I, like most people, have been horrified to see the evil that has been perpetrated during the rise of the group ISIS, or the Islamic State as they call themselves now. Of course, this latest example – the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians whose only crime was going into Libya to try and provide for their families is gut-wrenching. To say this is horrible is to try to compare the iceberg that took out the Titanic to an ice cube. Truth is there are no words to describe the depth of depravity and corruption that has infiltrated these people’s minds. If you doubt there is evil and a devil loose in the world, look no further than that beach, or the cage where the Jordanian pilot was literally burnt alive. Reports of children being buried alive and people being crucified abound. This is religious genocide to a degree that hardly seems imaginable, and its source is undoubtedly Satan.
On one hand, I have been bothered by the apathy that many in our leadership are demonstrating during this crisis. Democrats and Republicans alike are to blame.
On the other hand I have also been bothered by the shrill voice of radicals who are preaching hate towards all Muslims. Some even going so far as to say we should outlaw Islam and deport all who adhere to its faith.
While I understand the visceral reaction these actions are causing in us, I think cool heads must prevail. The truth of the matter is that most Muslims despise ISIS at a deeper level than most Christians despise the Westboro Baptist Church. Just because it calls itself Christian doesn’t mean it’s Christian, and so we don’t like to be lumped in with them. The same goes for Muslims. ISIS is actually perpetrating most of its offenses against other Muslims. To lump them all together is to oversimplify the issue and to distort the truth. If we stereotype and vilify an entire people group we would be dishonoring Christ and becoming instruments of the very persecution we despise. I would warn us all to question the motives of those who are trying to incite us to rage and hate.
Let’s make it clear – Jesus loves Muslims. Jesus died for Muslims! Jesus loves Muslims, because Muslims are people – Let’s never forget the great news that God so loved the world (including Muslims) that he gave his only Son that whosoever would believe in him would have life eternal.
So I am writing this short blog to add my voice to others who are speaking clearly. I am speaking as a Christian and I am speaking as a Pastor. This is a nuanced situation. We must demonstrate the love of our Savior by protecting the most vulnerable of society who are suffering horribly under this demonic ideology. This can and should include decisive military action. We can’t liberate the captives until we break the power that holds them captive.
However, at the same time we must also demonstrate the love of our Savior by praying for the persecutors (ie Father forgive them for they know not what they do) as well as continue to reach out to the Muslim population. This is no time for letting the Mob mentality rule – again, cool heads must prevail. This is definitely not a comprehensive list, but here are my thoughts on how we, as followers of Christ should respond.
1. Pray for those affected by these heinous and cowardly acts. Both the ones that are suffering as well as their families
2. Rally our leaders to take action. Communicate respectfully, but firmly and repeatedly, that we expect action to be taken
3. Pray against ISIS. Pray for it to be destroyed as an entity before it takes further root. As Christians, our first response and most powerful weapon is prayer. I have no doubt that if God’s people raise up their voice together in prayer, we will see God move in this situation in miraculous and powerful ways.
4. Pray for Muslims and look for ways to show love to them in the spirit of Christ
5. With the heart of Jesus and the first martyr Stephen, we should pray for the persecutors, remembering nobody is beyond the reach of the love and grace of God. The Apostle Paul was once the worst persecutor of Christians and was responsible for Stephen’s death. As Stephen fell to his knees, dying from the stones cast at him he uttered similar words to those of our Savior. “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” I believe God honored the prayer of Stephen with the conversion of Paul, who then went on to become the greatest missionary the Christian Church has ever known. Wow!
Let’s take action.