In order to preserve civilization, decisive action against ISIS and affiliated terror organizations is not an option. Can we forgive our enemies, as Jesus mandated, and crush them at the same time? Can God’s love of people be separated from His hatred of evil? What is the best possible role that America should play in the war against ISIS and its comrades in terror? What would be the consequences of non-action? Is this a war for only Arab nations to fight? Would Jesus go to war against Satan’s representatives? This article attempts to answer these questions from a biblical and common sense perspective.
None of the 21 Coptic Christians who were beheaded by ISIS denied Christ. The last words of one of the innocents was a loud, “Jesus!” We’ve witnessed Americans beheaded by ISIS on television. Tens of thousands of Christians and those of other faiths have been beheaded, sold into slavery and burned alive, killed and had their organs harvested, and have been otherwise tortured to death by those who proclaim themselves to be followers of Muhammad. Increasingly, the focus is on Christians. Over 200 Christians were kidnapped last month from northern Syria, and their destiny on this earth is not a mystery. A female American missionary is now awaiting her fate.
As with other cults, the ISIS terrorists hold beliefs that defy rationality. They believe that they are ushering in Armageddon and a new kingdom in which Muslim men and burka covered, uneducated, and mutilated women will be the only inhabitants. With little opposition, ISIS is “purifying” North Africa, Iraq, Syria, and other Arab nations; and we see the advancing darkness in Europe and England, as well. Little light presently shines in Europe. There are over 600 “no-go” zones in France. These are neighborhoods that administer Sharia law and don’t allow non-Muslims to enter. England also has such zones. According to our State Dept. even America, terrorist organizations are in all 50 states. Other sources identify many terrorist training camps in the USA where Americans are not allowed to venture. The stated mission of the Islamic terrorists is to “cleanse” the world and establish what they call a “caliphate,” or a government ruled by a “caliph,” which is a successor to Muhammad.
WHAT IS AMERICA AND THE CIVILIZED WORLD DOING ABOUT TERRORISM?
With a tidal wave of barbarism crashing against the shores of civilization, the civilized world is barely fighting back. As Germany was in 1932 and 1933, so is now the Middle East. However, without the intervention of righteous men and women, 1938 and 1939 will likely be upon us soon, even coming to a mall near you. Every year, women are killed in the U.S. by a relative in the name of family honor. Though these criminals have not bought into our cultural values, or even into our laws to maintain order, we have accepted their right to live and believe as they wish. In the Old Testament, God allowed “aliens” (non-Jews) to become Jews, but he also required that they live and believe as Jews (Exodus 12:48). All other nations of the world presently require, or have required until now, that immigrants pledge to abide by the laws of their new country.
WHAT SHOULD FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST DO?
Concerning the slaughter of tens of thousands and potentially millions of innocents, what should followers of Christ do? Our State Dept. stated that the answer is to give more jobs to terrorists and potential terrorists. Do you think that a worldwide jobs program is the answer? Osama bin Laden was a multi-millionaire, and his followers were not interested in gainful employment. And now we know that “Jihad John” comes from a rich family in England, graduated from a university in London, and claims that he was discriminated against for being a Muslim (he’s the man in the black costume that speaks to the camera before he beheads someone). Therefore, a jobs program is not the answer.
Jordan and Egypt seem to think that fighting the terrorists is the more effective strategy. Jordan struck back hard after a Jordanian pilot was burned alive, as seen on a You Tube video. Egypt joined the fray when the 21 were martyred on the set of what was made to look like an ocean shore. America presently gives weak support to Jordan, Egypt, and other nations in a faux international coalition of 60 nations. America provides minimal air support to these Arab nations. Just as America did not back the millions of Iranian demonstrators who longed for democracy, so now America does not provide even small arms to the only Christian hold-outs in Iraq, the Kurds.
