JACKSON, Miss. (BP) — I woke up Thursday, the morning after the San Bernardino attack, wanting to hate terrorists.
Before my head was off of the pillow, I wanted to ask God to destroy them, to ensure that equal torture and terror was wreaked upon them as they have wreaked upon others. I wanted judgment and vengeance to rain down upon them for who they are, for what they think and for what they have done and want to do.
But God wouldn’t let me.
He immediately made me think of the Scripture verse Ezekiel 18:23, “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”
I thought of Saul’s persecution of the early Christians and the terror and pain he caused them. Yet, God changed Saul into Paul, one of the greatest Christian leaders of all time. I was reminded that we are all sinners and all worthy of death, except for our redemption in Christ. Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:44-45 came to my mind, “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Are we to tolerate evil and abuse because we are instructed to “turn the other cheek”? Don’t forget, God has a plan for handling evil acts committed in this world and it is called “government.”
Are we to pick and choose which of Christ’s teachings we feel like obeying? Are we to forget that we are “saved by grace and not by works, lest any man should boast”?
As Christians, I believe we are indeed called first to pray for our enemies, that God would change their hearts as He has changed ours. Should we pray that their evil be resisted and destroyed by whatever means necessary? Absolutely, but only by God’s hand and by the government that God has instituted for us. We should not initiate individual action or harbor hatred against those whom we suspect of evil intent, but instead focus on sharing Christ’s salvation with others and living our lives as the shining light that Christ calls us to be.
As Christians, we should be willing and prepared at a personal level to take necessary action to protect ourselves and others against an immediate threat of evil or terrorism, but not to pursue additional steps of retaliation according to our own bravado. This preparation requires us to consider God’s purpose for us and to ensure that our intent is for His glory and not for our own glorification.
God has created some of us to have an impulse to run toward danger and others to run away from danger. Whichever description fits you, be prepared to allow God to direct you as He sees fit in whatever situation you are found, whether according to your nature or against it.
But first, pray for our enemies.