In order to preserve civilization, decisive action against terror organizations is not an option. Can we forgive our enemies, as Jesus mandated, and crush them at the same time? Can God’s love of people be separated from His hatred of evil? What is the best possible role that America should play in the war against ISIS, Hamas, Houthi and its comrades in terror? What would be the consequences of non-action? Is this a war for only Arab nations to fight? Would Jesus go to war against Satan’s representatives? This article attempts to answer these questions from a biblical and common sense perspective.
None of the 21 Coptic Christians who were beheaded denied Christ. The last words of one of the innocents was a loud, “Jesus!” Tens of thousands of Christians and those of other faiths have been beheaded, sold into slavery and burned alive, killed and had their organs harvested, and have been otherwise tortured to death by those who proclaim themselves to be followers of Muhammad. Increasingly, the focus is on Christians.
WHAT IS AMERICA AND THE CIVILIZED WORLD DOING ABOUT TERRORISM?
With a tidal wave of barbarism crashing against the shores of civilization, the civilized world is barely fighting back. As Germany was in 1932 and 1933, so is now the Middle East. However, without the intervention of righteous men and women, 1938 and 1939 will likely be upon us soon, even coming to a mall near you. Every year, women are killed in the U.S. by a relative in the name of family honor. Though these criminals have not bought into our cultural values, or even into our laws to maintain order, we have accepted their right to live and believe as they wish. In the Old Testament, God allowed “aliens” (non-Jews) to become Jews, but he also required that they live and believe as Jews (Exodus 12:48). All other nations of the world presently require, or have required until now, that immigrants pledge to abide by the laws of their new country.
WHAT SHOULD FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST DO?
More to the biblical point: What is the mind of Christ in this situation? Is there a difference between how a nation should respond and how an individual should respond? Jesus said to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43). Are we to love and forgive the ISIS terrorists? As our enemies increasingly focus their efforts on the “little Satan,” Israel, with the long range view to the “great Satan,” the United States, we might want to keep in mind that there is a difference between loving our enemies and allowing them to destroy all that is noble and good. As Christians should we forgive them? Should we fight against evil? Should we do both at the same time and forgive evil of this level of degradation? Perhaps, there is a difference between our responsibility as individuals and as a nation. Jesus always stood strongly against the kingdom of Satan. In Matthew 11:12 Jesus said, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” It appears that Jesus wants us to stand against Satan and do our best to establish His kingdom here on earth, as He “draws all men to him” (John 12:32). As the terrorists would have it, there will be no men open enough to be drawn to Him. That time will come eventually, of course, but such timing is not in our hands. What’s in our hands is to press forward to establish His kingdom.
SPECIFIC BIBLICAL INJUNCTIONS: Loving People and Hating Evil
The Bible speaks to this conundrum. Let’s first consider that if we cannot separate God’s hatred of evil from His love of people, the answer seems to be that we should fight against evil, as we did in WWII. We know that God is “one God.” God cannot be divided into parts. For example, we cannot separate God’s justice from His mercy, or His hatred of evil from His love of people. All of God is everywhere. He is indivisible. Therefore, the more God conforms our character into His image, the more we will both love justice and hate evil. Proverbs 8:13 states, “The fear of the Lord [standing in awe of God] is to hate evil.” Many other scriptures state that God’s essence is love. He is our loving heavenly Father.
Therefore, if we love God and the tens of thousands of innocent martyrs, we must also hate evil. Although no one knows what the present policy of America toward worldwide terrorism is, the policy seems to be to contain evil. This strategy, of course, is not aimed at stopping or destroying the threat of the mass murder of millions upon millions.
If a group of gang-bangers were murdering people in your neighborhood, would you call the police? Romans 13 supports calling the police, as such peacemakers are ultimately appointed by God for our safety. Hebrews 11:34 even speaks of heroes who “waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens” (KJV). These heroes led the destruction of cultures that sacrificed their children in the fire to gods of wood and stone.
Jesus told us to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves,” (Matthew 10:16), meaning we must discern the difference between a sheep and a goat, between loving others and doing what is necessary to protect ourselves and guard the liberties that God has given us (drawing boundaries). As Proverbs 4:18 advises, we are to “guard our hearts” with all diligence. And Romans 13 states that our own rulers are established by God to be His representatives who do “not bear the sword for nothing” (vs. 4). Our policemen and, by implication, our armies are for our protection.
