But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. — James 3:17
It is a righteous, good, loving and Christ-like thing to have compassion, to do what I can to help the victims of tragedy, to pray for them and their loved ones, that the LORD will comfort them, bring healing and peace to their lives, and most of all, that his presence in their lives would touch them in spite of their circumstances, and that they would ultimately be drawn to receive eternal salvation in Christ.
Yet there are other aspects to the murderous terrorist attacks in Paris. I believe the individuals who carried out these attacks — especially those who planned and organized them, and those who funded them — are enemies of God. I believe they hate God and hate the truth. If they loved the truth, they would be focused on proclaiming it. They would desire to spread the truth by winning over people’s minds, by showing them how the truth applies to everyone’s life in a very personal and real way.
But that is not the case with Islamic terrorists. They do not see their victims as innocents. They are actually following the Koran and Hadiths when they slaughter “infidels”. Those who refuse to acknowledge Allah and are not willing to live in subjection to Islamic law are considered lower than filthy vermin, deserving nothing less than extermination. And that is exactly what we see them doing, whether they are cutting off the heads of Christians, gunning down concert-goers or blowing up cafe patrons.
So, how should we as Christians respond to this threat? The reality is that right now, today, Christians are being oppressed, plundered, raped, tortured and killed by Islamic terrorists, simply because they refuse to recant their faith. Scripture teaches us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. And also that our war is not against flesh and blood but against cosmic powers. So, is the proper Christian response supposed to be non-involvement or non-violent? Are we to humble ourselves before our enemies as lambs to the slaughter?
Because Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was sufficient for all (2 Corinthians 5:15; 1 Peter 3:18), Romans 12:1 urges, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Our lives are to be our sacrifice, not our deaths. That is not to say that Christians are automatically protected from the hands of murderers, but it specifies that our sacrifice is living our life as an act of worship. We don’t have to be murdered in order for that to be the case. Martyrs are not living sacrifices.
The fact that we love our enemies and even pray for them (and have compassion on them, in light of the jeopardy they are in, as enemies of God), does not change the fact that they are still our enemies, and we still have to defend against them. Neither does the fact that Christians aren’t at war with flesh and blood mean that flesh and blood wars aren’t visited upon us. The reality is that people and nations do conduct wars against flesh and blood, and the armies involved do include many Christians.
The sixth commandment is, “Thou shalt not murder.” I do not believe that killing in combat is murder, nor that war is immoral. I disagree with those who claim that the sixth commandment means, “Thou shalt not kill,” or that war is by definition immoral. However, I respect the conviction of conscientious objectors who cannot in good conscience participate in combat. That said, I believe a Christian’s participation in or support of the military, while not a duty to his faith, is a duty to his nation. I believe that is an honorable duty, included under the heading of “Things rendered unto Caesar”.
To repeat my original point, yes, compassion is our proper response. But another element was introduced by the Presidential directive to fly the U.S. flag at half-staff at all federal government locations. That means our nation (not the Church, per se) stands in solidarity with France, that we not only share in their suffering and loss (indeed, there were Americans killed) but we stand with them against the forces responsible for those attacks. Lowering our flag says, “We are your allies. We are with you in this fight.”
So, as a Christian, Scripture directs me to have compassion on the victims, pray for them, and even pray for the salvation of the perpetrators. But as Americans, our nation is directed to support the military overthrow of Islamic terrorists. And I believe that to the best of our ability, Christians are to do both. Related to this is the mass exodus of Syrians trying to escape the carnage of the Islamic State. While Christians and other non-Muslims suffer the most from ISIS and other extremists*, there are huge waves of Muslim refugees seeking asylum in Europe.
*(There is a reason for this. Verse 29 of the 48th chapter of the Koran begins, “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves…”)
Obama has stated it is “un-American” and “shameful” to give Christian refugees special consideration to be brought to the United States. This despite a growing number of European countries who are adopting such a policy, not to mention American governors who have said their States are eager to welcome Christian refugees but are concerned about the danger of terrorists among Muslim refugees.
Those who bother to look at a map of the Middle East can’t help but notice that Syria is surrounded by a plethora of Islamic or Islam-friendly nations. Why are the Muslim refugees not seeking asylum in those countries, hmm? Where’s that compassion we read about in Koran 48:29? In addition to being compassionate and gentle as doves, Christians are also supposed to be wise a serpents. This situation definitely calls for wisdom.
The President of France has declared that his country will attack the terrorists without mercy. Indeed, the history of Islamic extremists reveals that the only way to stop them is to totally crush them. This statement is not made out of hatred. It simply is a truth of history. They will not stop until they are utterly defeated. This is a military view, and a historical view. It is not because we are Christians that justifies fighting some kind of holy war. It is the simple fact that if non-Muslim nations hope to survive with their freedoms of religion and expression intact, they must defeat the Islamic militants whose goal is to kill, oppress and control us.
So, what should Christians do? We certainly should not be silent. We have a message to share with the world. That message is the truth of the gospel that needs to be proclaimed to an unbelieving world — most especially to Muslims, whose religion is leading them to death and darkness, hopelessness and hatred. But as Americans, we also need to recognize that unless we destroy those purveyors of death, they will destroy us. We can do that and remain compassionate. We don’t need to hate in order to fight our enemies. We just need the conviction to do that which is right and just.