A few days ago terror struck again. At least 129 innocent people were killed when three teams of terrorists launched six separate attacks in Paris. Many more were injured; some critically. This morning another evil act is unfolding in Mali. How should Christians respond?
They should pray for justice. There is nothing ungodly about bringing murderers to justice. In Genesis 9:6, the Lord told Noah, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.” (Gen 9:6). In the book of Romans, believers are encouraged to be subject to governing authorities, “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you.” (Romans 13:3). Clearly, there is a place for justice in punishing evil-doers, and God empowers those in authority to hold criminals accountable. Vengeance belongs to the Lord, but justice is a God-given responsibility.
They should weep for the innocent. The events in Paris claimed the lives of someone’s parent. They robbed parents of their children, and husbands and wives of their soul mates. Christians should pray for everyone who lost a loved one, and those who are suffering from life-altering injuries. If possible, they should look for tangible ways to help those in need.
They should not desire a repayment of evil with evil. Justice brings peace, but evil breeds more evil. It is hard to discern the differences between justice, vengeance and evil. This is especially true when we are overcome with anger over the heartless actions of killers. Justice is exacted within the context of law and order. Vengeance belongs to the Lord because He alone knows the complete truth behind evil acts. And evil is never an appropriate response to evil. The apostle Paul wrote, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.” (Romans 12:17) The best response to evil is a calculated and systematic one based on law. The most damaging response is one made without discernment in a moment of anger.
They should pray for the world. Innocent victims matter to God. And believe it or not, even evil-doers matter to God. If you don’t believe me consider the case of the Apostle Paul who spent his days killing Christians before his life was changed. It took a while for the church to warm up to Paul after his conversion, but with the help of a man named Barnabas, people embraced his transformation. It is possible to pray for justice and the salvation of those who do evil at the same time. Spiritual salvation doesn’t necessarily relieve criminals of their debt to society. But it will prepare them for eternity, and it has the power to turn them from greater evil.
They should fear God, not terrorists. Please don’t misunderstand. In a dangerous world we must remain diligent and do our best to avoid becoming a victim. Terrorists can destroy our lives and bring unimaginable anguish to families and communities. Yet, Jesus once said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) If we fall into a terrorists trap we could lose our lives, but if we dishonor God by becoming just as bitter and hateful as the people who seek to hurt us we could lose our souls.
Therefore, kingdom fear has its place. The writer of Hebrews wrote, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31) Proverbs 9:10 reads, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10) We must respond to terrorism for the sake of civility, and for the welfare of our loved ones. But in everything we should honor God. On the last day we will stand before God, not a terrorist.
For this reason, I am not afraid of the future. How about you?