A Biblical Response to Terrorism

I sat here and tried to think of a catchy introduction to this post.  I searched my brain for a well-written lead in that would sugar coat the subject – but I don’t have one.  We are in the middle of a global terrorism crisis.  It’s bad, and it’s getting worse.  And you already know that.  It’s not occasional attacks, but daily massacres, both foreign and domestic.  Whether by a lone gunman on a college campus, a planted bomb on a passenger jet, an organized attack across a major city, or the systematic overtaking of village after village—the threat is constant and it is worldwide.  It hangs in the air all around us, and we can feel the thick darkness as it grows, a swirling, raging mass above our heads, begging us to ask: WHAT NOW?

If you have been on the internet at all lately, you will know that every world leader, politician, pastor, philosopher, and general computer user feels compelled to weigh in with a practical answer to this question.  Do we fight or not fight, should we stop going to malls, what about mental healthcare, what about racism, do we embrace or reject the refugees?  Everyone has an opinion to share as we search together for answers, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing as long as we are able to share our opinions with mutual love and respect.  We need to ask questions together.  We need to be critical thinkers.  But I am not writing this to share my political opinion; I don’t have any answers.  I am not a politician, and I don’t know the first thing about how best to handle a global safety crisis.  What I am, though, is a Christ follower.  What I do know is the scripture.  So while I haven’t one clue how the western world should fight terrorism, I do know how the Christian world should fight it.  I don’t know America’s proper response to the atrocities that are threatening us, but I do know MY proper response.  The Lord has been good to us, in that he prepared us for this very time through his commands and through his promises.  There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9), and there is nothing new about what God is calling us to do.  While I’m sure this is not an exhaustive list, I think that it’s a good starting place when we begin to ask ourselves as Christians, “What is our response to terrorism?”

 

  1. WE ARE NOT AFRAID: God is with His people.

Let me fly out of this gate with a confession: I am afraid.  I’m afraid to go shopping, I’m afraid to get on an airplane, I’m afraid to one day send my baby daughter to school.  I frequently think about my fears.  I play out scenarios in my head that never end well for my physical body.  Plain and simple, I am AFRAID of dying.  Still, the scripture commands me not to be.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4)

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

“Do not fear or be in dread of them for it is the Lord your God who goes with you.  He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

“Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God.  He will come and save you.” (Isaiah 35:4)

You see, a war ravaged earth is nothing new to God, and throughout all of time his word to his people has been the same—Don’t worry; I’ve got you.  But please do not confuse his promise to be with us in our fear with a promise to protect us from physical harm.  God has historically walked WITH his children through slavery, disease, violence, poverty, and even martyrdom, but he doesn’t always save them FROM those things.  Paul unpacks this a little bit in Romans 8:

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death…If God is for us, who can be against us?…Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?…Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8)

The Bible is pretty straightforward about the fact that as Christians, we are guaranteed to go through some really awful things.  But for those found in Christ, there needn’t be fear in any earthly trial, including death, because the promises of God reach far beyond the grave.

 

  1. WE ARE MISSIONAL: God is drawing people to Himself.

Great news!  God’s mission to seek and save the lost does not change in the wake of terrorism.  While we are facing many threats, the gospel has not been threatened; the work of Jesus on the cross has not changed.  The final command that Christ gave to his followers before he ascended into Heaven was to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)  Jesus did not qualify this charge to account for less than ideal circumstances.  Notice that he didn’t say, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, unless those nations scare you.”  Or “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole of creation (Mark 16:15), but take a break when something big happens so you can focus more of your energy on the problems of the world.”  This command, to go and make disciples, is what the church now calls “The Great Commission,” and it’s often used to convince people to go on a mission trip or to serve at a soup kitchen (good Kingdom work, both of those), but let’s look at its context.  Jesus spoke these words directly to his eleven disciples; in the gospel of Mark it is depicted as an intimate moment between brothers.  These were the men that Jesus had spent the last years of his life in constant community with.  They were his very best friends, and on a very human level he loved them dearly.  If there was any group of people in the whole world that Jesus would have wanted to protect, it would have been them.  But in the final moments before he took his place at the right hand of God, Jesus was not instructing them on how to be safe.  Parting words, by nature, tend to consist of the most important thing on a person’s mind.  So when Jesus says to his eleven, “Go preach the gospel,” we can gather that NOTHING was of greater importance than this task.  It was meant to become their life’s focus.  And it was not safe.  Ten of these eleven would die horrific deaths for their ministry, and Jesus sent them anyway.  His mission does not shift as the world around us becomes more hostile.  So let us be like Peter and John, who after having been arrested for preaching the gospel, said to their captors, “for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20)

 

  1. WE ARE HUMANITARIANS: God is full of kindness and compassion.

The Bible is crystal clear on this point.  The Lord cares for the needy, and he requires the same of his children.  In fact, loving and caring for people was of SUCH great importance to Jesus that when asked what the greatest commandment was he replied with,“You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39) Are you getting this? Jesus is very literally saying that loving God with your whole being is JUST LIKE loving others with your whole being. Those commands are stuck together. You have to do them both.  Loving God = Loving people. Not just loving them from a distance, but loving them as if they were so intimately a part of us that they actually WERE us.

