I am saddened by the tendency of some Christians to call for the sending of missiles upon our nation’s enemies more than to pray for the sending of missionaries to the hardest places.
Certainly, the Islamic State is a horrific evil and must be stopped. The destruction it is bringing on innocent life and human civilization is heartbreaking and should fill us with righteous indignation. Likely, it will take the international community to defeat the Islamic State, and it will almost certainly mean military conflict.
God has given human government to execute justice upon the ungodly (Romans 13:3–4). There is “a time for war, and a time for peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:8). We live in a war-torn time, and that should sadden us. Most Christians believe that there is such a thing as “just war.” But even just war is tragic (a sign of sin’s destructive power in the world) that grieves God and must not be called for in a cavalier manner.
I am grieved that some influential pastors and Christian leaders eagerly call for the bombing of regions that will inevitably lead to the destruction of human life (innocent image-bearers who suffer as collateral damage), and do so without tears and a broken heart.
So what are we to do as Christians — not first as Americans, but first as followers of Jesus? Much more can be said about these complex issues, but here are three simple, biblical calls to the body of Christ.
1) Pray for our enemies and desire their salvation.
As Christians, we need to renounce the spirit of Jonah who wanted the destruction of God’s merciless enemies and hated the thought of those enemies receiving mercy from God. But God does not delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11) and desires that all people come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). If that is God’s heart, should it not be ours? Should we desire the destruction of the wicked? Death to all of God’s enemies?
Our call is to follow the command and example of Jesus who told us to love our enemies and pray for them, and who himself laid his life down for his enemies, even praying for their forgiveness as they killed him. Again, if we are calling for missiles, but not praying for missionaries, we have lost touch with the heart of God.
2) Pray and work for justice, the overthrow of evil, and the coming of God’s kingdom.
Christians pray that evil in all forms would be subdued and vanquished, beginning in our own hearts and then beyond. Pray that our nation’s leaders and other international leaders would have wisdom in executing their God-given role to administer justice in the earth. Pray that God would thwart the plans of the wicked, confound the counsel of the ungodly, and make successful those plans that are in line with his purposes.
As we pray, we know that ultimately complete peace and justice are a world away, in the new heavens and new earth. Yet this peace and justice are present now in the people of God. We are called to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) who live justly and spread his peace, not with the sword of man, but the sword of Spirit, the gospel (Ephesians 6:17). So while we preach and serve, we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus! Come!”
3) Seek to befriend Muslim neighbors for the sake of Christ.
We do not need to fear Muslims, but love them, befriend them, and seek to share the good news of Jesus with them. God is a gathering God who is bringing men and women from every nation, tribe, people, and tongue into his family. He is bringing the nations to our doorstep now to have open access to the gospel that they did not have in their native homes. Many of our Muslim neighbors are future brothers and sisters whom God will save and bring into his house through faith in Jesus. We should long for this and work toward it.
In all of this, may God preserve our unity with one another. We are not Americans first, but Christians first. We belong to a kingdom that is not of this world — a kingdom with no boundaries or borders. We may disagree on policy or diplomacy, but infinitely more important is that we agree on Jesus, his rule, and his great love for his people and for this world. We don’t have to be divided by our lesser loyalties when we are united by our greatest loyalty.