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Terrorists - Forgiving the Worst|
Q.I know we are supposed to forgive others for the wrongs they have committed against us. But, I can't get past terrorists and cold-blooded murderers. I've watched these people dance in the streets when something happens to Americans. I've listened to the Iranian leader's constant spewing of hatred at Jews, the modern state of Israel, and at Christians. I watched an Islamic terrorist get "permission" from a leader to kill up to 8 million Americans (probably through a nuclear hit - that's why they call it the coming "American Hiroshima"). And I fear for the safety of my children and grandkids. Any ideas on how we can forgive such horrid people?
This is a timely question and I hear you. Thanks for your honesty in asking this difficult question.
Forgiving our Persecuters
Yes, we are told to forgive others no matter how bad their deeds or attitudes. This is hard - almost impossible at times - to do. But, in fact Jesus tells us,
"Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great - for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:12, NASB).
Mind you, he wasn't talking about someone cutting you off on the freeway. He was referring to those who "insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you…" (v. 11).
Jesus includes murderers and hackers among those we must forgive - in fact, the prophet Isaiah purportedly was sawed in half!
Filled with Holy Spirit
In our natural state this would be "unnatural" and seemingly impossible. But, God doesn't leave Christians in a "natural" state. Once we believe in the Lord's person and redemptive work He has filled us with His Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
Maybe We're Mad at the Wrong Beings
But, neither does God let us flounder in ignorance concerning forces and things we can't see. The Bible clearly tells us there are evil forces out there seeking to harm us. To get mad at the terrorists is to actually get mad at the wrong beings!
Paul illuminates this situation when he says,
"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12, ESV).
Truth no matter how Crazy
I can't underscore this principle strongly enough. We don't fight against humans. We fight against Satan and his forces. It only seems like we fight humans.
We must always remember this fact no matter how crazy it seems to the rest of the world. All we need to do is observe the irrational hatred against Christians and Jews to "see" the invisible forces at work in our world!
When Jesus said, "Father, forgive them - for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34) - he meant it literally. Humans don't know what they're doing!
Insights from Sci-Fi
In order to understand Ephesians 6:12 we often recommend that believers watch science fiction movies and read good sci-fi classics. This genre can help put a "face" on what we're told in Ephesians 6:12.
For instance, in the Stargate SG 1 series we are introduced to beings called the "Goa'uld." These are serpent-like beings who implant themselves inside human beings or inside humanoid creatures from other star systems.
Once they are implanted in bodies the personalities of humans change as they are subject to the thoughts and goals of the Goa'uld. This is presented almost like demon possession. Once in awhile the goodness of humans or humanoids emerges from within their transformed Goa'uld personalities.
(Warning to family viewers: the first pilot episode contains some nudity).
In this science fiction series Christians should note the parallels between what the Bible tells us and what is portrayed in the films.
The apostle Paul tells us clearly that "the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (2 Corinthians 4:4, NASB).
When humans fight the Goa'ulds in Stargate SG 1, they realize they are no longer dealing with their friends who have been "possessed." They are dealing with serpent creatures who indwell their human friends.
Therefore, note this carefully: they must learn the strategies and wiles of the serpent creatures rather than what appears to be their human friends in the flesh.
Strategies&Wiles of Satan
In a similar way Paul explains,
…for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ… (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
Humans learn not to React to Outward Appearances
In Stargate SG 1, no matter how beautiful and seductive humans appear, true earthly human beings have learned to ignore the Goa'ulds' fleshly, outward human beauty and react to what is inside of them instead.
The Angel of Light
Similarly, the apostle Paul tells Christians to be careful of …"false apostles, deceitful workers disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14).
Things to Remember
Finally, there are several things we must always remember in forgiving hateful people like terrorists.
1. God owns everything we have - even our children. We are just stewards of all that is His. "The heavens are yours. The earth also is yours, the world and all that is in it, you have founded them" (Ps 89:11).
2. God creates and controls disasters (including 9/11). "I form the light and create darkness. I bring prosperity and create disaster. I, the Lord, do all these things" (Isa 45:7).
3. The God who sustains trillions of swirling galaxies also controls the nuts and bolts of a plane or a bomb. "In Him all things hold together" (Col 1:17).
4. No one dies until God decides to take us home. "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be" (Ps 139:16).
5. Nothing disrupts God's plan for us - not even terrorists. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Ro 13:31).
6. God turns all evil against us to good…"and we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God" (Ro 8:28).
7. We trust God no matter what happens. "Even though He slay me yet will I trust Him" (Job 13:15).
8. Because God controls all He tells us to pray about everything. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God…will guard your hearts and minds…" (Phil 4:6).
9. No WMD weapon against us will ultimately succeed. "No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper" (Isa 54:17). Outward appearances are lies - eternal principles are truths.
Bridges, Jerry. 1988. Trusting God even when life hurts. Colorado Springs: NavPress.
MacArthur, John. 2006 ed. Anxious for nothing. Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Communications.
Stargate SG1. Seasons One and Two. 1998. GEKKO Film Corp., Metro-Goldwyn Mayer Studios. Available from: www.mgm.com/dvd.
TouchPoints for Troubled Times. 2003. Wheaton, ILL: Tyndale.
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