Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Christian's Response to ISIS

As a relatively sheltered Christian (at least for now) living in a relatively free country (at least for now), I've found the unconscionable atrocities against fellow believersmen, women, and childrenat the hands of the Islamic State to be literally unthinkable, too horrific to fully contemplate, as I'm sure is the case for many others. We see the headlines as they pop up in our newsfeed, or flash by on our TV screens. But it is impossible to truly absorb the horror of what we're seeing. So, sometimes, we scroll past wearily without trying. It all seems too much. Yet, these atrocities are actually happening to our brothers and sisters in Christ, even as I write this.

So, when confronted with Christians being buried alive or barbarically decapitated...when confronted with the burnt bodies of our little ones...when confronted with the reality that ISIS terrorists are growing in should the Church respond?

The Apostle Paul exhorts us to remember those who suffer for the sake of the faith as if we ourselves are suffering in their place (Heb 13:3). He urges us to mourn with those who mourn, and to weep with those who weep (Rom 12:15). So, it's important that we don't emotionally distance or disassociate ourselves from the plight of the suffering Church, because we are all members of the same Body. No matter how far apart we are geographically, culturally, or economically, we are all children of the living God, bound together in the love of Christ. When one member of the Body suffers, the whole Body is affected (1 Cor 12:26).

But while we may be perplexed at the suffering of our fellow believers, we must not despair (2 Cor 4:8). And while we empathize, we must not dwell on evil. Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33). Amen! We need not fear men or what they can do to our earthly bodies, for our hope is in Christ, not in this world. God's judgment is coming. And as horrifying as the atrocities in the Middle East are, we can rest in, and encourage others with, the truth that the saints who are dying for their faith look forward to an eternal reward. Their momentary earthly affliction is preparing for them an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Cor 4:17). For they are victors—not victims—for God's glory! And persecution spreads the gospel.

Pray, Pray, Pray
And so we pray. It is the single-most important thing we can do. We pray for the persecuted, that they won't lose heart. We pray for the oppressor, that they will repent and believe. We pray for the Church, that we will stand firm in our faith. We pray for this broken world, that Jesus will be made known in it. We pray for an end to the suffering, the sin, and the torment. "For He who testifies to these things says, 'Yes, I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus." (Rev 22:20).

Love Our Enemies
Now for the puzzling part. Jesus taught us to love our enemiesto bless and not to curse those who persecute us (Luke 6:20; Rom 12:14). But how can we love an ISIS terrorist who commits such merciless acts of brutality against God's people? Yet Jesus unequivocally said:
“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. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matt 5:43-38)
So then, we must pray for ISIS terroristsand indeed for all Muslimsthat they would repent and believe in Jesus as the true Son of God. Loving our enemies does not mean turning a blind eye to their wickedness. Love cannot be separated from truth, or it is no longer love. And loving our enemies shouldn't be confused with a warm, fuzzy emotion or sentimental feeling. (The world has a funny idea of what love actually is). Instead, loving our enemies harnesses the gospel-driven motivation to point them to Christ. It is to intercede for our enemies in prayer, to tell them the truth about their sin and their need for a Savior, to stand firm in our faith before them as a testimony, andif we are ever called to do soto die at their hands in Jesus' name for His glory.

The 21 men who were mercilessly beheaded by ISIS terrorists recently was an act of love; dying for their faith was a powerful testimony to Christ. It's important to pray for the ISIS terrorists' eyes to be opened to the truth, just the Apostle Paul's eyes werefor let's never forget that before his conversion, Paul himself was a murderous persecutor of Christians. God can, and does, redeem the lives of even the most depraved and sinful of people by His grace, for His glory, so that no one can boast (Eph 2:8).

In the same vein, showing love towards all Muslims does not mean seeking common ground with, or cozying up to, a false religion that claims wrongful ownership of Jesus as a their prophet. It means reaching out to them in the self-sacrificial love of Christ and sharing the gospel with themwith gentleness and respect.

In showing Christ-centered love to Muslims, we should be careful to distinguish between individual Muslims and the institution of IslamWe should prayerfully reach out to our Muslim friends and neighbors in the love of Christ, as per the Great Commission (Matt 28:16-20, Acts 1:8). Our efforts to relate to Muslims on a one-on-one basis, however, should not be confused with forging friendship and/or unity between the Christian and Islamic faiths. This is to be unequally yoked (2 Cor 6:14-18). Churches should not work corporately with mosques and engage in interfaith partnershipsa common practice that has stemmed from the Interfaith Movement, which seeks to unify mystical elements in all religions and identify the common ground between them. For in the interfaith context, the Bible cannot be treated as the supreme authority on matters of faith.

