This is going to be controversial. I’m going to say something about Hamas, ISIS, terrorism, and Israel—and you may not like it. I don’t know if I like it. But since when do we not declare a truth just because we don’t like it?
Once, when I was working in TV ministry in Mongolia, I was talking with a group of donors, telling them about the successes we were seeing in our TV ministry. At the end of my comments an elderly man named, Richard came up to me and said, “I fought in the Korean War. My regiment fought against a Mongolian regiment that was sided with the North Koreans.” He began to weep and said, “You have turned my enemy into my brother.”
There is a people group today that as Americans, we look at and say, “That is the enemy.” Who are these people? Middle East Muslims. Because of 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the threats of Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, and more, we look at that area of the world, or that people group and we say, “That’s the enemy.” We see them not only as our enemies, but even as enemies of God as they seek to intentionally harm and kill God’s people (as we have seen happening recently in Iraq). Yet, as individual Christians we must keep in mind that their judgment lies not with us, but with God. It is our job to “love our enemies.” Remember the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 5 which essentially says that while we were still God’s enemies, Christ died for us. Did you catch that? We were God’s enemies. Yet, he died for us anyway. We were his enemies in no less way as many in the Muslim world are today. God loves the Muslim world to no greater or less degree than he loves us, than he loves you. As Christians, it is our role to help turn our enemies, even God’s enemies, into God’s friends—even the ones bent on our destruction.
This can be a hard teaching to accept. It’s one thing to say that we love our enemies. It’s another thing to actually do it in a day-to-day, practical way. If the ISIS terrorist stood before you, ready to slit your throat, how would you express God’s love to him when he is an enemy seeking to destroy you at that very moment? Instead, should you hate him? It seems that we can have both emotions. To further complicate the matter, let’s compare these statements from the Bible:
“Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies” (Psalm 139:20-22).
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
At first glance we may look at these two passages and think they contradict one another. Yet, the truth is a bit more nuanced. I’d like to suggest something radical: both are legitimate expressions of our faith. We can love and hate at the same time. In fact, it is normal for human beings to feel and express multiple emotions at once. We don’t simply feel one thing at a time. We can hate the evil person who opposes God. Yet, at the same time we can express love in hopes that our enemy may have a turn around and come to understand the love that God has for him—no matter what he has done. I hate ISIS. I hate what ISIS has done to our brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria. But I recognize that the people who make up ISIS are also caught in a dreadful trap. They are their own worse victims. Without Christ their end will be torture forever. But to the criminal and murder who turns to Christ there is forgiveness and hope—even for the terrorist. Take, as an example, the former Hamas terrorist, Mosab Hussan Yousef, once a high ranking terrorist with Hamas who found new life in Christ. He chronicles his story in his book, Son Of Hamas.
Now, perhaps you object to the idea of expressing love to your enemy, especially an enemy seeking to kill you at that moment. But remember Jesus’ words, spoken on the cross while his enemies were in the process of killing him at that very moment, “Father, forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
There is a difference between how a nation and its political leaders must respond to an attack, and how we, as individual Christians must respond. As individual Christians we must find ways to express love, forgiveness, and sacrifice in hope that those who see it will discover the truth about Jesus. In essence, our job is to help persuade God’s enemies to become God’s friends.
So, how should we respond to the crises in the Muslim world? I think our response must come on multiple levels.
As a nation we should be resolute in our decision to face evil and eradicate it. Not matter where that evil comes from, if it is within our power to destroy it then we must act. That is the job of political and military leaders. Government holds the power of the sword to punish and eradicate evil (Deuteronomy 19:19; Romans 13:4).
As a church we should be resolute in our decision to face evil with resources and personnel committed to countering evil acts with expressions of mercy, kindness, and sacrificial forgiveness. “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (II Corinthians 10:4-5).
As individual Christians we should be resolute in our decision to face evil in prayer and the exercise of the missionary venture. It takes individual Christians, called and empowered by God to take the good news about Jesus to those most trapped in evil—its purveyors (Matthew 28:18-20; I Corinthians 6:11). While it is normal to direct humanitarian aid and help to the victims of evil groups like ISIS and Hamas and others, it is uniquely Christ-like for some to take the message of forgiveness in Christ to the purveyors of evil. They also need Christ in no greater or less degree than the people they victimize.
So, what will your response be to the trouble, turmoil, and terror that covers the Islamic world right now? Will you pray? Will you go? In what way does God want to use you to be part of the solution to the problems facing the Arab world?