As I sit in my comfortable home, at my hand built desk, typing on my expensive computer, I wonder at the seeming injustice of life.
Nobody gets to choose where they are born, at least not that we are aware of. Nobody has the ability to determine what hour of history they were thrust into, what religious indoctrination they will endure, what financial system they will be ruled by, what political institution they will suffer under. The only option we have is to navigate through the particular life circumstances we were afforded at our birth. Mine was pretty amazing. Loving parents. Western culture. Affluence (at least, comparatively). Freedom of choice.
It used to be that those things could afford you the chance to avoid most trauma and violent life experience. But not a few days ago. In a country very familiar to all, in a place least expected, terrorists struck.
Its very easy to just see the tragedy, allow the pain to rise up and want to see the terrorists dead. Any normal person would feel that way. When the people you care about are impacted by tragedy, you want justice to be served, and quickly. Just yesterday, France responded by sending warplanes to bomb ISIS strongholds and people cheered.
As a national response, I don’t see how they could do any different.
But then I think about the power of indoctrination. I think about the young men who have suffered under the hand of religious indoctrination, financial oppression, political instability and wonder if that could have been me?
If I was born into the same place, at the same time, would I be the one strapping on weapons and doing what I considered to be “God’s work”?
Now, don’t confuse what I am saying as justification. The murder of innocents, the torture of believers, the selling of young women into sex slavery makes my blood boil. If it was my children’s lives at stake, I don’t know how I would respond.
But, could it have been me? Could it have been you? And, if it was, how would you want someone to respond to you? If, in the light of eternity, those terrorists/men could see correctly and come back in time and tell you how to respond, what would they ask you to do?
One of the worst terrorists in the early church was a man named Saul. He was on the war path, killing Christians, dragging them out of homes, going city to city trying to weed out this offensive cult. This man was, by all definitions of the word, a terrorist to Christians.
But God speaks to a man named Ananias about Saul.
In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” Acts 9:10-14
God asks Ananias to do the unthinkable – go and pray for the terrorist to restore his sight. I’m sure Ananias probably thought Saul deserved his newfound blindness for all the pain he had caused. But God didn’t send what think would be justice to Saul, he delivers him, changes him and uses him to change the world.
I don’t know about you, but I would probably have been praying for Saul’s death during his days of persecuting the disciples. But what Saul needed more than justice was redemption. He needed light to break into His darkness.
If I had been born into a different place, indoctrinated a different way and suffered under the weight of oppression, then maybe I would be the one with the weapon in my hand. But, I would hope that there would be brave enough people like Ananias who instead of wishing for my death, would come and pray for my sight to be restored.
The war that we are currently involved in is not a war over physical ground. You can bomb Syria and weaken ISIS but it is the ideology that must be stopped. That will not happen without the people of God being willing to do what Jesus asked us to do.
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” Matt 5:43
What we need are thousands of “Saul’s” encountering Jesus on the battlefields, being transformed and becoming the apostolic witness to a generation of indoctrinated, hateful terrorists bent on destruction. Are we willing to be the Ananias’ who pray for that to happen?
For me, this all hangs on one very important issue – what do I really believe about God? Do I believe that God is able to bring about justice, defend his people and see His kingdom advance or do I think that maybe He needs some help on this one? Is prayer really as effective a tool as the Bible tells me it is? Can my prayers actually bring about an encounter with God for a terrorist?
If your God is small, then maybe you are not sure. Maybe your God is not able to change Sauls into Pauls.
But mine is, and I think yours is as well.
So when you see #prayforparis remind yourself to also #prayforisis that God would interrupt the lies of thousands of fighters and transform them into apostolic missionaries for the Kingdom of God.