The events, stories, and commentary surrounding the most recent ISIS attacks have bombarded us over the last week and have been overwhelming. I have struggled (like so many others) to know the biblical way to respond in thoughts, words, and actions. Unfortunately, I am nowhere near qualified to claim to have definitive answers for this incredibly complicated issue. So I won’t. Thus this blog is not going to serve in assisting you with the answers and in fact it will just be asking more questions. Let me explain.
Earlier this week, I was doing my Bible study and the author took us to Genesis 3: the serpent deceiving Eve. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say…'” My Bible study’s focus is the book of Nehemiah and she was just making a minor point from the third chapter of the Bible, but the Holy Spirit stopped me dead in my tracks. Did God actually say…? My mind was immediately flooded with verses.
This past week, I have heard Christian after Christian explain their points. I have read article after article and have had conversation after conversation trying to drudge through this very real global and increasingly local situation. I kept going back and forth with different Scriptures in my mind praying through what the biblical response was to all of this. Again, this blog is not going to have your neat and tidy answers.
My intention today is to instead share a few of the Scriptures that the Holy Spirit revealed that some of us Christians don’t really believe–at least our responses are proving that we don’t (“out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks,” Luke 6:45). We have instead believed the words of the hater of our souls: God didn’t really say…
- Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and TO DIE IS GAIN.” If we truly believed that to die is GAIN, we wouldn’t be so scared. Paul screams to us from his jail cell: “IT’S BETTER TO BE WITH CHRIST!!” Maybe we have gotten too comfortable with this life that heaven doesn’t really seem that much better…May God open our eyes to the magnificent, unending joy that awaits us in the glorious presence of Jesus Christ himself. Christ is unexplainably better than anything this life can offer.
- Romans 5:10, “…while WE WERE ENEMIES we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son…” With a very imminent, obvious, and real life enemy in our midst, it has given me a new perspective on my relationship with God before Christ saved me. I was his enemy. I don’t think we as Christians really believe that. I think we don’t think we were that bad. I mean, we are thankful that Jesus saved us and all, but–come on–we weren’t killing anybody the day he showed up either! Right? Colossians 1 says that we were “hostile in mind” toward God. We hated him. We were his enemies and instead of running away from us, he ran toward us in the cross. Again, this is not a political commentary. Just a reminder that maybe we have heard the liar say to us, “did God really say you were all that bad?” and believed him. Kill any pride or self-righteousness in your soul. Or it will be killing you.
- Acts 9, the conversion of SAUL, THE CHRISTIAN KILLER. Terrorist. Do we really believe the words on the pages of Acts 8 that say that Saul oversaw the murder of Stephen? Do we really believe that he was going from house to house looking for Christian men and women to chain them up and drag them to Jerusalem? Have we entered into the reality of Saul’s terrorism–in the name of his religion? Then, we reach the blessed words of Acts 9 proclaiming Saul’s salvation for generations of mankind to read. Do we believe that God saves terrorists? Or was that a one-time deal just for Saul? Are you praying for ISIS? Do you think they’re unreachable? Unsaveable? Believe Jesus. His very name proclaims, “Yahweh saves!”
- Matthew 5:44-45a, “But I say to you, LOVE YOUR ENEMIES and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” Honestly, this was the first verse that jumped into my mind after reading the words in Genesis. Did God really say….love your enemies. Yup, he did. Yes there are verses that say that God hates the wicked. God is all-together righteous and can do whatever he wants. But here’s the thing: we’re not God. Under the new covenant, I don’t believe we have the option to love or hate.
- Matthew 20:1-16, The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. Speaking out of my flesh, this is easily one of my least favorite passages in all of Scripture. You wanna know why? Because. It’s. Not. Fair. Here’s the thing: doing a full day’s work and getting paid the same amount as someone who does one hour?? Yeah, not fair. The words of the vineyard owner are piercing, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong…Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” May we always remember that everything about our lives–even the very place we were born–is a grace from God (Acts 17:26). We haven’t earned anything apart from him allowing us to have it. The moment we begin to feel entitled to certain things, standards, and lifestyles, we have forgotten grace. Do we really believe that God has the right to show grace to whomever he wishes?
- Psalm 115:3, “Our God is in the heavens; he DOES ALL THAT PLEASES HIM.” God is in control. This is only one of many verses that tells us this. Do we really believe that ISIS could be wiped out with a single snap of God’s fingers? Yet, he chooses not to. Do we really believe that he knew about the Paris, 911, and countless other attacks? God’s permissive will is easily one of the most difficult theological doctrines to struggle through in this life, but God’s sovereignty is one of the bedrocks of our faith. Christ-followers should be displaying an unshakeable and irresistable peace to a terrified and watching world.
- 2 Corinthians 5:18-20a, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, WE ARE AMBASSADORS FOR CHRIST, God making his appeal through us.” Christian, we have been given the blessed task of taking and preaching the gospel to everyone. As those who have been reconciled to God through Christ, we have the responsibility and privilege of sharing the best news on the planet with those who haven’t heard it yet. Do we really believe that God ordained the church as an integral part of his redemptive plan for the world? Do we really believe that we are all ambassadors for Christ? Or do we think that someone else will take care of it?
Again, I promise you that this is not a political statement, nor even a commentary on how I think we should respond as Christians, and I pray that you don’t read it as such. There are much better articles written by much smarter people about the details of the ISIS situation. But I’m more concerned about us, the church of Christ, believing, loving, and obeying Scripture–it is our very life (Deut. 32:47). No matter what situation we find ourselves struggling through, we need to always endeavor to have a biblical worldview.
I pray that the Holy Spirit would be gracious to reveal where you have allowed the enemy to whisper, “Did God really say….?” and believed him.