Charles Burge / DEC 24 2014 – The front page in the Wall Street Journal this week stated the situation succinctly: “ISLAMIC STATE PROVES RESILIENT.”
No surprise, really. In fact, it is exactly what I’ve come to expect.
We are all familiar – perhaps numb – to the headlines by now. The Islamic State (ISIS) marches defiantly across the Middle East, beheading people and wreaking havoc. Despite the efforts of the US and others, there seems to be no way to stop them. Instead they seem to be growing in number and notoriety. ISIS recruitment extends across borders into Western countries. New terrorist groups are discovered every day, inspired by the overt evil portrayed on a daily basis.
We are rightfully appalled by this flagrant display of evil. Politicians and secular pundits are stumped for solutions. No one can proffer a reason why this is happening let alone provide any real solutions.
We, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, can offer both. We hold the key to winning this war.
I’m not speaking about military measures. They have their place on this earth. But I’m speaking of a spiritual battle.
The apostle Paul recognized this kind of war: “For we do not wrestle with flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12, ESV).” Paul then lists the weapons at our disposal, which includes “the readiness given by the gospel of peace” and “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” and reminds us (no less than three times) to be in prayer (Ephesians 6:13-18, ESV).
This is how the church of Jesus Christ fights ISIS: with the gospel of peace, the word of God, and continual, fervent prayer.
I can hear someone now say: “Sure, I will pray for ISIS. I will pray that they will be bombed into kingdom come.”
That is an understandable reaction, but it runs counter to the orders we’ve received from the Lord Jesus: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:43-44, ESV).”
Tall orders, I know. Impossible except for the grace of God, I must admit. But we must trust Him to do exactly what He said he would do: to see representatives from every tribe, nation and tongue redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. And we must do our part in loving not just our neighbors but also our enemies.
After all, if God can redeem a terrorist like Saul – who became the apostle Paul – He can certainly do the same with an ISIS terrorist, as one donor recently reminded me.
Christian Aid Mission has been working with local churches and ministries in Iraq, Syria, and other areas in the Middle East affected by ISIS for years. They are in place, supplying not just food, shelter and physical essentials but also spiritual counsel and prayer.
Opportunities for the Gospel abound. Christian workers are ministering to the hurting and lonely families seeking refuge from the terrorists. And they are witnessing thousands of professions of faith in Jesus Christ. And indigenous workers will remain when the relief workers and supplies have gone away.
To support ministry efforts among ISIS refugees, go to www.ChristianAid.org/Iraq. You can find a link to donate directly to those efforts, a video you can share, and materials to download and distribute within your church and circle of influence.
ISIS and their ilk will not be finally defeated by military might but by the grace of God given through the Gospel. This is a long, costly and yet winnable war. In fact, God’s victory is guaranteed (see Revelation 17:14).