Friday, February 20, 2015

Loving ISIS: Remembering Jesus' Words When I Don't Want To

As someone who scans my Twitter feed once or twice a day, I appreciate the many and varied links and headlines people share there. One of them bothered me, though, after the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya. It was from one of the more "progressive" evangelical voices, and I'm not usually a fan. He called on Christians to pray for the families of the 21 victims, and then he called on us to pray for their murderers.

My first reaction was anger--how could he equate the two? That diminished the martyrdom of these Christians! They should not be mentioned in the same sentence, breath, or prayer as the ISIS villains who killed them.

But a few seconds later (after that first wave of indignation), I realized that I was absolutely wrong, and this "tweeter" was reflecting only what Jesus would have said, and did say. He taught, "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you," remember? If not, see Matthew 5:44. And when he was being crucified and mocked, he prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).

Yesterday, I joined with some others who were going to pray for the persecuted church, and I listened and joined in as prayers were offered for both the persecuted and the persecutors. I could agree, because I remembered my humbling reaction from a few days before.

But it became much more personal a few moments after our prayer time, when I was sent a link to a broadcast on a Christian TV station that blankets the Middle East. On a call-in show, the brother of two of the martyred Egyptian men shared his joy that his brothers had been faithful to the end. He thanked ISIS for not cutting out the audio on their broadcast so that his brothers could be heard calling out to Jesus as their Savior and Lord. When asked what his mother would do if her sons' murderer was to walk down her street, she answered that she would invite him in and ask God to open his eyes. This man then prayed for his brothers' killers, asking God to open their minds to the truth and free them from the lies that they have been taught. You can watch the video here. Or, watch it from the link on my Facebook page.

This living demonstration of faith and obedience in loving one's enemies was something that moved me powerfully. Not having these kinds of enemies, I can still find it hard to overlook slights and insults. Yet what Christ calls us to is so radical that it can and does look ridiculous to the world--and maybe to some Christians, too. 

ISIS represents evil in so many ways. I pray for their defeat. Yet, that does not mean that its adherents are beyond the saving grace and forgiveness of God. Remember, one of Christianity's chief spokesmen was complicit in the murder of Stephen. May God raise up dozens of Saul/Paul types through the martyrdom of Christians, even from among the murderers themselves.