Let me start out by saying, like most people, my heart was broken yet again last week by the horrible attacks in Paris. It’s so hard to comprehend how the evil thoughts, intentions and actions of a few can bring so much tragedy to so many. My true and authentic prayers have been with the victims, their families and with everyone who stands firm in the belief of a better humanity in how we treat each other, regardless of beliefs, race, geographical location, orientation and opinion.
In a time, and unfortunately another tragic event like this, a lot of things get stirred up; fear, confusion, anger, policies, trust, questions… Things like “Why is there so much suffering in the world?” “What’s wrong with people today?” “Let’s go kill them all!” “#prayforparis.” I even saw someone on Facebook take a jab at President Obama just because he used the word “heartbreaking” and not “devastating.” And in the midst of the highly charged responses, I wonder how it got to this point? And I don’t mean for this level of violence, because that’s been going on for as long as humans have existed. Not that it makes an excuse, but I don’t think the world is falling apart before our eyes, I think that it fell apart a long time ago.
What is the right response here? I don’t know. It’s a level of grief, and with grief there’s no right or wrong way and there is no timetable. But, I want to simply offer up a thought… After sifting through countless posts, articles and blogs on social media having to do with all of the aforementioned feelings above, I have yet to see one with the hashtag #prayforisis. Praying for ISIS. Can we do that? Should we do that? What does that mean?
Let’s take a look at Jesus’ response to evil.
Eye for Eye –Matthew 5:38-42
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[h] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”
Love for Enemies – Matthew 5:43-48
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Wow. This looks different. But is it possible? I recently read an article about a man in France who lost his wife in the Paris attack. His response? “You stole away the life of an exceptional being. The love of my life, the mother of my son. But you will not have my hatred.”
Loving your enemy doesn’t mean you are condoning what they did on any level. Jesus Himself never says that. Jesus simply calls us to respond in a way that doesn’t seek to get even, find answers, get an appropriate/comforting response back, but that shows His strength and love, when we don’t have it. See, showing love to an enemy and even praying for others is an act of love and hope in the one being that has the authority and power to actually change a heart and rescue us all from a life that comes with hurt and tragedy. God.
I totally understand how difficult this is, and personally have a tough time with it, and that’s why I felt a conviction to write about it. It’s much easier to pray for someone or to forgive someone when their fault is much lower on the moral impact scale. Like if someone stole $20 from you, as opposed to hijacking and crashing a plane… And it’s also much easier if the person shows remorse and a deep sadness for their decisions. Although that still doesn’t always justify it for us, we want to see someone punished and desire to see consequences for all levels of wrongdoing. That’s our human response. But when Jesus talks about forgiveness, when He talks about loving others, He doesn’t draw a line in the sand. He doesn’t add on to those statements, “Love others, forgive others, UNLESS they did something THIS bad…” It’s an all-encompassing love, one that can only come from a supernatural being. One that He claims, as a follower of His, we all have inside of us. It’s also not a suggestion, it’s a command. And He promises punishment and accountability for all wrong that is done on the earth. I promise that God’s heart breaks more for the attacks in Paris than any single human being’s does. This is His creation and we are all His people.
In the midst of crisis, is when the good of humanity tends to shine the brightest. It’s the encouraging stories that come from the worst of circumstances that bonds all people together, who chose to seek out a higher passage of love and care for others. Turning cynical, bitter and more aggressively angry with every next awful thing that comes along, won’t set us free from the actions we’re opposing. It actually continues to draw us closer to the things we’re claiming to be disgusted by. And I wonder what must have happened in the lives of those attackers that led them to think their purpose in life was to destroy others. That’s not the message I read when I learn about the creator of the universe. Where did that message come from and how can we reach out further to dispel a skewed version of an all-loving, almighty God?
Turning the other cheek. In the worst of circumstances, is possible. With His strength, not our own. Here are some example of that: (Some of which were found online)
The Compassionate Officer
Steven McDonald was a young police officer in 1986 when he was shot by a teenager in New York’s Central Park, an incident that left him paralyzed. “I forgave [the shooter] because I believe the only thing worse than receiving a bullet in my spine would have been to nurture revenge in my heart,” McDonald wrote. While the younger man was serving his prison sentence, McDonald corresponded with him, hoping that one day the two could work together to demonstrate forgiveness and nonviolence. Unfortunately, the young man died in a motorcycle accident three days after his release; but McDonald still travels the country to deliver his message.
The Unexpected Connection
Sandra Walker, a mother of two, lost her husband in a car accident that also caused her to have a life-changing brain injury, according to the “Daily Mail.” At the trial for the accident, in her court statement Walker said she sympathized with the woman who crashed into them—who herself lost a child in the accident—and gave her a hug. “I know she is going through as much pain as I am feeling. I wanted her to know that I forgive her for what she did,” Walker told WSB-TV.
The Unwavering Mother
Teen Jordyn Howe took his stepfather’s gun to school and accidentally shot Ady Guzman-Jesus’s daughter, Lourdes, while showing the firearm to friends. Astonishing the judge and community, Guzman-Jesus not only forgave the boy but also asked for him to get a lighter sentence, telling reporters that she believes her daughter would have wanted it that way. Howe will only serve one year in a juvenile detention center, and will visit local schools with Guzman-Jesus to warn kids of the dangers of guns.
The Unbelievable Friend
During a night swim with girlfriends, bride-to-be Rachelle Friedman was horsing around and got jokingly pushed into the shallow end of the pool, where her head hit the bottom. She cracked her neck, and has not been able to feel anything below it since. Despite the life-changing injury, Friedman went on with her marriage and has said she never harbored resentment toward her friend about the freak accident. “There is no use in being down in the dumps and depressed. It’s not going to get you anywhere.”
The Sympathetic Victim
Mary Hedges was at a mall with her son when two boys pushed a cart over a railing onto her, causing severe brain injury as well as blindness in one eye, and the amputation of her right foot. Even though she suffered a coma and spent weeks fighting for her life, Hedges was forgiving. “I wish them well, I do,” she told ABC News. “I feel very sorry for them. My son is 13 also, and he is a very good boy.”
The Football Coach
Aplington-Parkersburg High School football coach Ed Thomas was shot and killed in the weight room of the high school early in the morning in June 2009. The shooter, Mark Becker, 24, was a former player on Thomas’s team. After the shooting that took the beloved coach’s life, the Becker family, who was also grieving, served communion alongside of the Thomas family at their local community church. The families exchanged delivering meals to one another and committed to praying together. They have continued to lean on each other’s families during the very difficult process of moving forward.
So, in your prayer life, have you prayed for ISIS? Have you prayed for the choices, hearts, families of those involved and indirectly involved? Have you prayed God would move and offer them a different message of love and action? God has been doing that for as long as human life has existed. How does it strike you to know that God is at work in the lives of everyone on this earth, it’s just that many people haven’t recognized it yet? They’ve chosen to follow a different message. That should never mean we stop loving them, with a love that exceeds our understanding. Our response, if we claim to follow Jesus, should be one of compassion, love, and hope. This doesn’t mean we’re saying it’s OK. This can still mean we’re tragically hurt, angry and confused at the things we’re seeing. This doesn’t mean one bit that we condone horrific actions caused by terrible choices of a skewed message that some people have received. This means we see beyond what we can’t comprehend on this earth, and that we, even in the darkest of times, can still see hope, knowing the best is yet to come. Knowing that there is still good in people. Pray for ISIS.