Okay, fine; but HOW? What does it look like to love people like Jesus asks us to?

Well, it’s not complicated, and it’s just as you’d expect.

Meet basic needs:
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me…Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:35-36,40)

Fight for justice and care for orphans and widows:
“Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.” (Psalm 82:3)
“learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” (Isaiah 1:17)

 Welcome the sojourner:
“You shall not oppress a sojourner.  You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9) 

Heal the sick:
“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.” (Matthew 10:8)

Comfort the afflicted:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5) (please note: God has comforted us SO THAT we will know how to comfort others.  Be careful not to take your blessings for granted.)

It is a simple call that Christ gave us to love people.  “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Galatians 5:13)

Any rationalization that we come up with to exclude ANY group of people from receiving the basic dignity and compassion that the scriptures have taught us to give is just that—a rationalization.  The Lord does not make concessions to account for our busy schedules, our consumeristic greed, our prejudices, or our fear.  WE make those concessions, and when we do WE ARE IN SIN.   Terrorism leaves in its path unspeakable devastation.  As Christians, we are purposed to stand for the oppressed and care for those in need.

 

  1. WE WORSHIP: Our King is on his throne.

“The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.” (Psalm 103:19)

“Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” (Psalm 115:3)

“He makes nations great, and he destroys them; he enlarges nations, and leads them away.” (Job 12:23)

The sovereignty of God is on display through ALL of scripture.  He is unchanging, and He is in control.  It is clear that even Satan himself already bows to the will of the Father.  So do you think that God is taken aback by terrorism?  Do you think it leaves him perplexed or worried?  Do you think it has thrown a wrench in his plan?  The promises of scripture confirm that it hasn’t. 

I think that we as the church need to stop trying to explain away God’s role in terrorism, or in anything we label as “bad.”  It preposterous for us to assume that our small, earthly minds can possibly define “good” and “bad” more accurately than the God of Creation.  He doesn’t need us to make excuses for him.  It is laughable.  And it is belittling to his authority.

The word of God says that if something has come to pass it is because he has ordained it to.

“Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” (Lamentations 3:37)

“I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.” (Isaiah 4:5-7)

“You are good, and what you do is good.” (Psalm 119:68)

So, should we pray for an end to terrorism? A resounding YES!  We should beg the Lord to distribute justice, to save the lost, to redeem the oppressors, and to put an end to violence and evil.  He teaches us to pray for these things and it is his desire that our spirits would grieve with his spirit for our broken world.  He tells us to “pray continually,” but there’s more to that verse.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Yes, we should pray for restoration to come.  But ultimately, what we need to do is get on our faces and worship him.  We need to QUIT trying to make ourselves comfortable with who he is and what he is doing, and we need to fall down before him in reverence.  Say to him, “I don’t understand the evil things I’m witnessing.  I’m afraid of them.  I don’t know what you are doing.  I’m angry when I think about it.  But I don’t have to understand – I just have to believe that your word is true.  I TRUST YOU.  I PRAISE YOU FOR YOUR WORKS.  I COUNT THEM AS GOOD BECAUSE YOU ARE GOOD.  YOU ARE FAITHFUL.  YOU WILL DELIVER US.  YOU WILL PREVAIL.”  And we need to do this in ALL circumstances; come what may, we offer him thanks because he is good.

 

  1. WE HAVE HOPE: This is not eternal.

“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

This is our hope and our future—Jesus is coming back for us!  And he is bringing with him full restoration and freedom from sin.  The troubles of this world will pass away and in their place, rejoicing and fullness and peace“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away…Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:1-27)

Christian, THIS IS OUR INHERITANCE!  The final promise of God, the promise so sweet that the apostle Paul was able to say, “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)  On this glorious wedding day, our faith will be completed and our true citizenship will be reconciled, for we are co-heirs with Christ.  The enemy will be defeated, and we will spend eternity praising our King.

Come, Lord Jesus!

“Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.” (Revelation 1:7)

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