How Should Christians Respond to Terrorist Attacks?

Paris

Read: Romans 12:9-21

Seeing the images coming out of Paris in the last 24 hours has been confronting and disturbing. As these events were unfolding, there was an world class cricket match being played at the WACA in Perth. And I thought: what if an attack happened there?

So, I was asking questions: Are we safe? What should we do? What should Christians say and think as they respond to Da’esh sponsored violence?

I want to mention three or four things we must do, and three or four things we must not do. Some of these were inspired by Ed Stetzer’s recent post on The Exchange . I have used Ed’s heading, though written my own content. This message was written late Saturday after I had fully completed a message for the Hope Eternal series – we’ll get to that some other time. So, I am indebted to Ed for the idea… thank you, brother.

So, how can Christians respond to acts of terror?

As this question is framed, let’s remember that his past week saw terrorist attacks in other places, including Lebanon. Earlier this year, after the first attack in France at Charlie Hebdo, a Boko Haram attack in Nigeria saw 2000 deaths. Compared to the press attention on France, these other attacks received little attention in Australian media. Two things: 1) terrorist attacks like e saw in Paris are very common in some parts of the world, and 2) our press is quite selective in what is presented. We don’t have to get all suspicious about that: no news service will cover everything.

These realities serve to show that our response needs to be more than occasional. we need to draw these responses into our everyday living as followers of Jesus.

So, back to the question: How can Christians respond to increasing prevalence of terror attacks?

1.Pray

It is for no small reason that Paul, persecuted and in prison, writes to his Christian friends in Philippi

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4–7, NIV)

More than any other time, when our hearts are full of fear, we must be a praying people. We call out to the One who knows all, sees all, rules all, and we have the assurance that our powerful God will hear us.

Psalm 116:1-6

Get together with people and pray. Pray for our world. Pray for Paris. Pray that Da’esh evil will be brought to nothing and our world will be rid of it. Pray that Christ will rule people through grace, love, mercy and selflessness.

2.Love the hurting

Jesus, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, reminds us that anyone who is in need, anyone who is hurting, should receive our love, mercy and attention.

We know the story: Samaritans hated Jews. Jews hated Samaritans. But Jesus tells this parable to show us that when God rules hearts, hate is replaced with compassion.

when God rules hearts, hate is replaced with compassion

We may not know anyone hurting as a direct result of these attacks. Pray for the hurting anyway. And find some way to express that. If you use social media, Tweet like a Christian and tell people you’re praying for the hurting.

3.Love your enemies

Do you sometimes think we are becoming less tolerant and gracious? I do. And some comments in social media have confirmed that thought for me. I have seen Christians posting garbage on facebook, whipping up a frenzy of clicktivism against Muslims in particular.

Seriously friends, we shake the fist and give the finger way too easily. And it’s ugly. It drags the name of Jesus through the foulest of human mud.

Read the Scriptures: Jesus never said we should get angry or get even. Jesus never said we should talk about lining them all up and shooting them. Remember: that is what they would do to us.

Jesus says:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. …” (Matthew 5:43–48, NIV)

To be honest, I am finding it very hard to pray for the perpetrators of these acts, or Isis/Da’esh. But Jesus commands me to pray for them. So I will pray they will be overcome, by the grace of God. I pray they would see how Jesus transforms people by grace. I pray they will see that fear and terror cannot win.

Think of early Christian martyrs. Thrown to wild beasts. Burned at the stake. Stories of Polycarp being burned, and yet singing hymns as the fire was set around his feet. Think of Jesus, as he was being crucified, praying “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” There’s our model, friends. Let us go and do likewise, and let us do that together.

4.Live good lives

It’s no coincidence that we have been studying 1 Peter in the Hope Eternal series. Peter wrote to persecuted people. They were hated, maligned and misunderstood. His advice? Keep living godly lives in the public square. Don’t retreat to the bunker. Keep doing good. Keep wearing the grace of Jesus on your sleeve.

“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12, NIV)

Think about that when terror strikes: Keep living good lives, Gospel hearted behaviour. Let the love of the King be seen in the people of his Kingdom.

How do Jesus’ people respond to terror? To the horror of Paris?

Romans 12:14–21 (NIV)

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Jesus’ kingdom, quite clearly, is not of this world, but it is our prayer that, living in his likeness and to his glory, our world will be transformed and evil will be undone.

There are some things to do. Here are a few things not to do:

1.Do not hate people

Do not hate people. It’s a fine line, but when Paul says “hate what is evil” he’s talking about actions and behaviour, not people. Even so, we need to guard our heart here.

Hatred, especially in the face of terror, feels good. There’s something about indignation that will sometimes strangely warm us. But it’s a slippery emotion.

“Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” (Proverbs 10:12, NIV)

The Gospel transforms hatred into a love that seeks Gospel good and Gospel change:

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21, NIV)

Remember Christian, we know how all this will end. It won’t be with the destruction of the church, or with the Christian faith being eradicated. Jesus’ promise is that the gates of hell will not prevail against his church.

