"Be strong and courageous..." My Lord says.
"How?" I whisper.
Social media ignited as people shared their own thoughts on the terrorist attacks in Paris. Some sending prayers, a few questioning the hearts of those who would kill without mercy, many angry and using this crisis to support one political stance or another... It's overwhelming hearing all these thoughts, and finding no comfort or peace in them I turn off my computer feeling more depressed then before. What was I hoping to find on Facebook anyway? Am I really surprised that both the right and the left are angrily using this tragedy as a means to further their political agenda? Am I really surprised that there is a cry for the blood of our enemies?
No, I guess I'm not.
And part of me wants to rally with them and cry out for war against these violent men, this ISIS... Kill them before they kill us!
The other part of me is sad and weary and something about this cry for blood doesn't feel right...
I've been thinking a lot recently about our rights. It's a hot topic these days. Everyone everywhere is all about their rights. It's been all consuming and I'm fearful that my rights are being taken away and given to others who could care less about my rights or whether I have them. It's so easy to give in to fear or anger, it's so easy cry out at the injustice. But then I hear this still small voice telling me to "Be still" and reminding me that something far bigger then me is at work. Maybe, just maybe God is wanting me to stop demanding my rights? Maybe he wants a faithful servant who seeks after her God first, letting go of these rights and trusting them to Him instead?
This flies in the face of my Americanism... My ancestors laid down their lives so that I could live free! And you're asking me, God, to lay down those, rights? What if I don't get them back? What if no one else will fight for my rights once I lay them down?
"Be still and know that I am God..." And "Be strong and courageous!" Is His response.
And then I think of Jesus. How "he was lead like a lamb to the slaughter and yet he opened not his mouth..." He never demanded his rights. He never even demanded justice... Some of His last words were ones of mercy and forgiveness. "Forgive them Father, for they do not know what they do." Jesus had every right to demand justice, but He knew that if He did He'd condemn all His people to death and hell. Why? Because we all deserve death and hell! Not one of us is worthy of the love and mercy of our holy God, so the very last thing we should want from Him is justice! Jesus gave up all His rights as God to give me the right to be a child of God.
Likewise Paul never demanded his rights as a roman citizen. He reminded people of his rights and used them to further his mission when he could, but when his chains came he accepted them meekly. He didn't cry at the injustice. He never railed against the government. His cause was never his rights, it was furthering the gospel whether in chains or no. And he was willing to lay down his rights if demanding them distracted from sharing the good news of the gospel.
This is the heart of the gospel, that the son of God came to seek and save the lost.
And He did this not to be served, but to serve.
In a culture that's all about me and my rights, it takes a tremendous amount of courage and humility to be a servant and lay down my rights... But I want to be selfless like my Savior. I want to be like Him more then I want my rights.
What a scary thing to say...
So what, you ask? Why this bunny trail about rights when you were talking about ISIS and the attacks on Paris?
It's simple really. Laying down my rights have everything to do with how I should face ISIS. I told you this call for blood was bothering me, especially this cry for Christians to rise up and start a second crusade... I believe Christianity now more then ever needs to look different from radical Islam because IT IS vastly different from radical Islam. We spout a God-given right to purge the earth of evil men which sounds an awful lot like their cry of "kill the infidels!" The problem is I don't see that God-given right from scripture... We were told to be salt and light, to go into the world and make disciples, to share the good news of the gospel, and to be faithful to the word and to Christ. Likewise Jesus told us to turn the other cheek and take care of the widows and orphans... Where does it say that we are to purge the earth of evil men?
"'Vengeance is mine,' declares the Lord, 'I will repay.'"
What draws people to join ISIS? I believe it's the ideology behind what they do that moves people to join their cause, which has nothing to do with becoming a Muslim. My husband put it this way, "people are drawn to this idea that they have the right to savagely kill anyone who disagrees with them. That's what pulls people to join them. It has nothing to do with a desire to pray to Mecca five times a day." Of course it helps that Islam allows for this destruction of all infidels, but I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about what is drawing others who could care less about Allah. They want the freedom not only to demand their rights, but also to kill anyone who disagrees! It's this same ideology that threatens Christianity. It would be so so easy to do the same thing, but we are told to take care of the sick, the needy, the fatherless. WE the church, not the government and certainly not these government programs. I believe Christ wants us so busy taking care of and ministering to others that there is no time or room for a bloodlust that says God gave us the right to kill those who disagree with us.
I'm not saying we shouldn't try to protect ourselves and those we love. I'm not even saying that there shouldn't be a war, but I am saying that Christians raising up an army as a second crusade isn't the answer. It buys into the same ideology that drives ISIS. Scripture is clear, as believers our passion should be for their salvation, not their destruction.
Jesus said to love my enemy, if for no other reason then I cannot hope to pray for my enemy if I hate him. And my enemy needs Jesus so so much! I also know now that demanding my rights does not help me love my enemy, in fact it makes me hate him more. It makes me fearful and resentful and pretty soon I have no pity for him or his need for Christ. The minute that happens I've lost sight of the power of the gospel. I've elevated myself above every other sinner and have set myself up as god.
I can be a good citizen who does what she can with the rights she still has without making my rights my cause. I can be faithful and trust God with them because no one can ever take away the most important right I have. It's the right that Jesus gave me: to be a child of God! In scripture this is really the only God-given right I have! All other rights are granted by our culture, they are subject to change by our government. But we live in obedience to Christ regardless.
The Apostles lived in a very corrupt culture too. They faced terrible persecution but they didn't call for an uprising to overthrow the government, they didn't attack the violent men around them. Instead they were good citizens, doing what they could with the rights they had to further the gospel until the day they died. THIS is what Christianty should look like! THIS is hard core unashamed uncompromising passion for God and the lost who need Him so badly. THIS is not pushover Christianty, THIS is loving your enemies so much that you'd be willing to die so that they can know Christ. ISIS would never ever do that, but Christians have to stand for something else. Something other then violence.
Are you willing to die so that those in ISIS could come to know Christ?
When I asked myself that question my answer was a resounding no. Of course I don't want to lay down my life for someone who would blow up a room full of people.
But what if my answer was yes? What if every Christian could say yes to that question? What a testimony, what a contrast to what ISIS does, what a boat load of burning coal on our enemy's head! What an astounding thing it is to love your enemies when all the rest of the world cries out for blood. Can I say it, can I say if there has to be blood let it be mine?
"Be strong and courageous" He whispers to me...
I can't. I'm unwilling...Lord forgive my unbelief! I want to want to be willing... I can at least try to pray for that.. It's a start.