Responding to ISIS

3 03 2015
ISIS slave market

ISIS slave market

ISIS continues to dominate the news headlines, from this week’s cover of Time magazine to the brutal images we see nearly every week on the national news. The closer we feel to the victims, the more personal our grief and the more urgently we want to respond.

If you are Japanese, the beheading of journalist Kenji Goto must have horrified you. If you are Catholic, the kidnapping of Iraqi nuns and orphans must have been awful to imagine. If you are a Shiite Muslim, the destruction of mosques and mass murder of your Shiite brothers and sisters must deeply wound your soul. If you are a woman, the kidnapping, torture, enslavement and rape of young women must break your hearts. And if you’re a Christian, the grisly scene of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians being beheaded on a Libya beach last month must have brought a desperate cry of prayer to your lips.

How should we respond to ISIS? Perhaps God will lead each of us to respond in our own authentic and creative way. Angelina Jolie has responded by posting video interviews with the victims to increase global awareness. Various NGOs and charities are stepping up the relief effort, and you can donate through them—check out these three:

Cradle of Christianity Fund (CCF)  http://www.cradlefund.org/

The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME)  http://frrmeamerica.org/

Samaritan’s Purse  http://www.samaritanspurse.org/article/iraq-crisis-response/

The Pope’s response last week was to pray for the victims. But here’s an even more extreme response—check out this 8 minute video posted by an Egyptian evangelical church—their response is to pray for ISIS! The pastor states, “Satan is our enemy, not ISIS.” You’ll see the actual family members of the Coptic Christians who died talk about forgiveness and praying for ISIS soldiers to see the light. Now THAT’S a response that Jesus would be proud of! Watch the video here: http://youtu.be/ElTWcbCrY7g

The 21 Egyptians were true martyrs in the Christian tradition—they died for their faith; unlike other traditions where a martyr could be one who dies while killing others for their faith. They inspire us to follow the Bible’s teaching from Romans 12:21: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

For those Muslims reading this post who find that an attractive alternative to vengeance, guess what? The Qur’an offers similar guidance in Surah Fussilat 41:34 “And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend.” Repel evil with good? Win your enemy to become your friend? Yes, there are many Muslims who abhor how ISIS interprets the Qur’an, because like any religion, individuals choose what verses to base their lives on. Thank God for all those of every religion who choose peace and forgiveness.

For me personally, as an author, you’ll read my response to ISIS in the sequel to my first novel. This week I finished the first half of the first draft. I appreciate your prayers that this book will present a response to ISIS that both glorifies God and makes a difference in how we face this formidable issue.

I’d love to hear YOUR response to ISIS! Tell me what authentic and creative response God is partnering with you to do!

Advertisements




Jihad and Jesus

21 01 2015

Beheading   We are all troubled by the images of terrorist acts in France, or ISIS beheadings in the Middle East. It’s shocking and offensive to us that civilians are often the target. The term jihad may be the most hated word in the world today.

But before we join all the political pundits pointing fingers, let’s remember that the concept of jihad, or “holy war,” didn’t start with Islam. The Bible has several examples of God sending His people to kill others. Joshua and Saul were commanded to lead genocide of whole people groups, including the children. Samson initiated a suicide attack that murdered 3,000 men and women. This week I was reading in II Kings 9-10 about Jehu—this story has a military coup, the beheading of 70 relatives of the king, the mass slaughter of religious leaders of a rival religion in their own house of worship—doesn’t this story sound like something we might read about in the Middle East today? Yet God was behind it: His prophet commanded Jehu to do it. At one point in the story, Jehu says, “Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord” as he goes on a killing spree. And when he’s done, God commends him!

Today we see the same stories played out on the nightly news, of beheadings and massacres by those “zealous” for the One they worship, believing that He will award their deeds. Many people have compared modern-day Islam to life in the Bible’s Old Testament. Their understanding of God as Creator, sender of the prophets and holy books, and man’s responsibility to follow His law, including giving alms, keeping prescribed fasts, and going on pilgrimage, has extensive parallels. One more similarity is an acceptance of violence done in the name of God.

The coming of Jesus changed everything. The Bible says Jesus is God’s eternal Word that took on flesh (John 1:14). God met man in the person of a Messiah. The Bible also says that looking at Jesus is the best way to understand what God is like, since he’s “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).

Jesus had enemies—the Jewish religious leaders jealous of his favor with the masses; King Herod, fearful of any political rival; Pilate and the Romans, their occupied territory threatened by popular uprisings. Some of Jesus’ disciples wanted to fight with swords, see Jesus overthrow the Romans and become their new king. But Jesus was bringing a different kind of Kingdom, launched by love and pursuing peace. Even through Jesus’ death on the cross he treated his enemies with compassion, one of his last, dying utterances being this prayer: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). All of Jesus’ teachings about “love your enemies,” and “turn the other cheek” he lived consistently to the end.

If looking at Jesus is the best way to understand God, the implications of this are profound. Because of Jesus, if we say we love God, we have to love man. Because of Jesus, when we accept Jesus’ divinity and follow him, even if we thought it was justified to kill in the name of God, we can never kill in the name of Jesus, for it’s the opposite of all Jesus stood for.

The cross started as a symbol of death. During the crusades of the Middle Ages it unfortunately became a symbol of Christian warfare and atrocities. But for those who accept this mystery of God’s Word becoming man, it is the most perfect symbol of love. One beam points up to heaven, representing the love between God and man; the other beam stretches left to right, representing the love between man and man, both of these based on Jesus at the center.

I have many wonderful Muslim friends who absolutely condemn the barbaric acts of ISIS and other jihadists today. They are good people with a sincere faith. I also happen to believe that the Messiah came not just for the Jews, but like the Prophet John said, Jesus is “the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29), while another prophet ascribed to Jesus the title, “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). For those who are zealous for God in any religion, I say to you, that following Jesus changes everything.