For many years as a small boy I got my hair cut on an Army base. We lived nearby and when my dad would go to get his haircut he took my brother and I. I remember as a young 7 year old getting to experience the uniquely male environment of an Army barber shop. Manly decorations and reading materials abounded. So there I sat as a 7 year old boy flipping through copies of Soldier of Fortune. I do not advocate that as 7 year old reading material and no doubt if my mother is reading this she is a bit perturbed. I remember seeing the stories of wars and death and the ads for t-shirts with manly slogans. The phrase I remember best is “Kill ‘em All, Let God Sort ‘em Out”. This was available as a bumper sticker or T-shirt.
As I watch the news coverage of the latest wave of terror attacks, this time in Brussels, I am reminded of that phrase. Intertwined with this news coverage are many politicians and pundits telling us how we should respond and often those speaking claim a Christian authority to their chosen plan. We hear from some that we must love our enemies and from others that we must torture them. The Bible is twisted into poses of logical yoga to justify each position. But what should the Christian response be to terrorism? Allow me to offer three responses.
First, pray. Pray for the victims and their families. Pray for those who must respond to such violence and tragedy. Pray for our leaders to seek the One who can truly guide how to respond. Pray for our enemies. Follow Christ’s words in Matthew 5:44 “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” . That does not mean to pray for their comfort but to pray for them to be stopped, to pray for them to see the light that ends such terror.
Second, remember. Remember that we live in a fallen world, a world where sin has corrupted everyone and everything. We are shocked by such violence and rightly so. But as we are shocked we must remember that violence on a national or international scale is a magnification of the violence and brokenness we experience in our daily lives. As you remember that the world is fallen, remember that Christ has promised a new and whole world beyond this fragile and broken one. Through Christ we have the promise that as the old hymn says “this world is not our home”.
Finally, respond. We as people and as a nation must respond. Pray for those affected and weep for those who are gone but remember that as Ecclesiastes tells us, there is a time for every season under Heaven. When the time for weeping has past we must respond. Christians should be on the front lines of offering humanitarian aid to victims of terror. We should be living examples of the Gospel we preach. But beyond, the natural response of aiding the victims we must choose to respond to terror as a nation and we must be willing to fight evil. In the book, Perelandra, C.S. Lewis tells the tale of a college professor who is transported to another planet to battle an evil lurking there. Professor Ransom begins as any academic would, by arguing and attempting to use logic against his enemy. But there comes a point where Ransom sees how pervasive and destructive the evil is and realizes that logic will not work. Ransom reluctantly takes up arms to fight. I do not believe that Christians are ever right to proclaim the idea of “Kill ‘em All, Let God Sort ‘em Out” but I do believe that there comes a time when we, like Lewis’ hero, must lay aside academic debates and be willing to fight against those evils that are so destructive and pervasive that they are indiscriminately destroying lives around the world.
We are travelers journeying through a broken landscape and we often differ in our views on politics but as we journey we are never permitted to look on suffering and terror and walk away. If we do we are no better than the Pharisee who was too busy heading to church to stop for a beaten and bloody man on the road to Jericho. Pray. Remember. Respond.
-Pastor Tom Covington