Who Do You Fear: God or ISIS?
February 19, 2015 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
There is no denying that ISIS is on everyone’s mind, to some degree. Their violent killings and military actions have been commanding headlines for months. So many questions and concerns weigh on our minds regarding this group. How are Christians to think and respond to these world events?
I admit that I do not have all of the answers, but I want to highlight a few Scripture verses that direct my thoughts as I process the news.
1. Do not be surprised! Jesus says in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Just before this verse Jesus tells his disciples that the world would hate them (15:18) and that some of them would even be killed (16:2). What we read about in the news does not surprise God. This is the nature of a sin-laden world. Christians should be the least surprised by the violence.
2. Do not fear, take heart! We already have seen Jesus’ encouragement in John 16:33. While plainly telling his disciples of the tribulation that was coming, he commands them to take heart. This is a command for courage and hope and Jesus gives the object of such hope: himself. Jesus has overcome the world. In Matthew 10:28 Jesus highlights this truth like this: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” The tribulation Jesus foretells includes the killing of the body. This is what Paul would call “slight momentary affliction.” We do not fear this suffering because it is not eternal. Our eternal well-being has been secured by Christ’s victory on the cross. Nothing can separate us from this hope (cf. Romans 8:37-38).
3. Pray for peace! Paul writes in Romans 12:14, 17-19, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them… Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God.” These are some of the most difficult commands to follow when your loved ones are threatened and harmed. This ethical standard, however, exemplifies the wonder of the gospel. We love, even our enemies, because God first loved us when we were his enemies.
4. Pray for justice! While we are commanded in Romans 12 to bless those who persecute us and to not seek revenge, Paul quickly affirms the role of governing authorities to carry out God’s revenge. “For he [the governing authorities] is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Rom. 13:4). It is not incongruent to bless those who harm you while being supportive of measures taken to deliver justice to the wrongdoer.
So much more can be said (and has been said by more skilled writers). Let us not be controlled by the fear of man, but hope in our living God who sits on his throne. “Be still and know that I am God.”
Let me direct you to some other articles for further reading. I have read these in recent weeks and found them helpful in thinking through all of the issues surrounding ISIS. Note: I do not necessarily agree with, nor endorse, everything written in these articles.
Kevin DeYoung wrote this article discussing the nature of the Crusades and how they may or may not parallel what ISIS is doing today.
Tom Schreiner gives an excellent overview of a biblical perspective on the latest news in this article.
Russell Moore talks about how we should be praying for ISIS in this article.
This article, written for The Atlantic, provides an in depth picture of what may be motivating ISIS.