Today, various—seemingly benign—aspects of the Interfaith Movement have permeated the Church. One of these is the practice of interfaith dialogue. Many churches are engaging in interfaith dialogue as a means to seeking deeper understanding, friendship, and common ground, between religions. Within evangelicalism, the practice of interfaith dialogue for the purpose of "building bridges" between those of different faith-backgrounds has become increasingly popular. The initial motive for evangelical churches in reaching out this way, is usually intended as a starting point for sharing the gospel. Often, however, the rules of engagement involve a prior agreement to refrain from attempting to convert one anotheras has been the case with the Christian-Muslim dialogue sessions practiced at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church with neighboring mosques, for example. This can result in the gospel message being obscured, and relativistic compromises being made, in an effort to maintain the amicable relations that have been forged through such sessions. Moreover, the biblical Jesus is obscured, even misrepresented, so as to be compatible with differing religious beliefs. In these dialogues, deal-breakers like the Trinity, for example, are almost always conveniently ignored or downplayed. Interfaith partnerships set up a false peace, brushing important differences under the rug, and essentially attempt to mix lightness with darkness (2 Cor 6:14). Yet Scripture is clearly teaches us to speak the truth in love for God's glory. Interfaith dialogue, then, fuels pluralism not evangelism—it gives rise to lies not love.

Uphold Justice
By faith we are called to be administrators of justice (Heb 11:33) and to correct oppression (Isa 17:1). As Christians, we cannot show authentic Christ-like love to others without also upholding justice on behalf of the weak, the poor, the vulnerable, and the oppressed—regardless of cultural or religious context, race, or social status. Christians are commissioned to be upholders of truth and justice in a deceitful and unjust world, and this means standing up for what is right in the eyes of God, not man.

Upholding justice is not the same thing as seeking revenge. It isn't about spewing bitterness and rage. Upholding justice can, in part, be motivated by righteous anger. But it's main motivation is our love of God and our love of others (Matt 22:37-40). It takes courage, conviction, and careful discernment.

The Hebrew word for “justice,” mishpat, which is used in its various forms over 200 times in the Old Testament, essentially means to treat people equitably; acquitting or punishing every person, without partiality, according to the merits of each case. In other words, mishpat is giving people what they are rightfully due, whether punishment, protection, or provision. Repeatedly throughout Scripture, therefore, mishpat describes taking up the care and cause of widows, orphans, immigrants, the oppressed, and the poor.

And so, as upholders of justice, we cannot passively stand by while our brothers and sisters in Christ are being oppressed. We must actively pray. And we must also speak up on their behalf and be the voice of righteousness in a morally perverted world. As upholders of justice, we should stand against bigotry, hatred, and the demonization of Muslim people. Yet we should also not flinch from addressing the 
true evil and violence that is at the core of the religion of Islam.

Be Informed
Many Westerners, including Christians, are apathetic towards, or ignorant about, the world-wide political impact of the growth and radicalization of Islam. Many choose to stick their heads in the sand, despite the warning signs of unrest in the Middle East and Africa or the growing problems in Western Europe. Many Westerners essentially have the wool pulled over their eyes.

But in order to uphold justice and be the voice of reason, Christians must be informed about what we're dealing with in ISIS and how it relates to the religion of its origin.

Born from an especially brutal al Qaeda faction, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has grown from relative obscurity in recent years to overshadow its extremist patrons. It now terrorizes large swaths of Syria and Iraq. With the public, cold-blooded execution of multiple Westerners, ISIS now dominates headlines the across the world.

It's important to understand, however, that the actions of ISIS are not contrary to Islamic principles and theology as is commonly claimed. ISIS is, in fact, a necessary outworking of the Islamic faith. Calling Islam a "religion of peace" is a blatant misrepresentation. This may sound like an extreme and/or bigoted statement, especially in light of the myths, lies, and selective quotes from the Qur'an, propagated by liberal imams and perpetuated accordingly by the mainstream Western media. For while it is true that there are certainly peaceful Muslims in the world, it is also true that there is violence, deceit, and evil at the core of Islam. Simply put, it is a religion fueled by the venomous Father of All Lies.