We know that Jesus had the discernment to know when to outwardly love and when to vehemently defend and protect. Christ declared that the converts of the hypocritical religious teachers of His day were “twice the sons of hell” as they, the teachers, were (Matthew 23:15). He hated the demons that He cast out. And though He taught us to “turn the other cheek,” when He was struck at His illegal trial, He said, “Why did you strike me” (John 18:23)? Because of the evil in the world, Christ was a “man of sorrows.” He weeps for those who suffer at the hands of the terrorists (see Isaiah 63:9). I believe that He even weeps for the terrorists until He finally turns them over to a “reprobate mind” (Romans 1:28). At this point, if Christ does not weep for them, we also need not weep.
At the same time that Christ loved people, He hated evil. Christ was the most loving and most joyful man that ever lived. He performed His first miracle at a wedding and celebrated life. As the voice of wisdom personified states in Proverbs 8:30-31, so believed Christ: “I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world, and delighting in mankind.” Therefore, it is possible for all of us to continue to celebrate life and the wonders of God’s creation while at the same time feeling the pain of those who have lost loved ones to barbaric cruelty.
Based on Christ’s love of people and hatred of evil, it is likely that Christ would condone all efforts to stop the murder of innocents. Even if all world events fall into a pattern to bring about end time events or other unknown purposes, because we cannot fully understand the pattern or His purposes, we must live our lives one day at a time and respond to evil as righteous men and women have responded since the world began.
THE RESPONSE OF RIGHTEOUS MEN AND WOMEN
The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 2:9 that we are to love people, but we are to do so with wisdom and knowledge (and not be naïve and taken advantage of). There is a horrific and ultimate destination for evil doers where “the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48). Clearly, there is also a time and season for all things, a time to kill and a time to heal (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 3).
In Romans 1:28, the Apostle Paul states that God gave some people over to a “depraved” or “reprobate mind.” In the realm of sin, the atrocious acts that we witness via television are the “end of the line.” The ISIS terrorists who call themselves warriors for Muhammad are evil incarnate and are probably closer to the edge of hell than even Paul could have imagined. Psalm 73:18 speaks of evil people standing on a “slippery slope.” Jesus refers to those who do not build the foundation of their lives on Him as building on “sinking sand” (Matthew 7:26).
Peter said that God did not spare from hell the angels that rebelled; nor did He spare the evil people in Noah’s day, nor the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Peter even described false teachers as “brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish” (2 Peter 2). Again, hear this: Peter says that some people are “born to be destroyed.” This from one of Christ’s most devoted and loving disciples. One of the most famous representatives of Christ in the history of the world. A man of love and peace.
Jesus, our loving Lord and Savior, stated that in His time, all sin would be forgiven except “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 12:31). There are debates about what this sin is, and I have an opinion. But my opinion doesn’t matter in this discussion. Whatever the sin was (or is) could not exceed the sin being committed by the most ruthless barbarians ever known in history, savages that put to death the followers of Christ, Jews, Muslims of slightly different beliefs, and people of any other faith than theirs.
Psalm 1:6 says, “For the Lord knows the way of the godly, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” There is no doubt. Even Jesus and the New Testament that emphasize the grace and love of God speak clearly to the need to combat evil, unless otherwise individually spoken to, as God does speaks to each of us individually, e.g., you may be chosen for martyrdom (John 10:4, 27).
RESPONDING AS INDIVIDUALS
What about our attitude as individuals? If someone is chosen for martyrdom, God would want us to forgive our murderers, as He forgave His murderers on the cross. Also, consider the relatives of the victims. Will they find inner peace in any other way except through forgiveness? Of course not. Nevertheless, when the killer of their son or daughter is executed or falls in battle, these same relatives might obtain some satisfaction, knowing that God’s justice has been accomplished.
The best course of action in regards to our personal vengeance is to leave it alone. Romans 12:17 says, “Leave room for God’s wrath; vengeance is mine, says the Lord.” If we don’t “leave room” for God’s wrath, but execute our own judgment, we risk that God’s judgment may not prevail or, perhaps, will be less severe. This point of view is proposed by Proverbs 24:17, which states, “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the Lord will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him.” Most of us would prefer that evil doers suffer God’s judgment, rather than our own. Again, on an individual basis, scripture seems to teach forgiveness, along with trust in God. If we trust in God, His justice will be accomplished. Therefore, as individuals we are to forgive our enemies.
(See also “Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can’t Ignore,” by Jay Sekulow and his website, along with multiple Internet articles.)
Dr. Weld’s views do not necessarily represent the views of PreachItTeachIt.org, and PITI welcomes comments.