Bombings. Beheadings. Mass shootings. Kidnappings. Rocket attacks. Suicide blasts. Has terrorism become the new normal in the world? For some countries, incidents like these have been the norm for far too long.
According to the US State Department there has been a thirty-five percent increase in terrorism globally from 2013 to 2014, and that number continues to rise. We know, all too well, that the US is no longer a stranger to these modern acts of terror, from Manhattan to Boston, Oklahoma City to Sandy Hook, the list goes on, and on, and sadly on some more.
Now, with the latest attacks in Paris what does a Christian response to terrorism look like?
First, let me say that this is in no way is the be all and end all to the Christian response, but it is a place to start, and sometimes as we are in shock and trying to process an act of terror what we need most is the next step, a place to start.
Pray. It seems like an obvious place to start, but it is not the simplest place to start. Yes, we pray, and in this case we pray for Paris, for the victims, their families, and the nation. We pray for healing and help, for protection and provision. But, we also pray for our enemies. This is where prayer gets difficult, but it is also where it gets uniquely Christian. Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). He also said, “Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27–28). But how, how do I pray for my enemy when, if I am honest with myself, all I want is payback, and eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
Here is one way you can pray for an enemy: “Father, grant that my enemy would come under the saving, power of the Gospel and that you would make my enemy part of your family. Grant, Father, that my enemy would love to do your will on Earth as it is done in heaven with the purest of motives and great joy. And forgive my enemy his sins, as you bring him to repentance, and protect him from the destructive power of evil.”
Love. Love is a choice we make. Sure, sometimes love comes with that special “feeling” in our hearts, but biblical love is defined the choices we make, because love is more than a feeling, true love is backed up by action. Whether it is with Paris or some other place where terrorism strikes, love often begins by weeping with those who weep (Romans 12:15). This means we share in their grief, we support them in their sorrow, and we come along side them to help in their healing.
Trust. Our trust must be in God and it must remain there. We cannot allow evil to push us off our foundation of faith. Evil is a reality, it has existed from the beginning of creation and it will continue to be a reality until God establishes a new heaven and a new earth. Until then, we trust in God’s sovereignty. Trust like this means, confidence in God is not shaken even though evil abounds. Trust like this means leaning on the absolute reliability of Gods Word. Trust like this means maintaining ones faith, hope, love.
Serve. Let’s get practical for a moment shall we. The Christian faith isn’t pie in the sky wishful thinking; it is a practical faith. We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus and that means putting on our boots, rolling up our sleeves, and doing what needs to be done. Donate blood, buy some needed supplies for victims, help at hospitals, give generously, make food for rescue workers, support other volunteers, and donate time, energy, and resources in whatever ways are possible for you. Christians need to be doers instead of spectators.
Fear Not! When we see the horrific images on TV it is easy to become overwhelmed with fear, but we cannot allow fear to rule our lives. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Simply put, fear does not come from God. The enemy wants us to be afraid and to live in fear, but God wants His peace to guard our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7). We should take precautions, be mindful of our surroundings, evaluate situations, and respond appropriately, but we must not let fear keep us from living our lives.
When terrorism hits, like it has in Paris, we are angered at evil, and anger is natural and it is an acceptable reaction towards evil, but we must remember that God calls us not to sin in our anger (Ephesians 4:26). These acts of terror are devastating and painful for sure, but the Christian response must be one that seeks to help and to bring hope. The Christian response must include forgiveness and continue to dispense grace. The Christian response to terrorism is one that reflects the nature of God, that looks to Jesus as the example, that searches the scriptures for instruction and direction, and it is one of compassion.