More to the biblical point: What is the mind of Christ in this situation? Is there a difference between how a nation should respond and how an individual should respond? Jesus said to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43). Are we to love and forgive the ISIS terrorists? As our enemies increasingly focus their efforts on the “little Satan,” Israel, with the long range view to the “great Satan,” the United States, we might want to keep in mind that there is a difference between loving our enemies and allowing them to destroy all that is noble and good. As Christians should we forgive the savages? Should we fight against evil? Should we do both at the same time and forgive evil of this level of degradation? Perhaps, there is a difference between our responsibility as individuals and as a nation. Jesus always stood strongly against the kingdom of Satan. In Matthew 11:12 Jesus said, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” It appears that Jesus wants us to stand against Satan and do our best to establish His kingdom here on earth, as He “draws all men to him” (John 12:32). As the terrorists would have it, there will be no men open enough to be drawn to Him. That time will come eventually, of course, but such timing is not in our hands. What’s in our hands is to press forward to establish His kingdom.
SPECIFIC BIBLICAL INJUNCTIONS: Loving People and Hating Evil
The bible speaks to this conundrum. Let’s first consider that if we cannot separate God’s hatred of evil from His love of people, the answer seems to be that we should fight against evil, as we did in WWII. We know that God is “one God.” God cannot be divided into parts. For example, we cannot separate God’s justice from His mercy, or His hatred of evil from His love of people. All of God is everywhere. He is indivisible. Therefore, the more God conforms our character into His image, the more we will both love justice and hate evil. Proverbs 8:13 states, “The fear of the Lord [standing in awe of God] is to hate evil.” Many other scriptures state that God’s essence is love. He is our loving heavenly Father.
Therefore, if we love God and the tens of thousands of innocent martyrs, we must also hate evil. Although no one knows what the present policy of America toward worldwide terrorism is, the policy seems to be to contain evil. This strategy, of course, is not aimed at stopping or destroying the threat of the mass murder of millions upon millions.
If a group of gang-bangers were murdering people in your neighborhood, would you call the police? Romans 13 supports calling the police, as such peacemakers are ultimately appointed by God for our safety. Hebrews 11:34 even speaks of heroes who “waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens” (KJV). These heroes led the destruction of cultures that sacrificed their children in the fire to gods of wood and stone.
Jesus told us to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves,” (Matthew 10:16), meaning we must discern the difference between a sheep and a goat, between loving others and doing what is necessary to protect ourselves and guard the liberties that God has given us (drawing boundaries). As Proverbs 4:18 advises, we are to “guard our hearts” with all diligence. And Romans 13 states that our own rulers are established by God to be His representatives who do “not bear the sword for nothing” (vs. 4). Our policemen and, by implication, our armies are for our protection.
We know that Jesus had the discernment to know when to outwardly love and when to vehemently defend and protect. Christ declared that the converts of the hypocritical religious teachers of His day were “twice the sons of hell” as they, the teachers, were (Matthew 23:15). He hated the demons that He cast out. And though He taught us to “turn the other cheek,” when He was struck at His illegal trial, He said, “Why did you strike me” (John 18:23)? Because of the evil in the world, Christ was a “man of sorrows.” He weeps for those who suffer at the hands of the terrorists (see Isaiah 63:9). I believe that He even weeps for the terrorists until He finally turns them over to a “reprobate mind” (Romans 1:28). At this point, if Christ does not weep for them, we also need not weep.
At the same time that Christ loved people, He hated evil. Christ was the most loving and most joyful man that ever lived. He performed His first miracle at a wedding and celebrated life. As the voice of wisdom personified states in Proverbs 8:30-31, so believed Christ: “I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world, and delighting in mankind.” Therefore, it is possible for all of us to continue to celebrate life and the wonders of God’s creation while at the same time feeling the pain of those who have lost loved ones to barbaric cruelty.
Based on Christ’s love of people and hatred of evil, it is likely that Christ would condone all efforts to stop the murder of innocents. Even if all world events fall into a pattern to bring about end time events or other unknown purposes, because we cannot fully understand the pattern or His purposes, we must live our lives one day at a time and respond to evil as righteous men and women have responded since the world began.
THE RESPONSE OF RIGHTEOUS MEN AND WOMEN
The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 2:9 that we are to love people, but we are to do so with wisdom and knowledge (and not be naïve and taken advantage of). There is a horrific and ultimate destination for evil doers where “the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48). Clearly, there is also a time and season for all things, a time to kill and a time to heal (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 3).
