When Jesus said “Love your enemies”, He didn’t add “except terrorists”. On the contrary, it was probably them He had in mind. Charismatic activist Bob Ekblad has written an excellent piece on how Christians should respond to the horrible terrorist attack against Charlie Hebdo in Paris, which I quote a large portion of below. I have nothing to add except a little cartoon about Jesus’ amazing enemy love.
How might followers of Jesus respond to this escalation of hatred and violence? Jesus warned his disciples: “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end” (Matthew 24:6). Jesus expects his listeners to be aware that history is heading toward increasing tension and to resist the natural tendencies toward hard- heartedness or violence.
“Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:12–14). Anyone listening to Jesus is told to not be fearful, but to get on with the highest priority work—announcing the Gospel of the Kingdom. What is this Gospel?
It most certainly does not include Christians identifying with or justifying swift and effective retaliation, increased surveillance, growing suspicion, incarceration, hatred against Muslims, or fear. When James and John ask Jesus if they should call down fire from heaven to consume the Samaritans who refused them entry as they traveled toward Jerusalem, Jesus rebukes them, saying: “You do not know of what spirit you are of. For the son of man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them” (Luke 9:55–56).
Those following Jesus need empowerment by the Holy Spirit to love our neighbors, to love our enemies, and to actively pursue understanding and reconciliation. This includes first taking the log out of our own eyes through confessing our sin and renouncing our violence. We must refuse our natural proclivity to judge the other, and to seek instead understanding with Muslims or anyone we label an “offender.” Honest communication can happen only when we build relationships.
Now we have an opportunity—to refuse to let our love grow cold or be overcome by evil, but to pursue Spirit-guided ways to overcome evil with good; to refuse to let the light of our Gospel be overcome by the darkness, but to shine brightly, so that all can see the light of the face of Christ—the world’s Messiah Savior.
Now is the time to pray for the families and communities of the dead and for the people of France, for God’s comfort and peace. Prayers for peace for the larger European continent are critical at this time, as anti-immigrant political parties are on the rise everywhere, and the scapegoating Muslims and Jew is likely to increase..
In contrast to the shaming gaze, we must seek to look with the compassion of Jesus, who sees the crowds harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd, and then exclaims: “The harvest is plenty but the workers are few: beg the Lord of the harvest to cast out workers into the harvest.”
Bob Ekblad is founder and co-director of Tierra Nueva in Burlington, Washington. He is ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He holds a ThD in Old Testament and is known internationally for his courses and workshops on reading the Bible.