I want to preface this by saying this is the hardest thing I have ever written, and I would not have been able to if it were not for the grace of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You will probably disagree with me, you may even be angry with me after just reading the headline, but I hope you will read and take these words to heart.
Since it’s rise to power, ISIS has brutally murdered countless people. Many are Christians in the Middle East, some are Muslims that refuse to radicalize, and others are innocent people of varying backgrounds in places like Orlando, Belgium, Paris, and more. No one in their right mind can look at ISIS and claim that they are not truly an evil group set out to do evil things and we can all agree that they need to be defeated.
The issue is, we cannot agree as a nation on how to handle them. We can “bomb them until the sand glows”, or we can call them the “JV Team” and sanction a few airstrikes here and there. There is one solution that we often ignore because it brings an uncomfortable commandment to the forefront; we must pray for ISIS.
In Matthew chapter 5 verse 44, Jesus says “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”. I have to be honest, this has completely wrecked me. How in the world can I pray for people who murder innocent people in the name of their religion? Prayer can’t actually work, can it? Allow me to tell you a quick story.
A few months ago, I heard a missionary from Africa speak and share this story. He was active in the Ivory Coast, and the area he was in was predominately Muslim. There was a family in his region, a family of 5 (if you follow me on Twitter, I tweeted that there were 6 but I was mistaken). There was a father and mother, two boys and a girl. The oldest son and the father were radicalized Muslims, the same kind that carried out the gruesome attacks we have seen lately.
One day, the younger son was invited to an outreach event, where he decided to get involved and attend more events. Over time, the boy decided to give his life to Christ, and he even began bringing his younger sister who also committed her life to Christ. Now, these two children had to have known that their father would be furious if he ever found out, he could have even killed them, but that did not stop them.
After more time had passed, they felt called to tell the rest of their family, but the rest of the Church community warned against it in fear for the lives of the children. That did not stop them. They were so fueled with passion for Christ that they shared the Gospel with their family, including their radical Islamic terrorist father and brother. The entire family committed their life to Christ.
We are called to be like those two kids. We are called to pray for the radical terrorists, and to bring the Gospel to them. How can we reconcile that approach with our outrage at what is happening? Am I really saying we should just pray for and not fight ISIS? No. ISIS deserves to be fought. As my friend Brandon Morse said, ”Two things will stop radical Muslims: a come to Jesus moment, or a bullet”. Jesus commands us to pray for that “come to Jesus moment”, but we also have a duty to fight back against evil in the meantime.
It is not an easy situation, there is not an easy answer, and I want to add full disclosure; I have not been able to bring myself to pray for ISIS. I know I need to, I know my God is powerful enough to change the hardest of hearts. I look at what He did with Saul, a man persecuting Christians in a way similar to what ISIS is doing today. God used Saul, then renamed Paul, to spread the Gospel to the very ends of the Earth. If God could change and use him, and the family from the Ivory Coast, surely He can do the same with countless others that have joined the ranks of ISIS and other radical groups.
I ask you to pray. Pray that God gives you the strength and the faith to be able to pray for such evil people, pray for the missionaries doing the Lord’s work over in the Middle East, and pray for safety around the world in these dark times. I would not ask you to do this if I was not doing it myself, and I believe it can truly make a difference.
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