Witnessing the pain and heartache of so many around the world makes it difficult to express my thoughts about modern-day terrorism with both passion and sensitivity. When a friend responded to my most recent post with thought-provoking questions about the reality of what we're facing, I took some time to dig deeper into what I believe. The more questions I asked, the fewer irrevocable truths I found. Thankfully, fewer does not equal none.
Here is my friend's question: "How do we reconcile these realities in Scripture [God-mandated warfare] and the realities we are dealing with in the world with the reality of the love of God?"
The background noise of these questions dwell in the soul of every person. Indeed, the heartbeat of human existence is the epic struggle of realities and ideals. Entire faith systems are constructed around the hope of redeeming what is mortal, tainted, and evil with what is divine, pure, and good. The pursuit of truth has been embedded among every culture through every time period and in every corner of the earth.
First, Scripture does not give us the full, detailed background of the warfare found in its pages. We see battlegrounds and conflicts through the eyes of one nation among many, so we are unable to quantify exactly why God made certain decisions. In many cases, however, we do see God using the Israelite people as an instrument of judgement for the evil behaviors of "heathen" nations, many behaviors we still condemn today.
But wait! Before you compare Israel to America as God's "judgement seat," read further and discover how God also uses these same heathen nations to discipline Israel when they follow the same immoral practices. America, do we have a more privileged seat at God's table than other nations? I think not.
Thankfully, barbaric justice is not the full story of God. As a Christian, I believe in the miracle of reconciliation. And while I believe my reconciliation with God to be both a priceless moment and a continual journey, this miracle is the gift that keeps on giving. I am alive to save lives. I am loved to show love. I have hope to share hope. And my hope is not salvation from the world; it is salvation for this world and the precious people here.
That word "reconciliation" is both vertical and horizontal. As I am reconciled to God, the author of true love, I am enlivened and empowered to reconcile others to an foreign way of living. By foreign, I mean absolutely alien. The Kingdom (the literal King, government, and its citizens) is the furthest culture from our reality. Its currency of love buys peace, joy, and hope, but requires a spiritual "foreign exchange" (or translation) to be applied to our everyday transactions. As a Christian, I should be an ambassador of this foreign culture, waving its eternal flag, and conquering land for its King.
But remember, conquering territory for this Kingdom is a different paradigm than the use of military power and nuclear warfare. We don't depend on sophisticated weapons and strategic assaults to win battles. Instead, the King's "territory" is the heart of men and women, and the King's "tactic" is love.
In fact, this is why world peace seems hopeless in our current world circumstances. One side self-righteously fights for peace for its own good, causing retaliation from another side whose peace is destroyed by those same actions. We Americans even within one country and government are far from united in our ideas about healthcare and tax reform, so how can we hope for peaceful agreements with other nations, especially those whose extremist agenda is our downfall?
To answer the questions posed by my friend above, I believe there is at least one thing we all can do to bring peace to this world and reconcile the ideals of heaven with the realities of this planet: pray for forgiveness and justice. And let's be careful; by justice, I do not mean self-vindication or revenge, and I also do not wish for passive, pew prayers. Rather, let's pray and stand for true justice, the justice that convicts the wrong and defends what is right.
Unfortunately, most of the conversation you hear about our nation's stance against terrorism is laced with retaliation as the root motivation. But as a Christian, I believe justice has already been served in my place for my wrongdoing, so I therefore should not only be praying for justice, but forgiveness for us all.
While this may seem like a weak position at first, it's actually of the strongest kind. And if you think this way of faith is too idealistic for reality, you're getting close to the truth. Is it our current reality? No. Is it a potential dream come true? Absolutely. Welcome to faith.
Justice is not about ignoring wrongdoing; it is doing something right despite the wrong done. Don't misunderstand me: I do believe in holding people accountable to their actions. But as hard as it is to believe, murderers, rapists, and yes, even terrorists, are treasured people in this foreign Kingdom and are one decision away from miraculous redemption. Punishment for action does not equal condemnation for the soul. So Christians, let's represent the King's intentions with more care and humility.
What is the right thing to do? Forgive. And the individual, corresponding action will be different for us all. Yes, we have been wronged. We have been abused and attacked. But if we don't forgive, we will continue the vicious cycle of evil and promote death and revenge. Then, and only if we allow it to be so, will terror and evil win. We must change course.
Christians, what does your prayer for terrorists sound like? Are you praising God when you see their camps destroyed by missiles? And when is the last time we prayed for terrorists to find peace and love?
Justice is not about ignoring wrongdoing; it is doing something right despite the wrong done.
What do we have to lose that is not already being stolen from us? We actually have everything to gain on the high road. Let's advertise cheek turning, sacrificial, undeserved love. It's our only hope.