Jesus taught us to forgive our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. He taught us to look for Him, in all of His creation. Yet how can we see Jesus in our most abhorred enemies? How can we see Jesus in Isis?
ISIS represents an extreme militant and violent ideology that has hijacked the religion of Islam and is responsible for the torture and murder of innocent lives. The kind of disregard for humanity that results in displacement, torture, rape and murder is absolutely abhorrent beyond words can describe. But as true followers of Christ, how should we respond?
I want to pose some questions in a plea that I hope will reflect on the foundations of our faith. This is part of a personal challenge I have set myself – seeing Jesus in ISIS.
1. Who are the perpetrators?
As we reflect on the current crises, consider the Christian Crusades, where millions of people were slaughtered, many of whom were Arabs and Muslims. How can we begin to walk the road of reconciliation through the acknowledgment of the swords and guns that have been raised by our own people? Does this reminder of the Christian-led radical uprising change the way we understand the relationship of hate and mistrust between Christians and Muslims (and Jews)?
2. Is God a Christian?
Or is God a loving heavenly father/mother to all? Does God hear the prayers of all of His children, or only some of them?
3. Was Jesus militant or pacifist?
How does this reality change the foundational underpinnings of Christianity? When Jesus told us to love our enemies, did he really mean it? Are there any exceptions? Does this influence the way we respond to crises such as these?
4. If Jesus came face to face with ISIS, what would he say?
Would Jesus approach ISIS with love or with violence? Would justice come through their extermination, or through revelation?
5. When Jesus returns, will our enemies dwell alongside us in the new kingdom on earth?
If we don’t forgive our enemies, will we ourselves be able to enter into the Kingdom? How will we feel if we see Jesus welcoming our enemies with open arms?
6. What does God expect of us?
Is our job to militantly save the world from our enemies? Are we supposed to engage in worldly warfare through violence? Can worldly forms of warfare ever help to bring God’s Kingdom of love and peace on earth?
7. If we respond to hate with hate, do we win?
Can love and violence co-exist? Can we be servants to both anger and righteousness? Will violence overcome violence? Has war ever won?
8. Can we be justified in claiming another belief system as inherently violent, if we dismiss the non-violence of Jesus?
Does it make sense to hate the violence of others, but ignore the pacifist teachings of Christ? Can there be exceptions to these teachings?
9. Do we have the authority to decide who an enemy of God is, and whose lives deserve to be taken?
As mere servants of Christ, can we bring ourselves to be the judge, jury and executioner of any other child of God?
An anonymous writer made this sobering observation when reflecting on the horrific Christian Crusades:
"When have Christians demonstrated love to Muslims or Jews? We have gone to them with swords and guns. We have gone to them with racism and hatred. We have gone to them with feelings of cultural superiority and economic domination. We have gone to them with colonialism and exploitation. We have even gone to them with the Gospel cloaked in arguments of superiority. Only a few have ever gone with the message of Calvary...We must do more than carry the message, we must be the message."
So, in the midst of our battle against those who persecute, what does this message of Calvary look like? Can we seek to love, while we wage an unholy war on our enemies? Will war win, or will love win?
Thy Kingdom come, on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Bex lives in Mangere, New Zealand and has a Masters in International Development. She is passionate about people and advocating for social justice through her writing. Bex is currently training to be a social worker and has a special focus on working with former refugees.
See all previous articles by Bex Rillstone