Fear and anger are powerful emotions.
So is sadness.
So is hate.
Paris triggered them all.
The bloody carnage in the City of Love was the latest assault in a new world war unique in its methodology, its aims and its stakes.
ISIS claimed responsibility for more than 129 dead and hundreds injured. The radical Islamic terrorist group had carefully planned six separate attacks across the city – all of them successful.
President Obama found himself at the G-20 summit in Turkey repeatedly defending a piecemeal policy that once vowed to stop ISIS but many insist has only emboldened it. The President has refused to consider any military options beyond air strikes and sending advisors.
People are fearful.
When a Syrian passport was discovered near a dead militant, many immediately suspected the stream of refugees coming to Europe and the United States from Syria and other countries in the Middle East – ironically fleeing the very turmoil and ruthless violence represented by the Paris attack.
Were terrorists sneaking in with the refugees? American compassion was now confronted by our need to be protected.
A majority of the nation’s governors vowed to stop the immigration. The President implied that was un-American.
Evangelical pastors joined the chorus of controversy from their pulpits the next Sunday. They condemned the Paris massacre and demanded stronger action from the government. One well-known Baptist minister told his church that “as Christians” we must love, forgive, pray and share the gospel with those who oppose us.
Then he exclaimed that he agreed with Donald Trump “that it’s time to start bombing the you know what out of ISIS!”
He received a standing ovation.
Bombing or sending troops – these are military responses. Christians, as good citizens, acknowledge the biblical role of the state in securing justice and protecting the nation. In a fallen world, government “beareth not the sword in vain” (Romans 13:5, KJV).
This war against ISIS will not end with a negotiated settlement. No surrender instruments will be agreed to or signed on the deck of a battleship. No arms will be laid down. The enemy will only be stopped when it is destroyed.
This is the sad but undeniable truth of the matter. No political correctness can change it. Reality is a very stubborn thing. Millions of Americans don’t believe we are being adequately protected in this global crisis or that our government has always acted wisely or courageously on the world stage.
But there is more to this – and there must be more to our response as believers. No matter what may be happening in this world – no matter what the danger or the threat – we must never forsake the primacy of the spiritual.
If we don’t see all of life and its events through the lens of our Christian faith, we either don’t understand it or we don’t believe it.
The Church of Jesus Christ is not the state – it stands above the state. And Christians are more than patriotic citizens. Our thinking must be informed by more than fervor, flag-waving and vengeance.
We must begin by giving our fears and anxieties to God. He knows we’re only human but to dwell in fear is to dishonor the Sovereign who is over all the nations and forces of this world.
This includes ISIS.
The world may panic and Jesus tells tell us that in the cataclysms of these last days men’s hearts will fail them for fear (Luke 21:26). But he tells us to “be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, KJV).
We must also understand and keep in mind the nature of this present conflict.
There is no greater example of the spiritual warfare being waged against Christians than the rise of international terrorism sponsored by radical Islam.
This is part of the cosmic struggle being fought between good and evil; against Jesus by Satan.
To understand this is to respond wisely and confidently.
As Paul exhorts us to take on God’s spiritual armor, he reminds us that “we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12, NLT).
That is the nature of it. Those are the stakes.
Just as it is a mistake for our government not to acknowledge the true nature of the political and cultural conflict, so it would be equally short-sighted for believers to misunderstand its spiritual dimensions.
ISIS is not our enemy. Satan is.
And because he takes on the Son of God – who rules forever in majesty and power – the devil’s doom is sure.
In this we may rejoice.
Like the conflict itself, so too our weapons are spiritual.
Paul tells the Corinthians:
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (II Corinthians 10:3-4, NIV).
When asked at the age of 92 if he might summarize the lessons of history in a single sentence, renowned historian Will Durant replied:
“Love one another. My final lesson from history is the same as that of Jesus … Love is the most practical thing in the world.”
The only force powerful enough to overcome hate is love.
Let us pray for our enemies. Let us ask God for the strength to love them.
In the end, it is our greatest weapon.
May God bless you and your family.