His promise is that a day is coming when

“They will neither harm nor destroy on [the Lord’s] holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:9, NIV)

In the words of 20th century Christian martyr, Martin Luther King Jr,

The arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice

And again

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive our hate: only love can do that.

Vengeance belongs to God, and he will defend and vindicate his faithful ones. Believe this and make it your comfort.

2.Don’t blame refugees

It did not take long for some to associate the attacks in Paris with the refugee crisis. Seriously! It was not refugees who mounted the attacks. It was Da’esh. The refugees we tend to see, the refugees our country puts in detention camps, are people fleeing what we saw in Paris.

We are one with refugees, friends. All of us run from these attacks. Let’s not allow the uninformed opinions of some be all we see in this picture.

The Bible reminds us ver directly: God has his eye on refugees, and how we treat them. His people were refugees from Egypt, from Assyria, from Babylon, from Rome, from Hitler, from Stalin, from the Iron & Bamboo curtains. His own dear son and his family were refugees from Herod. (A few days after I preached this message, my sister created this meme – great work Jo!) …

Refugees n Christmas

 

Christians should be the first to respond in grace.

“The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:34, NIV)

3. Don’t blame Muslims

Bracketing all Muslims with Da’esh is like saying all Christians are KKK. It’s like saying because some Christian institutions have been places of abuse, that all Christians are abusers of children.

We believe Jesus is the only way to the Father. We want Muslims to come to know Jesus, (and they want us to know the prophet). But we must not answer injustice with prejudice. The Paris attacks were the work of extremists using Islam for their own evil ends.

4. Do not call for war on Islam

To do so is to embark on a Christian Jihad, our own holy war, a crusade. And that is repaying evil with evil, all the worse because we lump all Muslims together. When we do this we do the very thing Da’esh is doing to us.

The truth: everyone needs Jesus

The Gospel is about the transformation of the world under Jesus’ rule.

Jesus’ Kingdom is not perpetuated by fear or violence.

Jesus’ Kingdom is advanced through love, peace and selflessness in his people.

Jesus Kingdom transforms our world one life at a time, as people bow they knee, coming under his grace, and live in his likeness.

The impact of his Kingdom in people is described as fruit:

“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22–23, NIV)

And when people like you and I come under Christ’s Lordship, we have new life, we are given a new start, and we start to live a miracle of grace:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)

As Da’esh shows the world the face of terror, Christians must show the world the face of Christ.

In the day of terror, He is our hope. Christ in us, the hope of glory!

We see the horror, and we weep. But we know, in the end, Christ’s love will win.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails….” (1 Corinthians 13:4–8, NIV)

A Prayer

Compassionate God and Father of all,

We are horrified at violence

In so many parts of the world

It seems that none are safe

And some are terrified,

others grieving lost loved ones, and lost freedom

 

Hold back the hands that kill and maim

Turn around the hearts that hate

Remove the scourge of evil from our cities

And from our world.

 

Grant instead your powerful spirit of peace

Peace won in the cross of Christ our King

Peace that came through persecution and violence

 

Help us remember that nothing can separate us from your love

That you are with us always

That Christ’s life in us is our power to be

A people of good and a people for good

 

Keep us from prejudice, from judgemental attitudes

From superiority, and from living in fear

 

And until Christ returns,

May we live as new creation, fleeing sin

Walking in newness of life

That people everywhere will know

That because of Jesus

Our world belongs to God.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

4 Comments

  1. Deborah Mattei

     /  November 18, 2015

    Your teaching is excellent and very helpful. I do have one question for you because I’m confused about something. I know God wants us to pray for the terrorists and forgive them. I’m definitely having a difficult time with this. I don’t even want to think about them. My question is: Are you saying that the countries that are trying to wipe them out are wrong to do so? Don’t you think that God wants us to defend our country and our families, etc? Isn’t it the same as police officers protecting us? You mentioned not to call war on them. What does that mean? I’m talking about the terrorists not Muslims. See, this is where I get confused. God had His people go to war in the OT. Please help me to understand this. Thank you very much. God bless you.

    Reply
    • davidgroenenboom

       /  November 18, 2015

      Hi Deborah, thanks for your contribution.

      It’s a delicate matter, isn’t it? But i think there are a couple of important points which need to be kept in mind.

      1. I think ISIS/Da’esh needs to be stopped, and I support military action to do so. This action cannot be the prerogative on one nation acting unilaterally. This is where the approval of the UN or other international bodies is critical.

      2. The action above is a matter of justice, and bringing to account those who are perpetrating it. Ideally, that should happen in international or recognised courts of law, but these terrorists are not about to surrender or be caught. Their tactics are unconventional, and so in some respects the manner of justice being brought to them will also be unconventional. It’s not for me to say, but the responses of a broad coalition of nations acting within the rules of engagement seems justified.