In Romans 1:28, the Apostle Paul states that God gave some people over to a “depraved” or “reprobate mind.” In the realm of sin, the atrocious acts that we witness via television are the “end of the line.” The ISIS terrorists who call themselves warriors for Muhammad are evil incarnate and are probably closer to the edge of hell than even Paul could have imagined. Psalm 73:18 speaks of evil people standing on a “slippery slope.” Jesus refers to those who do not build the foundation of their lives on Him as building on “sinking sand” (Matthew 7:26).
Peter said that God did not spare from hell the angels that rebelled; nor did He spare the evil people in Noah’s day, nor the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Peter even described false teachers as “brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish” (2 Peter 2). Again, hear this: Peter says that some people are “born to be destroyed.” This from one of Christ’s most devoted and loving disciples. One of the most famous representatives of Christ in the history of the world. A man of love and peace.
Jesus, our loving Lord and Savior, stated that in His time, all sin would be forgiven except “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 12:31). There are debates about what this sin is, and I have an opinion. But my opinion doesn’t matter in this discussion. Whatever the sin was (or is) could not exceed the sin being committed by the most ruthless barbarians ever known in history, savages that put to death the followers of Christ, Jews, Muslims of slightly different beliefs, and people of any other faith than theirs.
Psalm 1:6 says, “For the Lord knows the way of the godly, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” There is no doubt. Even Jesus and the New Testament that emphasize the grace and love of God speak clearly to the need to combat evil, unless otherwise individually spoken to, as God does speaks to each of us individually, e.g., you may be chosen for martyrdom (John 10:4, 27).
RESPONDING AS INDIVIDUALS
What about our attitude as individuals? If someone is chosen for martyrdom, God would want us to forgive our murderers, as He forgave His murderers on the cross. Also, consider the relatives of the victims. Will they find inner peace in any other way except through forgiveness? Of course not. Nevertheless, when the killer of their son or daughter is executed or falls in battle, these same relatives might obtain some satisfaction, knowing that God’s justice has been accomplished.
The best course of action in regards to our personal vengeance is to leave it alone. Romans 12:17 says, “Leave room for God’s wrath; vengeance is mine, says the Lord.” If we don’t “leave room” for God’s wrath, but execute our own judgment, we risk that God’s judgment may not prevail or, perhaps, will be less severe. This point of view is proposed by Proverbs 24:17, which states, “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the Lord will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him.” Most of us would prefer that evil doers suffer God’s judgment, rather than our own. Again, on an individual basis, scripture seems to teach forgiveness, along with trust in God. If we trust in God, His justice will be accomplished. Therefore, as individuals we are to forgive our enemies. This does not discount that some men have been personally called to fight against ISIS, having no affiliation with any nation.
RESPONDING AS A NATION
On a larger scale, just as ungodly nations were destroyed in the Old Testament, the ungodly “world scale gang-bangers” need to be destroyed. In Old Testament times, there was one situation in which God specifically told the Israelites not to pray for the enemy: “Do not pray for the well-being of this people” (Jeremiah 14:11). Similarly, in the New Testament, Jesus did not pray for Satan. ISIS is not simply the radical arm of Islam that establishes Sharia and devises even more cruelty than is conceived by the policies of these laws. The mission of ISIS is purely demonic (even beyond many of the laws of Sharia), and the soldiers of ISIS are either demonically oppressed or possessed.
Now is the time for our leaders to map out a clear strategy to defeat our enemies. We could have stopped ISIS by leaving 15,000 troops in Iraq, but we chose not to do that. We could have stopped them as they left Syria. We could have stopped them as they marched from city to city in Iraq. Iraq isn’t exactly covered with forests and canyons to protect them from our sight. In Desert Storm, we discovered how easy it was to turn back forces of evil with such basic weaponry as A-10 jets (while some people questioned if these planes could be useful at all). Of course, presently A-10’s are being decommissioned right here in my hometown of Tucson, Arizona, where many of our A-10’s are based.
Fortunately, people as evil as the ISIS terrorists are “like the chaff which the wind driveth away” (Psalm 1:1). But it is probable that righteous men and women must do their part to make this happen. Hopefully, the civilized world will unite around strong leadership, which we pray will emerge.