Plenty of politically correct know-it-alls like to scoff at this and tell us that Islam is a peaceful religion, that Muslims love Jesus, that Islam is misunderstood and has much overlap with Christianity. But these are grave and dangerous misconceptions.

While anti-Christian sentiments have steadily risen in the West (including among Christians!) over recent decades, sympathies for Islam have increased accordingly. But befriending, or seeking unity with, Islam, is to ignore the repeated warnings of Jesus (as echoed by the Apostles after Him) that we need to be on watch for, and flee from, false teachers. Let us not forget that Muhammad is one of the most infamous false teachers of all time. The astounding number (1.8 billion) of people who identify as his followers shouldn't intimidate us or cause us to view his teachings any more favorably.

For the fact is, the threat to our nation in mounting. A senior Iranian cleric with close ties to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed on Friday, February 27, 2015, that “we will raise the flag of Islam over the White House” in response to the killing of Hezbollah and Revolutionary Guards operatives on the Golan Heights the month before. But this sentiment is nothing new. It is the same war cry that has been consistently expressed from Islamic leaders in the Middle East, both before and after 9-11, and it should take no one by surprise.

The reality is, however, America is in danger of going down the same treacherous path of capitulation that Britain has paved for itself. Being myself British born, it has been devastatingly hard to watch what is happening to my homeland, where due to pressure from the British Muslim community the country is becoming slowly and subtly Islamized. The government routinely allows foreign jihadis to enter the country, while it bans counter-jihadis solely for the crime of speaking the truth about Islam and jihad. When defenders of free society against Islamization took part in the country's first "anti-Islamisation" rally recently, they were dismissed by fellow Brits as “right-wing nutters” and “fascists.” In fact, the counter-demonstration was over five times larger. By all accounts, it seems that Britain as a free nation is in its last days. But Americans should take heed; America could be close behind.

Christians need to understand what the Qur'an and Hadith actually teach and we need to get to grips with the demonic roots of the religion. For true Islam, Muhammad’s Islam—not the peaceful Islam of liberal Muslims or that which is presented to the West by Imams who are permitted to lie for the furtherance of Islam as under the law of taqiyya—is a religion of the sword. Many injustices against Christians, women, and other minorities living in Muslim-majority countries occur as a direct result of what the Qur'an and Hadith teach about the life of Muhammad.

As per Islamic tradition, Muslims are taught to model their lives on the Sunnah, Muhammad's perfect life example. In other words, Islam is built upon Muhammad's words and deeds. This is deeply unsettling when we consider that Muhammad was a warlord and a polygamist who took many concubines and married a six-year-old girl, consummating the marriage when she was 9 years old and he was 53 (which is the grounds for Iranian constitutional law permitting grown men to marry 9-year-old children).

Here are some important points to know:

1. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. It is expected to increase by about 35% in the next 20 years, rising from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.2 billion by 2030, according to population projections by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.

2. Islam is a false religion that cannot be syncretized with Christianity. You may hear that there are similarities between Islam and Christianity. This is true. But they are minor when compared to the fundamental, deal-breaking differences between the two faiths. Focusing on common ground between the religions, as is the current trend among many churches and missionaries working with, and engaging in interfaith dialogue with, Muslims, ends up leading to more confusion than it does to conversion. It muddies the waters and gives credibility (inadvertently albeit) to dangerously false religion. One example of this is the use of the Qur'anic verses about Jesus to witness to Muslims (as per the CAMEL method endorsed a few years ago by the Southern Baptist Convention), which gives the false impression that the Qur'an is a dependable source of information about Him. While using our common admiration for Jesus as a starting point to presenting the gospel to Muslims has proven to be an effective means of outreach, the common ground approach has been frequently taken too far, blurring biblical truth about who Jesus is to accommodate amicable Muslim-Christian relations in the name of loving our neighbor.

3. Islam acts as a political institution (in fact it is intrinsically political in nature). This often has dire implications for Christians and other religious minorities living in Muslim-majority countries. Democracy and true Islam are incompatible because Islam runs counter to the basic democratic tenet of freedom of religion, thought, and expression. Islam, more than any other monotheistic religion, invites itself into every aspect of social life. More specifically, Islam is inherently, and by definition inconsistent with, the separation of church and statean idea that is entirely foreign to Islamic orthodoxy; even Muslim-majority political parties that are secular in name dare not forsake the basic tenets of Islam, which take precedence even over economic advantage.

