Thursday, October 09, 2014

Responding to ISIS

I wrote this for folks at church; some people have found it helpful, so I thought I'd share it more widely. Here are a few quick thoughts on how to respond to the threat of Islamic fundamentalism, which has obviously been in the news a lot recently with the execution murder of Alan Henning.

1. Remember God's Justice

Lots of the Psalms can appear quite bleak at first reading. But actually, they were written precisely to help God's people respond to difficult situations like the rise of the Islamic State. Here's Psalm 10:7-15, for example.

7 His mouth is full of lies and threats;
trouble and evil are under his tongue.
8 He lies in wait near the villages;
from ambush he murders the innocent.
His eyes watch in secret for his victims;
9 like a lion in cover he lies in wait.
He lies in wait to catch the helpless;
he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
10 His victims are crushed, they collapse;
they fall under his strength.
11 He says to himself, “God will never notice;
he covers his face and never sees.”

12 Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.
Do not forget the helpless.
13 Why does the wicked man revile God?
Why does he say to himself,
“He won’t call me to account”?
14 But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break the arm of the wicked man;
call the evildoer to account for his wickedness
that would not otherwise be found out.

And the Psalms keep pointing us back to God's justice. He will do what is right. He will repay those who attack and murder the innocent; he will repay those who have been hurt unjustly, and those who have hurt them.

2. Don't be afraid

It's easy to be afraid of the seeming rise of Islamic fundamentalism. But the fact is, the Bible is very clear that God's people will always be opposed. The way the UK has been for centuries, where Christians are free to practice our beliefs and even in positions of power, is very much the minority position in world history. We should not be surprised that people who do what is right are sometimes attacked. We shouldn't be surprised that Christians are attacked and persecuted. We should remember and support them (and see Open Doors for ways to do just that). The Bible is also clear that we don't need to be afraid of those who oppose us. We know the end of the story – we know that Jesus wins.

But that final victory does not come about by us fighting. Even in the final battle in Revelation, in Rev 20:7-9, all the armies of the world gather to attack God's people, but God's people do not need to fight to defend themselves. God wins the victory, and God will defeat Islamic fundamentalism, whether sooner or later; we do not need to be afraid.

3. Love our neighbours; love our enemies

Our call is rather different. We are called to love those who hate us; to pray for those who persecute us. Christianity did not conquer the Roman Empire by military force; we conquered it by patient suffering and love for the oppressed. We should pray for those in authority in ISIS and those who seek to kill Christians, that their hearts would be changed just as the Apostle Paul's was.

We are also called to love our neighbours. It's important to recognise that there are many Muslims who are appalled at the things being done in the name of Islam. We should love them and seek to support them and defend them from those in this country who would seek to hurt them.