Watching and reading all the news about the Paris attacks by eight Muslim fanatics has been disconcerting. All of the analysis has been about how we should respond diplomatically and militarily. These things should certainly be done, but there is a gaping hole in the analysis: the religious response.
It is hard for the secular Western press to grasp, but ISIS is primarily a religious movement. These people take their religion very seriously, indeed—to the point that they are perfectly willing, even joyful, to sacrifice their lives in obedience to God.
To most of the Western press this idea is madness—mass insanity. The secular media has little doubt that God is a myth, and it is beyond their belief system that anyone would die in service to a fantasy. To the extent they recognize religion at all, it is the type of westernized milquetoast mainline religion that is mostly a cultural artifact. People who go to church do so for nostalgia. They take comfort in ancient rituals and traditions. Nobody can actually believe this stuff.
Accepting Rather than Inflicting Death
Yet people have been willing to die in service to God for a very long time. All of the apostles except John did so, as did many thousands of Christian martyrs during the reign of Nero. Even today thousands of Christians are being killed, even beheaded and crucified, because they will not deny God. While Christian martyrs and Muslim terrorists are both willing to die, only the latter are willing to execute others for their beliefs.
That is a very big difference. Christians believe people come to Jesus because he has called them, not because of social pressure or terroristic threats. All Christians can do is show love, preach the gospel, and witness to what Jesus has done in our own lives. Then we pray that our example and witness will open the hearts of others to be more receptive to the Spirit of God. Most of us aren’t very good at this, but that is the model we try to follow.
And it works. Millions of Muslims are converting to Christianity as a result. I was at a recent conference that featured the Lapp Brothers as speakers. The Lapps are old order Amish who were prompted to become missionaries by the international attention given to the Amish after their example of love and forgiveness after the 2006 school shooting in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
They have traveled all over the world explaining how the Amish were able to do this. One of the trips took them to a medical mission in Iraq, where one of the Iraqi physicians said to them, “When Muslims come here, they come to kill, but Christians come to help. How can I become a Christian?”