The political nature of Islam poses a mounting threat to the West that is not being taken with the seriousness it deserves by the current Administration. As the President continues to show weakness and Muslim sympathies, the bellicose rhetoric from those who consider themselves to be at war with the United States continues to heat up.

4. Islam is a religion of the sword by its own interpretation. The Qur'an is unique among religious scriptures in its acceptance of the doctrine of abrogation in which later pronouncements of Muhammad declare null and void his earlier pronouncements. This is significant because the violent verses in the Qur’an from Muhammad’s later warlord years abrogate (nullify) the more peaceable verses from earlier in his life as dictated by Islamic tradition.

5. Muhammad's own life models violent jihad. Muslims are commanded to model their lives on the SunnahMuhammad's prefect life example. The violent verses from Muhammad's warlord years command Muslims to “fight and kill [non-Muslims] unless they convert” (Surah 9:5), for example, which is a principle that Muhammad himself practiced, beheading infidels. Violent jihad is at the heart of Islam—it is not just the misinterpretation of a peaceful religion by extremist fringe groups. There are hundreds of Qur’anic verses on the subject of jihad, as well as the "Book of Jihad," which found in all Hadith collections. In sum, the Qur'an and Hadith demand jihada holy war, for the furtherance of Islam. 

Do Not Fear
There is a difference between being informed about the serious dangers of Islam and being fearful of it. This is not a call for panic or for obsessive survival prepping to withstand what might be coming. Alternatively, living in denial and sticking our heads in the sand is not an option; the challenge of Islam to the Church calls for a balanced, informed, well-reasoned, and prayerful response—all of which should reflect the hope we have in ChristThe Church must recognize what we are dealing with in Islam, stand firmly in our faith, and set forth the truth of the gospel plainly in order to save ourselves and our hearers (2 Cor 4:2).

None of these facts about Islam or ISIS should strike fear in our hearts. Our God is sovereign and His final judgement is coming. Let us not forget that Jesus has already overcome the world! Let us never lose sight of the fact that as Christians we are children of the promise who believe in GOOD NEWSLet us remember that we are watching and waiting for His triumphant return! If our eternal Savior is our ultimate focus, we will not be overwhelmed by the temperate evil that swirls around us, nor the fleeting trials we may face. Our hope must remain firmly in Christ.


Eric Matthews said...

A couple things were missing there.
First, for "bad conduct", those who "do wrong", and the "wrongdoer"
Paul prescribes terror, the sword (death), wrath, and vengeance.
Romans 13:3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.

Now one might argue, "Those are rulers responses, not Christian responses." Yes, except in the case where a Christian is free to advise a ruler, should they advise the ruler anything other than what Paul declared as the responsibility of every ruler?
And yet that is the freedom, responsibility, and birthright of every citizen in a democratic country—at least in those that claim to have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
Quite the dilemma for a Christian in a democratic country, who is called to wear two hats:
1. The selfless, generous, long-suffering forgiver.
2. The protective, frugal, prudent, expedient avenger.
Nevertheless, democracies would do better if their Christians would remember when to wear each hat.

Mini said...

@ Eric: great research on the scriptures. Except that those in the U.S. are part of a Republic, not a Democracy ;-)

Kathy Kenoly said...

If the representatives in a Democratic Republic agree to proceed against antagonists, they can vote to do so or not. The Democratic voting process will determine whether or not the Executive is commended in his decision to use force by the "war powers act". That is how our Republic operates. The Chief Executive, The President, is Commander of the military, and consultation is the domain of the legislative branch. Our President, has much discretionary power in using milatry actions, however. This is in keeping with Romans 13.

Kathy Kenoly said...

If the representatives in a Republica agree to proceed against antagonists, they vote to do son or not. The Democratic votjng process will determine whether or not the Executive is commended in his decision to use force. That is how our Republic operates. The Executive, The President, is Commander of the military, and advise and consent us the domain of the legislative branch. This is in keeping with Romans 13.

Kathy Kenoly said...

If the representativesite in a Republican agree to justly proceed against antagonists, they vote to do so. The Democratic process of the majority vote will determine whether or not the Executive is commended in his decision to use force. That is how our Republic operates. The Executive, The President, is Commander of the military, and advise and consent us the domain if the legislative branch. In keeping with Romans 13.