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The headline greeted me over breakfast this morning.
Al-Qaeda’s Inspire magazine calls on readers to “unleash hell”
with arson attacks similar to decades of attacks targeting Israel.
(*PA = "Palestinian Authority")
(*PA = "Palestinian Authority")
Am I ready? Are you? Just how does one prepare for an enemy like militant Islam?
The Web is full of advice of all sorts.
There are those who will tell you to stockpile food and weapons.
There are those who will tell you to move to a remote location to protect your family and your worldly wealth.
There are those who will tell you that you should refuse to believe anything negative about the "Religion of Peace," because it's all a bunch of propaganda. They say you should love your neighbor by refusing to believe even their stated plans to annihilate you.
Paranoia versus rose-colored delusion.
"Hate your neighbor" versus "Ignore your real neighbor and love the imaginary neighbor you'd prefer to believe you have."
Are those the only two choices?
Are you preparing for terrorism?
You'd better be. But how?
How did Jesus prepare for the onslaught He knew was coming?
We can ask ourselves, “Does this attitude, this approach, this action look like Jesus on the cross?” If our attitude, approach, and action cannot be reasonably compared to the image of the cruciform, we need to abandon it. Caesar may adopt it, it may be practical, it may even be “successful,” but if it’s not Christlike, then it’s not our pattern. Without a radical commitment to the shape of the cruciform, the process of deformation will continue year after year, and our beauty will be lost.
Zahnd, Brian (2012-01-03). Beauty Will Save the World: Rediscovering the allure and mystery of Christianity (pp. 18-19). Strang Communications. Kindle Edition.
What did Jesus do when He knew His own personal "terrorist" enemies would soon kill Him?
He refused to confuse His kingdom with worldly kingdoms, and therefore he rejected worldly tactics, priorities, and goals.
So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?”
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world— to bear witness to the truth." (Excerpted from John 18:33-37)
Jesus knew who He was, He knew His purpose, He knew how to achieve it. And He submitted to His Father all the way to death, "even death on a cross" (Php 2:8).
How many revolutionaries from Jesus' era can you name? How many who took up arms still have kingdoms? Which arms changed the world most...arms of warfare, or arms outstretched to receive the nails? Which arms do you believe in? Which arms saved you (if indeed you are saved)? Which can save your neighbor?
Who reigns? More specifically, who reigns over YOU? In which kingdom do you live...the kingdom of Satan or the kingdom of God?
Be careful how you answer, because your choice of kingdom and King will determine what goals and priorities you pursue, and what tactics you will use to achieve them.
How did Jesus prepare?
He stayed firmly in the Kingdom of God, in total submission to His Father, in humility, in death to all that the world offers, in love for His friends, and in love for His enemies. He prayed in agony for deliverance, but chose the Father's will over His own.
He went about doing good to all (Acts 10:38), even though He knew many would turn away from Him (John 6:66).
He washed the feet of Judas (John 13:1-19).
He healed a man in the mob who arrested Him, while rebuking the disciple who attacked the man (John 18:10-11)
He prayed for those who persecuted Him, just as He commanded us to do.
There they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
But His preparation didn't begin on those last agonizing days. He'd been preparing all along. Washing Judas' feet was not a one-time, token act done for illustrative purposes. He loved His enemies all along (though sometimes with a tough love that they probably didn't perceive as such). He lived in humble submission to His Father since before Day One. He renounced the kingdoms of this world in a dramatic fashion when Satan offered them to Him (Luke 4:5-8), but also in an everyday fashion when He refused a life of ease and comfort (Matt 8:20).
How do we prepare for persecution?
We prepare the same way Jesus did...by trusting, obedient faith.
We love the Father with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. If we don't do it now, we won't do it when persecution comes.
We love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt 22:36-39), even if they're our enemies (Matt 5:44-48). We love them in whatever small ways are available to us now, so that we'll be ready when the "big ways" are required of us. If we don't do it now, we won't do it when persecution comes. (If you don't believe that, ask yourself this question: "What keeps me aloof from the people I see in Muslim garb?" The answer that probably comes immediately to your mind is, "I don't have any way of knowing if they're the peaceful kind or the militant kind." Well, what if they are the militant kind? What if they are? If you're not committed to obeying Christ in loving your enemy, then you won't be able to love the stranger who "just might be" your enemy.)
We humbly serve (Luke 10:33-37). If we don't do it now, we won't do it when persecution comes.
We reject all tactics, priorities, and goals that belong in Satan's kingdom, and pursue "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17). If we don't do it now, we won't do it when persecution comes.
We seek FIRST the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and leave the care of our earthly lives to Him (Matt 6:33). If we don't do it now, we won't do it when persecution comes.
We take up our cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23). If we don't do it now, we won't do it when persecution comes.
"Following Jesus means preparing to die—daily. Every day we must deny ourselves the expectation of comfort and safety, and we must courageously face whatever persecution our allegiance to Jesus stirs up, even to the point of death." Sidders, Greg (2011-04-01). The Invitation (p. 57). Baker Book Group. Kindle Edition.
I'm going to prepare for persecution today. How? By settling the question of kingdom allegiance in my mind, so that I can say along with Paul, "It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Php 1:20-21).
And then, with the kingdom of Christ as my priority, I will leave the question of persecution behind. Forget about it. Because either way, whether that Muslim at Sam's Club is peaceful or not, I'm determined that Christ will be honored in my body. To really live for Christ is all about humbly loving, serving, and submitting to Him.
And dying for Him is all about exactly the same thing.
So I'll prepare for persecution (without even thinking about persecution) by loving and serving in whatever ways He calls me to.
I'll prepare for it (without even thinking about it) by loving my angry teen (and repenting when I fail to love him).
I'll prepare for it (without even thinking about it) by repenting of my anger toward the driver who cuts me off, and choosing to pray for him instead.
I'll prepare for it (without even thinking about it) by treasuring Christ above all. I'll do it all very imperfectly, but even that will turn to His glory as He forgives and restores me. And a thousand daily acts of loving obedience and service will change who I am. (And Heaven knows, “who I am” needs a lot of changing!)
I'm eager to get to know a whole multitude of Christians who are learning to love, to smile, to be fearlessly humble, to serve, to fall but repent with joyful gratitude and seek the kingdom first again.
I want to live among the people who are growing to understand what Elisabeth Elliot (widow of martyr Jim Elliot) meant when she said,
"Is the distinction between living for Christ
and dying for Him, after all, so great?"
Are you with me?
Please note: I am not advocating a position of complete pacifism. I do believe that there can be such a thing as a "just war." I will not publish any comments which seek to create a debate over the concept of "just war." This post is about how individuals in our day-to-day civilian lives are to live in The Kingdom. Any dissenting views MUST be civil, and MUST be based on the common ground of submission to Christ.