Friday, November 20, 2015

Paris Attacks and Refugees

After hearing about the terrorist attacks in Paris, I was once again reminded of Ephesians 6:12 which says, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."

It's incredibly easy, and almost natural, to point fingers at certain people, policies, and politicians after a horrific tragedy such as these attacks. But none of this is helpful, especially after the fact. Yes, ISIS or Islamic State (the people behind the Paris attack which killed 129 people and injured over 350), is an evil organization and needs to be dealt with. They need to be addressed and taken care of just like Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and a number of other Islamic extremist groups.

But, I'm quite certain that eliminating one of these groups of people would just be putting a bandaid on a much bigger problem. These terrorist attacks are the symptom of a much larger problem. Not just a cultural problem, although that is part of it. Not just a political problem, although that is part of it. The main issue we are facing is a spiritual problem, just as Ephesians 6:12 tells us.

Spiritual problems are dealt with by using spiritual weapons. The most powerful weapon we have as Christians is prayer. So please, please pray. Pray for our leaders. Pray for our nation. Pray for our world. Pray for Muslims. Pray for the victims and families of victims. Pray for Christians to wake up.

I hope and pray that the people behind these attacks are captured, and only when necessary killed. If they are killed they will spend eternity in hell. These people need to know and meet Jesus. Until then, I seriously doubt they will ever change.

My wife and I on a trip to Paris in the summer of 2011.

As Christians, we aren't supposed to rejoice when evil or wicked men perish. (Ezekiel 18:23, 33:11, Proverbs 24:17) Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. (Matthew 5:44)

What if we actually lived that way!? What if we took Jesus' words to heart!? It might be unsafe at times. We might be unsafe at times.

Jesus was persecuted. His life was threatened and in danger on numerous occasions. He ended up being tortured and executed for His faith, for the way He lived His life.

11 of the 12 disciples were executed for following Jesus. Their faith was real. It cost them something. The following is the cause of death for the 12 disciples:

1.  Peter, or Simon Peter, was crucified in Rome. He considered himself unworthy to die in the same way as Jesus did, so he asked to be hung upside down.
2.  Andrew was crucified on an X shaped cross in Greece. It is believed that he shared the Gospel with the crowd and his executioners while he was dying.
3.  Matthew was staked to the ground by spears and then beheaded in Ethiopia.
4.  Bartholomew, or Nathaniel, was martyred in Armenia in Asia Minor. It is believed he was either flogged to death by whips or skinned alive and then beheaded.
5.  Thomas was killed by being stabbed by a spear in India.
6.  Philip was killed by being impaled with hooks in his ankles and then hung upside down.
7.  James the son of Zebedee was beheaded by King Herod near Palestine.
8.  Jude was crucified in Persia.
9.  Matthias, the disciple that replaced Judas Iscariot, was mostly likely either stoned and then beheaded, or burned to death.
10. James the son of Alpheus was most likely thrown off the temple and then stoned and beaten to death.
11. Simon the Zealot was crucified.
12. John is the only one of the 12 disciples that most likely was not martyred for his faith. He was imprisoned and left to die on the island of Patmos, where he wrote the book of Revelation. It is also believed he was put into a pot of boiling oil in Rome and somehow survived.

None of these guys were sitting in a safe room in their house or in a bunker in their basement. They took Jesus' words to heart. They went into the world and preached the Gospel. No matter what the cost.

They loved and they served until the very end. Just like Jesus did. Just like many of our Christian brothers and sisters are doing throughout the world.

Following Jesus isn't all that safe. Well, ACTUALLY following Jesus and not just talking about following Jesus isn't safe. Jesus never told us it would be safe though. In fact, the Bible tells us otherwise! (Matthew 24:9, 1 Peter 3:14, 4:12-19, 1 Timothy 3:13) But, following Jesus isn't without reward. It is worth it. He is worth it!

If we are willing to die for something, then we should be even MORE willing to live for that something. If we are prepared to die for Jesus, then we should be even MORE willing to spend every day and every moment living for Him!

If we aren't living in such a way as this, then I question whether we would truly die for Him. Talk is cheap. Many times, serving and loving others is costly and inconvenient.

Many times the safe thing to do isn't the right thing to do. Many times the convenient thing to do isn't the right thing to do. Love almost always (if not always) costs something.

Love received is free. Love given is costly.

My allegiance is pledged to Jesus before any allegiance to my flag or to my country. Sometimes the patriotic thing to do is not the same thing that love tells me to do. Sometimes the best thing for our country is not the same as what Jesus has called me to do.

As nice as the American dream sounds, I am called to help the widow and orphan first. As convenient as shutting our country's doors to potentially harmful refugees sounds, I am called to love my neighbor first. I am a citizen of heaven. I am a citizen of God's kingdom before I am a citizen of the United States. And therefore, I want to live and speak accordingly.

Not every Muslim is radical. There's a noticeable difference between the average Muslim and a radical Muslim terrorist, just as there is a noticeable difference between most Christians and a church like Westboro Baptist that pickets military funerals and hates just about everything and everyone.

Westboro is the exception to the rule. The Muslims in these terrorist groups are the exception to the rule. The average Muslim is horrified by these terrorist attacks just as much as we are, if not more so.

Many of the refugees seeking asylum in the United States and other countries are victims themselves. They need help, and as Christians we are called to help.

Should there be screenings and background checks on these refugees? Yeah, I think so. Should we let everyone in? No, I think we need to help some more of our own citizens first. (Like the many homeless veterans on our streets.) But, should we sit back and do nothing? I don't think so. And I don't think Jesus would either.

Just my two cents on the hot topics of the day. Take it or leave it. But if nothing else sticks with you from this post, please do remember to pray and also remember what Ephesians 6:12 reveals is our true enemy.

Shake the earth!
- Joel