Christian Living

Spiritual Life

The View From Above, Part 2

"And of the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times . . ." (1 Chronicles 12:32)

Is There a Place for Justice?

Without question. The Bible makes it clear that the loss of innocent life demands a response (Genesis 4:10) and that, in the case of premeditated murder, that response is lawful capital punishment after a fair and impartial trial (Exodus 21:12; 14). We are right to seek the arrest, trial, and punishment of those behind this slaughter. This is not to say we should act in a spirit of vengeance. It is one thing to be shocked, grieved, and angered yet still act deliberately and in accordance with justice. It is quite another thing to engage in blind hatred and seek to harm anyone or anything that even hints of guilt by association. We must seek justice, not revenge.

For a moment, let's consider the implications of doing nothing. We have every reason to believe that the terrorists will only gain momentum and more innocent people will die. Romans 13 tells us that God has placed the sword in the hands of governing authorities for a purpose. That "purpose" is to restrain evil as well as execute justice. For the sake of protecting still more lives, it is essential-even godly - that justice be pursued vigorously. The question behind all this is one of intent. Will the United States pursue these matters in the spirit of blind vengeance? If so, we will not be acting in godly fashion. However, to do nothing is also a violation of God's commandments with regard to responding to loss of life (again, Genesis 4:10 and Exodus 21:12, 14). What we must seek is the path of justice whereby the guilty are punished, the innocent protected, and God's Word honored.

[This is yet another entry point for prayer on the part of the Church. It is the right thing to pray that God will work through human agencies in order to find and punish the guilty. But we must also pray that God will protect all of us from bitterness and unrestrained anger. For indeed, "the wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God" (James 1:20).]

What Should Be Our Attitude Toward Muslims?

There are Muslims who are celebrating this act of terrorism. Television images of Palestinians on the streets of the Middle East rejoicing over the loss of so many innocent lives will undoubtedly be a picture most Americans will not easily forget. It also seems – though we do not yet know – that these acts of terrorism were incubated in the womb of radical Islamic faith and carried out by Muslims.

I am a Christian. I am committed to the Bible as authoritative, and thus I see fundamental differences between Islam and both Christianity and Judaism. As Christians, we must always remember that we share a deep affinity with Jews, which we share with no one else in the world. Yes, we will preach the Gospel to Jews hoping to bring them to faith in the Messiah Jesus. Yet, Biblically committed Jews have this in common with Biblically committed Christians . . . We share the same basic worldview. Despite our differences over the Messiah, in a very deep sense of the word, “we are on the same page.”

When it comes to Islam, I do not believe “we’re all on the same page.” Yes, we share a belief in monotheism, yet there are striking differences with regard to Biblical worldview and Islamic worldview. I believe Muslims are captive to a fundamentally flawed set of beliefs. As a Christian, I actively seek to lead them to faith in Jesus Christ and thus to worship the God of the Bible.3

Yet, despite my differences when it comes to matters of faith, I also fear for Muslims who live here in the United States. Many – probably most – Muslims in America will be sickened by what they saw. Yet a few days ago, I heard a national radio commentator make a remark that grieved me deeply. He warned all Muslims in America “to stay inside if they know what is good for them.” I also heard a story – I don’t know if it’s true – that a man dressed in a turban was accosted by a number of people on an AMTRAK train earlier this week.

I regret to say it – but I believe it to be true – innocent American Muslims will likely suffer retaliation here in America. Most Americans will not participate in it, and most Americans will be grieved that the cycle of hatred continues. Yet, it will probably happen. If I were a Muslim living in the United States, I would be afraid.

As Christians we must be bearers of light in times of darkness, and as Americans we must remember that this is a free society and any law-abiding citizen is welcome. We must not pre-judge all Muslim people. Especially now, we must bend over backwards to extend kindness and hospitality to Muslims. And, above all, we must reach out to Muslims with the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Toward this end, Kempsville Presbyterian Church (KPC) intentionally supports the International Student Banquet held at Old Dominion University. There are always Muslims in attendance. And we are always there in order to reach out to them, develop friendships, welcome them into our homes and around our dinner tables, and to bless them in the Name of Jesus.

3 If you want to learn more about the Islamic faith and the Christian perspective, you may want to go to answering-islam.org.uk on the World Wide Web.

What Can I Do?

I think there is little doubt that the greatest human burden carried at this time is borne by President Bush. Consider what he is facing. Finding those who did this will not be easy. Bringing them to justice may be even more difficult. If he is perceived as less than decisive, he will lose at least some of his ability to govern. On the other hand, if he overreacts he can alienate moderate nations who might otherwise support the United States. No matter what he does he is likely to incur the wrath of radical Muslim nations, which will stir up still more terrorism . . . not only here but also in the Middle East. There are countless, dangerous scenarios, and almost any act will put another set of problems in motion.

President Bush needs our prayers. No wonder the Bible tells us,

"First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity" (1 Timothy 2:1).

We can be grateful we have a President who believes in right and wrong and who also is a devoted Christian. In God's Providence we have been given a leader who personally leans on his relationship with the Lord. Therefore, especially because we have a man who knows the Lord, we must pray for him and all who advise him. Indeed, we can be confident God will hear our prayers on his behalf for the Bible has commanded us to pray in this fashion. We also should pray for rescue workers, police and firemen, military personnel, government leaders, and all Christians who are personally involved in this tragedy.

Yet, our response can include more than prayer. From what I understand, there is a significant need for blood. We also have developed a partnership with Operation Blessing to bring needed resources to bear in the lives of those personally affected. Should you choose to give, you may make your checks payable to KPC and write "Operation Blessing" in the memo section. We want to put money in the hands of Christian folk who can help meet the most basic needs of all who are suffering and to do so intentionally in the Name of the Lord Jesus.

Of course, any actions we take will seem so very small in the face of the enormity of this crisis. Praying, giving blood, giving financially . . . all of it will seem like just a drop in the bucket. Yet, I believe that God has designed it this way. Yes, our contributions are so very small. Yet, like the boy who placed his lunch of five loaves and two fish (Matthew 14:13-21) in the hands of Jesus, those who give the little they have find their efforts significantly multiplied. Our small efforts are not the problem, rather our small efforts are, in reality, the point. We are small. God is great. And He multiplies whatever we do in His Name.

Finally, this is also the time to share your faith. I saw a brief newsclip of a woman who attended a downtown prayer service on Tuesday night. She said she didn't view herself as a religious person, but she felt strongly that she needed to attend a church service. Do you see where I'm going? This event is shaking people up. Many around us will be looking for answers. Suddenly all of us feel a little less secure. That's not a bad thing at all, because it can lead us to depend on God. If you're sensitive to people around you and the Holy Spirit within you, the opportunities to influence other people for Jesus Christ will abound.

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