‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?– Matthew 5:43-47
Nowhere is Jesus’ command harder than in times like these. I’ll freely admit that I don’t know the situation on an emotional level. Yes, I read the news, but from the safety of a far away country. I don’t have murdered family members. I’m not in danger of being evicted from my home or eradicated in a genocide. This is what the Islamic State threatens Christians with.
What are we Christians who are not in the Middle East to offer in return? If Islam brings the sword (Yes, not all Muslims feel this way, but ISIS is bring the sword in the name of Islam,) perhaps it is the calling of our leaders and armies to bring military intervention to the area. Perhaps Christians in the army ought to be involved, or Christian voters to support military intervention.
But if that is our calling, it can’t be from a place of revenge. It can’t be out of hatred, or anger. If we do these things, it must be because we love our neighbours and are unwilling to see them suffer.
More than that, if we want to be true to Christ, we need to be willing to pray for and genuinely love the extremists currently rampaging through the Middle East. That should come first in our decision making, and our concern for the members of ISIS should shape our choices. This is our chance, as Christians, to prove what we’ve been telling people about personal, sexual matters – that we do genuinely love the person though we deplore the sin. In no way do we endorse what ISIS is doing – but we must love the people involved and care for them.
God, watch over the members of ISIS. Show your glory to them, and turn them away from the path of sin and destruction that they have chosen. Show them that your love is stronger than their hatred. Safeguard their children, who do not have the capacity to understand what their parents are involved in. Give them an opportunity and a desire to repent, O Lord.
I pray also for the Christians of the Middle East, who face extinction at the hands of ISIS. Lord, do not neglect your flock, but be faithful to those who love you. Deliver them from this catastrophe, Lord; if you will not deliver them, then walk with them and strengthen them in this time of trouble. Give them the courage to forgive their oppressors, as you forgave yours.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.