Responding to Terrorism

With the news of suicide bombings we may just wonder how to respond to terrorism. Here are some ideas:

1. Pray. “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” is a good one.

2. Understand. To some, Western activity in the Middle East does look like a crusade. It can look like the “Christian” West is bombing and often occupying the Muslim Middle East. In our minds, Western secular and multicultural societies are targeting terror networks with precision strikes helping protect, not just the world, but Muslims also from certain other Muslims. In the terrorists’ minds true Muslims are being killed by Christians allied with “fake” Muslims.

3. Remember how Islam began. At its beginning Islam was not just a personal religious thing, it was also a tribal political thing. There are those who point out that young Muslims are radicalized when their lives in Western democracies seem pretty bleak, so if we can just make their lives better the terrorism problem will go away. While that may help, young Muslims are also being radicalized because there exists a version of Islam to be radicalized to, a very political version, with strong claims to being closest to the original. Muhammad was a political and military leader in stark contrast to Jesus, who “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NIV).

4. Read the Bible. Learning, as we wonder at creation, that all people are created in the image of God and therefore are worthy of dignity and respect. Learning, as we travel in a fish with Jonah, that we are to be ready to join God in reaching out to those we may consider enemies. Learning, as we walk with Jesus, that we are to love our neighbour as ourselves. Learning, along with Stephen the first martyr, that we are to pick up our cross and follow Jesus. Learning, along with the apostles, that we are to share the Good News of what God has done in Christ with everyone. Yes, this means sharing with the Muslim that no expression of Islam, whether peaceful of full of terror, could ever do what Jesus did for us at the cross. The cause of Christ is worth being radicalized to.

5. Recognize the valid and important role of those who provide for our security. Loving your neighbour is not inconsistent with providing security to your loved ones when your neighbour threatens. We depend on our police forces to serve and protect us locally. We depend on our military to do likewise globally. There is little doubt that we are at war requiring a military response. However, our wisdom in deploying the military needs to exceed the might of our military more than ever.

6. Keep Praying. The victims of terror need it. World leaders responsible for our collective response need it. We need it. And the people who want to terrorize us need it too.

There’s Something About Christmas

There’s something about Christmas. At Christmas, even a motorcycle nut like myself longs for snow. That’s rare! We enjoy the same songs, again and again, year after year. Even artists you would never associate with Christianity enjoy putting their hearts and souls into faithful renditions of specifically Christian Christmas Carols. And many, many, people, whether they attend a Christian church or not, enjoy hearing them. There’s something about Christmas. There’s something about the Christmas story that captures the imagination. What is it?

There’s also something about Jesus. There are many things about Jesus that most people could agree on whether they are Christians or not. Though some would appeal to coincidence, most people can recognize that Jesus fits well with Old Testament prophecies. Most would agree that the teaching of Jesus astounded and still astounds today. Most historians agree that Jesus existed, that his birth was unusual, that he died by crucifixion and that his followers claimed to have seen him alive and went about saying such at great risk to their own lives. Most people, whether Christian or not, with enough background reading would recognize the positive impact of Jesus on the world, and upon individual lives throughout the world. There’s something about Jesus that everyone can recognize.

Then of course there’s something about Jesus that we who are Christians don’t just accept, but celebrate. His birth was not just unusual, it was unique, a virgin birth, the incarnation of God Himself: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 (NRSV) The birth is just the beginning of what is unique about Jesus. His death and resurrection was unique in accomplishing a rescue of great significance, a display of God’s forgiveness, grace, and offer of eternal life.

There’s something about Christmas and there’s something about Jesus. At Christmas we love to go back to the beginning of the Gospel accounts of Jesus and read the story about his birth. It is a story that impacts the imagination. So, knowing there’s something about Christmas, let us go to the beginning of the Gospel of Luke:

Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.  Luke 1:1-4 (NRSV)

It would seem that Luke does not actually begin with the Christmas story. Luke’s intent was not to share a story that strikes the imagination. His intent was to tell the truth. There’s something about Christmas. That something is that it is true.

Sandra, the boys and I wish you a Merry Christmas!

Human Achievement. Forgotten God.

(For those who have already read my blog post this week: This is similar but reworked for our local newspaper, so it is basically a shrunken shrunk sermon!)

We have travelled a great distance, so far, in fact, that for some God remains only as a distant memory. We have achieved so much. And we have forgotten God. We celebrate a wealth of innovation. Just look at the advances in medicine, technology, communications, transportation and the like. Just look at the human innovation that surrounds us. Fast cars, warm homes, incredible and incredibly connected computers, high flying aircraft, far ranging spacecraft, is anything impossible for us? Is faith in God at all still relevant to us?

Of course some people cannot see all the innovation that surrounds them as their stares are transfixed at one human innovation in front of them. Yes, I am referring to the smartphone. And yes, I feel rather naked without mine. As someone who began gaming on an Atari 2600 and computing with a Commodore 64, the iPhone is an excellent example of human ingenuity. Look at us, is there anything we cannot do?

There was once a people who were in danger of a similar line of thought. They were once oppressed slaves in the land of Egypt, but were soon to be living in a good land with all the wealth that such land would bring. They might say “look how far we have come, is anything impossible for us?” And to this people, God says through Moses:

. . . when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, . . . Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth . . . (Deuteronomy 8:13,14,17,18 NRSV)

For the people to take credit for how far they had come would be akin to my generation taking credit for the Allied victory in World War Two. Our generation, like very other generation remembers those who won the victory. To do otherwise would be the height of arrogance. And how arrogant can we be when with self-congratulatory tone we intone on the wealth of human invention and innovation, yet forget God “who gives you power to get wealth.” It is God who gives us the resources to work with, the hands to work the resources, the minds to work the hands, and the hearts to keep the minds working. Is anything impossible for us? The question ought to be “is anything possible without God?”

To be so self-congratulatory while forgetting God is an attempt to steal God’s glory. Even in matters of salvation we are prone to wanting to steal God’s glory. We think we can be good enough that God will have to accept us when we die. “Yes, He is holy, but I can be holy too.” Actually no. We can no more be good enough before God based on our own righteousness than the Israelites could cross the Red Sea by their own miracle working. We depend on God’s work of salvation through Jesus Christ. We cannot steal God’s glory. We must remember Him. There are many fine churches in our area which will help you do that.