      3. The claims of justice are not removed by a desire to forgive. I must always be ready to forgive but the claims of justice must still be met. In Lewis Smede’s classic illustration, I can forgive my neighbour if his dog bites me, but justice demands that he should tie the dog up. We may forgive perpetrators of gross violence, but justice demands they still be made accountable for their crime/actions. Forgiveness does not mean ignoring injustice, violence or evil.

      4. The point about not declaring war was don’t declare war on Islam or refugees. These are not the perpetrators of the acts we have witnessed. That does not mean we should not engage in warfare against the terrorists. Justice would demand that we do so. As Scripture reminds us, this is why the state is armed with the sword, or in our day, an air force, guns, and missiles – see Romans 13

      I suppose one thing I did not mention was that as individuals, or communities, we are not to take matters into our own hands. I must not start to punish local muslims, and in my country, I must not join an authorised foreign force. Responding in just measure to terrorists is a matter for legitimate governments operating under rule of law and the watchful eyes of the international community.

      Personally, the call to follow Christ, to be forgiving, and to respond in justice to acts of terror, is a very hard line to walk. Not impossible. And not impossibly narrow, but it is hard. Let’s pray our countries get the balance right, and these evil acts and those who do them, are quickly, justly, and effectively brought to an end.

      Grace and peace…

      Reply
      • Johns JK

         /  March 31, 2016

        Pacifism is another guise for weak men doing nothing and there is no more a weakness than a man who uses the bible strained through his theology to support his none action. Justice is not the so called “forgiveness thing” for what does it profit if ye say to hungry, peace and safety be filled and provide not for his hunger? Hunger is one form of injustice and we will show you our faith by our works not our theology. The death of the “innocent” deserves justice, but why are mealy mouth reformed pulpits so silent.

        But let me illustrate the point succinctly. Most have heard of Rhodesia, modern Zimbabwe. A religious war was fought there nearly 40 years ago. The war was deemed a “race war” by Marxist media in the West (your media) and essentially it was not a war but police action against Marxist Guerrillas who slew white Christians in SA. The RLI (Rhodesian Light Infantry) Selous Scouts (our group) took part in action to prevent the demise of Christianity in South Africa. The war was not black against white but Marxist Atheism against black and white Christians (nominal and devout). Mugabe and Nicoma were Marxist supported by Russia i.e the ZANLA and Chinese ZIFRA and later Nelson Mandela of the ANC in the 80’s. Yes Mandela was murder praised by the UN.

        Now let’s be even more succinct. Imagine you arrive on a farm on a follow up ops. A farm owned by white SA who has many black servants. The man’s wife was raped again and again and again by many terrs (Marxists terrorists). After the rape her legs (inner thighs) were slashed open with a panga (machete) she bled out… but get this, the leader smashed in her pelvis around her genitals and removed both of her breasts. The rampage continued.
        The black servants were slaughtered for serving the whites, not the enemy of blacks, but the enemy of a Marxist ideology. The husband was away while all was underway he did not believe he would be affected. His cattle were killed, his horses slaughtered in their stables… And the rest was burnt. This was not a one off but the signature of many cowardly attacks by insurgence and many of whom we gladly killed and most without any remorse. Got the point yet? Terrs of all breeds target the defenceless women, children and non-combatant men i.e farmers earning living off the land to feed the hungry. And for what? To be terrorised by an atheist ideology i.e. Marxism.

        Islam is the same animal, a tyranny, an ideology with hatred of Jews and Christians and the similarities between Rhodesia and Islam are uncannily similar. In SA blacks fell into two groups, Christian (bible believers and nominal) and Marxist and picking the difference was difficult. But Islam is one Koran read by both sides Sunni and Shia. This is tyrannical ideology, read the Koran 400 verses justifying Jihad (struggle) and the Sunnis and the Shia all read the one book, go to the same Mecca and practise the same idolatry and worshipping the stone that fell from heaven (Dianna worship found in the book of Acts) “and they cried for the space of 2 hours, Great is Diana of the Ephesians” got a familiar ring to it, “Allah is greater… Allah is greater” crowds made up of Sunni and Shia Muslims.
        What concourse does the church of God have with idols? But here’s the thing… Your justify your pacifism and none action (not preaching) against this idolatry. If we assume Rom 13 is speaking of civil government (which it’s not) then the next line of defence falls upon the male head of the house.

        And if man a provide not for his own, substance, guidance and protection, he is worse than an infidel. We could go on and on. I am an old man now and will soon go the way of all of Adam’s descendants. But by grace we live and die in the Lord. For a reformed camp your views on this issue disgust me when it is considered that your reformed roots were steeped in over a million deaths at the hand of Rome now supporters of Islam. Check out who launders money through the Vatican bank. The reason the allied intelligence services have raised the alarm. You people claim to be “reformed” but how can you be openly embracing Islam trying to distinguish men by works. And so it goes.

  2. davidgroenenboom

     /  April 20, 2016

    Johns, I can’t see how my post or the comment you are responding to can be interpreted as pacifist.

    Reply

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