“How should I respond to terrorism?”
This is the question that has plagued my thoughts over the past several weeks. It is clear to all that terrorism is now very much part of Western society, and that we are to be ‘alert but not alarmed’, yet it is very hard not to be ‘alarmed’ when you hear the frequent reports of atrocities occurring. When you read of Muslims driving vehicles into crowds and slitting throats, or when a coward blows himself up for Allah at a concert aimed at teenagers; how can I not be alarmed, and indeed not angry in the midst of all this?
Islamic terrorism is something that we in the West have been focusing on since September 2001, but for me that was something distant and far. While I remember the day that attack happened, and recall distinctly feeling that this was going to be the beginning of a long war, I moved on. The war was distant and far, it had no impact on me.
In 2012, my family I moved to the United Kingdom as missionaries, our home base was to be in Woolwich in South-East London. Woolwich is a garrison town, and I enjoyed my time there, but on the afternoon of 22 May 2013 terrorism came to my front door. Followers of Muhammad ran down and brutally murdered Lee Rigby on a street where I had just been ninety minutes earlier. In the days that followed the attack, I saw the blood stains of Lee Rigby, and I saw the damage caused by the vehicle that ran him over. Terrorism was no longer distant or far, it was close. After the attacks, I ministered to a community that was hurting – and thinking back to myself, I can’t help but ask how can I not be alarmed amid all this?
When I heard the news of the recent attacks in London and Manchester, I admit I felt angry. These attacks happened in cities that I love and in communities where I had proclaimed the gospel. As the media televised the scenes of devastation, I could recall happier times in those exact locations, and I found myself becoming furious that Islamic terrorists would commit such evil in these places.
My first thought was that the government needed to do something; that we needed to fight back with force, and that we needed to defend both our lives and freedoms… but then, I began to think about all those Muslims who have never heard the gospel; what about those 1.8 billion people who were enslaved to Islam? War is not going to help them. The use of force will not change the ideology that drives terror. The state cannot do anything to change either the hearts or minds of the people. Yes, I know we have a Christian duty of self-defence, and that the state has been given the sword of justice (Romans 13:1-4) which they should use, but how do I respond as an Evangelist? How does the Church respond to terror?
In the days since the London attack I have seen too many Christians calling for war with Islam. Aside from the error of assuming that Islam is monolithic, this isn’t going to solve the problem. The physical threat may be temporarily pushed back by force but it will never eradicate the threat completely. Instead, the only effective way to remove the threat that Islam provides is through changing the hearts of Muslims.
So how should the Church respond? The Church has been given the very tools that can do this, that can remove this threat, through the changing of hearts. Our response should be to pray for Muslims the world over, and to go to them with the gospel. Missions is the key to driving back ISIS and Islamic terrorism. The state can and must wield its sword, and we must wield ours; we must take Scripture to those who are in darkness, and pray that the Lord would save those who are under the bondage of Islam.
Will missions to Muslims be easy? No.
May it cost you your life? Yes.
Is it worth it? Yes.
Will the gospel succeed? Yes.
As I look across the 24% of the world’s population that is Islamic, I see a vast mission-field. As I look, I see people that the Father has elected unto salvation, who are waiting for the gospel to be brought to them. Will the Church respond to Islam with missionary love, or will we join the masses crying for blood?
Something that I have personally found helpful in dealing with the issue of terrorism is by thinking about my own sinfulness. As I look at what these terrorists are doing, I am reminded that the same sinful nature that drives them dwelt inside me until Christ rescued me. Except for the grace of God, I could have been committing these same evil acts. As a Christian, I am no better than the Muslim terrorist, the only difference is that God’s electing love was shown towards me, and He called me into His Kingdom. I have nothing to boast in, and if God had not saved me, who knows what kind of evil I would have committed.
Evangelising to Muslims is hard, yet we have Scripture’s promise that it will be successful. There will be Muslims who become Christians. Indeed, in Daniel 2:31-45, we see a prophecy that promises that one day the Kingdom of Christ will fill the whole earth. This includes the Islamic world! (Personally, I am looking forward to the day when there is a Baptist Church in Mecca!) Further, the Psalmist says in Psalm 72:8-9 that Jesus will have dominion from sea to sea and that those in the deserts will bow before Him. The future is bright! The gospel will succeed; Muslims will be converted, and Jesus will be praised throughout the Islamic world.
But for this to happen, the Church must respond not with bullets and bombs, but with Bibles and love. We must preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who are enslaved to Islam.
So the next time you hear reports of terrorism in the news, pray for Muslims, and look for opportunities to tell them of Jesus.