Presently, the King of Jordan is leading the fight, and America is giving a billion dollars to Jordan over the next two years. Even China is giving aid to fight ISIS. Saudi Arabia has ½ million soldiers, the fourth largest military budget in the world, and could take the lead in a fight against ISIS. Certainly, the Saudis have a more immediate investment in seeing the defeat of ISIS. Also, both Egypt and Jordan also have ½ million soldiers. However, there are internal problems that keep these countries from using all those soldiers and these countries have traditionally not been able to work well together. But if these countries used even half of their forces, ISIS could be destroyed very quickly.
Leadership has not yet emerged from the United States. Of course, God has allowed the present circumstances for a reason, but that does not let America or any nation off the hook from standing up for righteousness against an evil enemy. Especially an enemy that has designs upon our own nation. Keep in mind that the number one responsibility of our government is the security of Americans.
Whether you believe we must forgive these particular enemies or not is irrelevant to the needed action. Forgive and love our enemies all you want to, personally. That’s what Jesus commands. But our nation must help to stop the senseless murder and rapid advance of darkness, just as the world should have stopped Hitler and could easily have stopped him early in his campaigns. The only way to do this is to execute thorough judgment upon ISIS, upon all Islamic terrorists, and upon any other brand of terrorism that threatens our national security (which of course would be threatened by a world subjugated by darkness). Do we need boots on the ground? We need Arab boots. That’s for certain. Arab nations who have minimally joined in the fight against ISIS are Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar.
Whenever the armies of Israel joined with ungodly nations, no good came of it. But these nations are not technically our “enemies.” These five Arab nations violate human rights as a way of life, and they persecute women in heinous ways. Therefore, they are not ideal allies. Yet considering that these nations are not our enemies and how easy it would be for them to defeat ISIS with the right leadership, it seems incumbent upon the United States to provide this leadership, weaponry, and intel on the ground. Doing this is no different than allying with China and Russia to defeat Germany in WWII. The Arabs seem unable to unite and unable to act without leadership, and many Arab leaders are simply asking for America’s leadership.
Joining with Iran would be the height foolishness. That would be the clear equivalent of God’s injunction in the Old Testament to note unite with our enemies. Yet this is what America seems to be doing! That is why Arab nations that are presently friendly to the United States are drawing closer to Israel, hoping that help can come from them.
Iran would easily defeat ISIS, but it would also add to its territory. In fact, as America does little, the Shia fighters of Iran are taking the lead. These Shia militias are quickly eclipsing the Iraqi forces in importance in Iraq. The result of letting Iran take the lead will likely be to firmly establish Iran as the dominant force in Iran, doubling their territory while on their way to create nuclear weapons in the near future. Providing help to the Arab nations, primarily in the form of leadership, would keep Iran out of the picture and help to preserve religious liberties in Iraq, helping Iraqis to regain ground lost when American pulled out the 15,000 troops.
Putting his own life in danger, Egypt’s President El Sisi has spoken directly to the leaders of Islam, advocating for them to stand up against Islamic fanaticism and also advocating for Arab boots on the ground. El Sisi took the stand of a righteous man.
Can America provide air power, intel on the ground, and weaponry? Of course. America could easily take the lead in the battle to defeat ISIS. Our efforts to merely “contain” ISS are not working. In fact, our allies no longer seem to trust us and our enemies no longer seem to fear us.
Is it worth it to stand up against the darkness? Here’s another way to ask the same question: “Is it worth it to live for Jesus, rather than let darkness rule the globe, resulting in the murder of millions of Christians and millions upon millions of people of many faiths and cultures?” Christians and tens of thousands of people of other faiths are presently being slaughtered. Powerful action is not optional. It’s what defeated the Third Reich and with God’s help - and only with God’s help - it’s what will defeat Islamic terrorism and all forms of terrorism. This action must be done swiftly. Of course, Jesus will someday go to war against Satan to bring last day’s events to a conclusion. Therefore, fighting Satan in these times agrees with scripture, just as the natural manifestation of righteousness is to hate evil and to love and protect innocent lives. Let’s remember that Jesus was not a peacekeeper; He was a peacemaker.
(See also “Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can't Ignore,” by Jay Sekulow and his website, along with multiple Internet articles.)
Dr. Weld’s views do not necessarily represent the views of PreachItTeachIt.org, and PITI welcomes comments.