A Distinct Response- Paris Attacks

Our world has been shocked this past week by the events in Paris. It was unfathomable to see that so many people’s lives were lost by such heartless men. The complete lack of any regard for human life is what really struck me. The people ISIS killed were mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, parents and friends. To give little or no thought to this reality reveals the deception and depravity to which these men had fallen.
What has been interesting though is to see the world’s response to the attacks. I, like the world, have been stirred with a “righteous anger” to stop ISIS from continuing this kind of outrageous violence and killing. I think one thing these attacks have done has helped me to better understand God’s anger at sin and why he destroyed certain nations in the Old Testament. You don’t really cry for justice until you’ve been wronged, injured, oppressed or taken advantage of. But once you have, the only thing you want for the perpetrator is justice; that he or she be punished for what they have done and receive payment for how they treated someone else. This is how I’ve felt towards ISIS since the attacks.
But I had a friend send me a link the other day that was titled, “Pray for ISIS”. I have to admit, I was a little startled to read the title and think of praying for the men who just callously murdered over 120 people. But as I clicked the link, and read more about the website, they pointed out that, in the gospels, Jesus had said to his disciples, “You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.
As Christians, we are called to do the impossible; to sacrificially care for and serve those who hate, ridicule, malign and even kill us. This honestly was not my first thought when it came to ISIS, but the more I thought about what Jesus did for me, and his call to love or enemies, I realized that I had missed something crucial about my response to the Paris tragedy. My natural response was anger and thoughts of vengeance and justice, and rightly so to some degree. I think the world felt anger that comes from seeing true evil and horror.
But Jesus called us as Christians to not just demand justice, but do something radical; to love my enemy as myself. Without Jesus, this is absolutely impossible. There is no way any of us, in our own human nature, would ever put our enemies’ life before our own; but that is what Jesus Christ can do in a person’s life. The radicalness of the gospel is that even in the midst of men killing innocent people, we can still love them and serve them.
To be clear, this doesn’t negate justice; I think ISIS’s action is unconscionable and should be dealt with accordingly. Loving someone and forgiving them does not mean allowing them to continue evil and sinful behavior. Also, we as Christians have a call to protect people against wrongdoing and evil. In that sense, it is loving to stop ISIS, by whatever means necessary, from hurting and ruining any other person’s life.
But as a Christian, to be filled with just justice and miss the call to love them sacrificially, is to give in to the same thing the world does. In doing this, we no longer remain distinct from the world, but simply believe and respond the same way they do. Yet, the world will not pay attention to Christians, nor give us an ear, unless they are confronted by a love they cannot explain. It is only by this the world will be forced to ask us “why do you love like this?” In this, I would encourage you to consider not just praying for justice for ISIS, but like the apostle Paul, Jesus would transform the heart of these men by his amazing love.