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.

Biblical Message to World Rulers: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid. Reflections on Psalm 2

HitlerThere is no shortage of rulers, now, and in recent memory, who have plunged or kept the people under their care into darkness. We think of Bin Laden and the recruitment of people into lives of terror. We think of the Taliban and remember the dismal treatment of women. We think of Boko Haram and the atrocities committed of late. We think of those associated with the new “Islamic State” and the reports of beheadings, kidnappings, forced conversions, and executions. Already the rulers of these organisations are responsible for thousands dead and thousands more living in terror this year. But we can also look back to other atrocities within living memory. There is Hitler responsible for 10 million deaths, 6 million of which were Jews, and we are not even counting those who died in battle from the war he started. Stalin is said to be responsible for 7-13 million dead, some say much more. Mao is said to be responsible for 40-50 million dead. How many more lived, but lived in terror? These rulers and all like them have something in common beyond being responsible for plunging people into darkness: they are mentioned in the Bible. Consider:

1 Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and his anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.” (Psalm 2:1-3 NRSV)

These verses originally speak to the rulers surrounding Israel in Old Testament times, and the “anointed” referred to the earthly king of Israel. But they also point to Jesus Christ as true King, and to rulers throughout all of history and even today who operate in ways that are far from the Kingdom ways of the Lord. No thought is given by all such rulers to the possibility that Jesus Christ is “King of kings, and Lord of lords” (Rev 19:16) and that they are subject to His rule. They are expected to follow Christ as they lead others.

Since Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords, He has the right, in fact the obligation, to execute justice with regards to those who rule:

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord has them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.”
7 I will tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to me, “You are my son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron,
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
(Psalm 2:4-9 NRSV emphasis mine)

Revelation makes the connection between Psalm 2 and Jesus quite clear:

15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, “King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Revelation 19:15-16 NRSV emphasis mine)

Keep reading in Revelation and you will learn what happens next to “the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of the mighty” (v18). It is not pretty.

Can you imagine that day, when the each ruler of the earth will stand before the judgement seat of Christ to give an account for how they ruled? Can you imagine the questions that will be posed to them?

  • Why did you not follow Me? Why did you not follow the example I set of servant leadership? I am the Good Shepherd, who laid down His life for the sheep. Why did you not do likewise?
  • Why did you not lead people to Me? Is it not your duty as a leader, as a shepherd, to lead your people to greener pastures? Why did you instead plunge them into darkness?
  • Why are you making excuses? Did you not notice the greener pastures? Did you not see the positive impact My people have had in the world, wherever they have been truly following Me?
  • Why are you making excuses? Did you not notice how people have been following Me for many, many, many generations. Did you seriously think Christianity was just a passing fad? Did it never cross your mind that maybe your rule and your cause was the passing fad?
  • Did you stop to consider the positive impact upon your people had you drawn close to Me? The potential was too profound to ignore the possibilities.
  • Did you stop to consider the eternal implications for you in your relationship with Me? The potential was too profound to ignore the possibility.
  • Did you put any effort at all into exploring the evidence for My claim to being your Lord? Did you ponder the evidence for the truth of Christianity? As a leader, ought you not to have taken a lead in the most important questions ever asked?

Can you imagine it? And can you imagine what would happen if rulers everywhere would seriously explore the Christian faith? Can you imagine what kind of world we would live in if rulers everywhere would repent from their sins and turn to the Lord following the example of the Good Shepherd who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NRSV)?

Final questions: Are you aware that you have people in your realm of influence? Are you aware that you may be considered a ruler of this earth? Are you aware that those same questions could be posed to you?

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
with trembling 12 kiss his feet,
or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way;
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Happy are all who take refuge in him.
(Psalm 2:10-12 NRSV)

Let us pray for those who are living in darkness. Let us pray for the rulers who plunge or keep their people in darkness. Let us be encouraged that this world’s story is far from over and that darkness will give way to light. Let us pray that we will serve well, whenever and wherever we reign, and that in doing so we will reflect light into the lives of our families, friends, and enemies.

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