Love. Whatever action we take must be motivated by this command, “Love your enemies.” We may be inclined to hate people, or an entire group, who want to destroy us, but hate is not an option for Christ-followers. Love must possess the mind and grip the heart. This is not an emotional, feel good, wishing and hoping reaction born of naiveté, but an intentional, powerful choice that guides our thoughts and actions. It is the opposite of hot-headed venting and a knee jerk reaction that calls for revenge.
Jesus then asked his followers to “…pray for those who persecute you.” Have you honestly prayed for terrorist agencies that are at war with the world? I know my own struggles with prayer as someone who believes in prayer and works at it. It is hard enough to pray for people I love. It takes intentionality, purpose, commitment and devotion on a daily basis. It is a struggle. How much more praying for someone who desires to harm me and is committed to carrying out evil in the most hideous ways imaginable! How can we pray for such people? I’d like to make a few suggestions:
Pray for repentance from evil. Let us not forget that the Apostle Paul was a religious extremist in the cloth of Al Qaeda and ISIS. He was committed to a brand of religion that called for the extermination of everyone who thought differently than himself--especially Christians. Then he met Jesus! Directly. Mysteriously. Decisively. He became as committed to the path of love (he authored 1 Corinthians 13) as he had been to violence. Pray for the supernatural transformation of those who are convinced of their own rightness. If Paul could say, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst" (I Tim. 1:15), surely God can save the likes of ISIS.
Pray that their plans will fail. This means praying for the agencies, governments and world leaders who must do the hard work of knowing how to oppose them. Pray for exposure of their plans and for the failure of their schemes. Pray that every evil deed will collapse in its execution. Pray that if they do not forsake their ways, those who have been commissioned by God to oppose them will be successful.
Pray for courage to call out their barbaric activity. Remember how the Nazis sought to hide their evil? The terror we are now facing is brazen and bold, smirking and snarling with every manifestation of wickedness. This is the holocaust of our generation. It is horrendous and must be stopped. To make no mention of it, or to go about our daily lives as if it didn't affect us, is tantamount to giving a stamp of approval to their heinous crimes.
Pray for courage to stand and resist should we find ourselves confronted by the perpetrators of such wickedness. I ask myself this question: Would I respond like those twenty-one Coptic Christians, who in their final moments, cried out Ya Rabii Yasu! (Oh Lord Jesus!), while others recited the Lord's Prayer? Pray that we might be men and women of intestinal fortitude and strong faith, willing to die if need be. The global nature of this threat opens up the possibility that some of us could find ourselves in a situation that calls for us to be unflinching in the face of martyrdom. We must pray for the strength, dignity and grace that only God can give.
What Jesus asks is scandalous but it is part and parcel of the Gospel. He has given us two weapons. Let us not love in word only, but in deed, and let us not see prayer as a substitute for action, but rather as a propellant for proper direction, solid wisdom and energetic involvement in these perilous days. How do we respond to the terrorists who target us? Love and prayer!
Post by a CIU graduate serving in the Muslim world