Paris, Islam and the Threat of Things to Come
A rose is pictured on a sign depicting the flag of France next to candles during a ceremony for the victims the day after a series of deadly attacks in the French capital of Paris, in Lausanne, Switzerland November 14, 2015. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
This is a rare post on a hot topic. My heart is heavy with much of the world as I read about the events in France and Beirut. I think that we all intuit that, while the death toll is horrific, it signifies something even more ominous for the rest of the world – certainly for the Middle East and the Western world. Many defenders of Islam will most certainly be confronted with the obvious question once again – is this a valid expression of the doctrines of Islam or a radicalized form of an otherwise peaceful philosophy? At the same time, many followers of Jesus will have their own questions to wrestle through. I hope to shed some light on these questions.
In the early part of the 7th century a young man, born and raised in a city known as a regional center of idol worship, was alone in a cave on the Arabian Peninsula when he began to receive ‘revelations’ from a voice – the voice of a demon. This young man was, of course, Mohammed – the prophet of Islam. The influence of this man or of these revelations on the earth since then is difficult to measure since the bloodstained inauguration of his new religion.
For the better part of the past 1,400 years nearly every man, woman, and child in the Middle Eastern region have been born and raised into this way of life and philosophy with little or no other options to consider. In the ancient world no one paused during their upbringing or formative years to consider what they would do with their lives. They would do what their fathers did. If their father was a farmer, then they would be farmers; if a slave, then they would be slaves; if a trader, then they would be traders. Likewise, young people don’t wake up in the Middle East to consider what religious system they will follow – even within the various streams of Islam – they will do what their fathers do.
While idolatry in all of its forms bears the same guilt and ultimately the same punishment before God, this unique collection of demonic doctrines have systematically shielded nearly a quarter of the population of the earth with the threat of suffering and death from virtually any witness of the Gospel. I think that this is what we all feel – the doctrines of violence, Jihad, invasion, subjugation, and terror. They feel closer now. We feel even more vulnerable now. And rightfully so – we are more vulnerable.
The reason for my blog is that the two differing views I have heard voiced by fellow believers on the internet (although my contact with social forums is very limited) are both short-sighted. On the one hand, Christian non-violence is a foolish doctrine which attempts to apply the teachings of Jesus to politics by universalizing and Spiritualizing the Biblical teachings of the Kingdom of God. An example of this would be the attempted application of the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount (spoken to individuals on how they use their money, time, mistreatment, etc…) to the economic and foreign policies of your particular nation. (The foolishness of these ideas perhaps merits another blog, but for now it doesn’t serve my purpose to speak in detail about it.)
I think that this view sounds appealing to some because of the hateful stench of the contrary view. This second view (of believers) primarily uses logic to nulify the misapplied passages of Scripture, and in the name of rationality misapplies other passages (if they are quoted at all) to justify the great common goal which unites the atheist and the evangelical alike – preserving our own blood from being shed at all cost. I am not commenting on the wisdom or necessity of America or France to respond militarily to ISIS. I am questioning, what do the followers of Jesus of Nazareth have to do with the choices of these men or their consequences? We are destined to live forever in the glory of our Father.
What then of the Arab man or woman who was born without options? Has God made a way for this seemly impenetrable barrier around Islam to be breached with the hope of eternal life? He has, but it is costly.
My accountability before God to follow Jesus has nothing to do with the political stances of the nation within which I live. It does, however, have everything to do with what I do when faced with the threat of my blood (or the blood of my family) being shed by evil men.
23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. (Jn 12:23–26 NIV)
The Son of Man had an hour that was approaching – the hour to be glorified. His glorification will produce many seeds after His own kind. Assuming his disciples would be among these, he instructs that if they choose to love their own lives when their hour would come then they would lose them If they hated their life in this world/age, however, they would keep it for eternal life. If anyone wants to serve Jesus they must follow Him. Where he is (context indicates the cross), his servant will be there too – suffering for the sake of wicked and violent men inheriting everlasting life.
Brothers, the world knows nothing of this. Just like the young Arab, we are all born into a system which assumes the goal of life is to have your best life now. The Bible is a large book with many words. You can find any manner of word combinations in its text which appear to justify our sacred human right of self-love and self-preservation. However, you won’t find a crucified Messiah justifying anyone who lived with this aim on the Last Day.
When the threat of these violent men comes to our doorstep (and don’t think that God will save us from it because of the greatness or virtue of America) will this commitment to ourselves lead us to be ‘ashamed of Him’ (His conduct when confronted with the violent and unjust threat to His own life) and ‘His words’ (the proclamation of the Gospel to evil and violent men)? He will be ashamed of such men before His Father. (Lk. 9:26)
Or do we imagine that we will fight off the threat of violence and persecutions until one day, perchance, a random threat slips through the government’s watchful eye and we must take the bullet to the head while affirming belief in Jesus? Jesus’ response:
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. (Jn 12:27 NIV)
What will we say when our hour comes? The answer is this – what do we do now when the threat of our hour looms? What do we do as we are faced once again with the fact that believers in other parts of the world actually have to follow Jesus, His words, and His example, while for us it is optional – an option that we seldom choose. Even more, if you want the admiration of your peers and Twitter followers, some special insight which excuses our refusal to follow Jesus to the cross will most certainly do the trick. Do we pity the pastor in Iraq or do we covet his place? Who is to be pitied here? My words are sharp, because once again the American church is confronted with the great and ultimate question – Is following Jesus the first choice, or is it the last resort?
I fear that we all know the answer to this question. Oh, that God would grant us to have no more options. I pray that being joined to Jesus in His suffering wouldn’t be viewed as a dreaded punishment, but the gracious gift given by God that we might share in the glory of His resurrection. (Phil. 3:10-11) That it would granted to us ‘not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,’ (Php 1:29), and that we would be willing take up our own place in ‘filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions’ (Col. 1:24)…all for sake of Jesus’ name being proclaimed to wicked and violent men.
The threat of Islam is real. The risk of American blood being shed on American soil in your lifetime is legitimate. Choose wisely how you set the aim of your heart in light of the far off danger – it is how you will respond when the hour comes. Will you say, ‘Father, save us from this hour?’ Or do you believe, like the Lord Jesus did that, ‘for this very purpose you have come to this hour’. And so pray, ‘Father! Glorify your name’ (Jn. 12:27-28) in the American church!