church stop its cry to "take up the sword" and begin to take up the cross!"