The Great Commission in the Days of Terrorism
A notice from one of our leaders in Pakistan came to me Easter Sunday afternoon to report yet another terrorist attack. It happened in a park in Lahore, Pakistan, filled with celebrating families, many of them Christians … this within days of the Brussels airport bombing and within months of the attack on Paris. Last week, Church of God Pastor Juan Santamino Guachiac in Guatemala was assassinated in the very community to which he had brought the life-changing Gospel of Jesus. Last January in Jakarta, Indonesia, another terrorist attack was waged within five blocks of one of the Greja Bethel Indonesia churches.
This week’s attack in Brussels claimed at least 28 lives and left approximately 300 wounded. It was verified today that among those killed were two individuals from as near to Cleveland, Tennessee, as Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and Lexington, Kentucky.
Among the chief concerns at Church of God World Missions is always the safety of our missionaries, pastors, national workers, congregations, school students, and children. With ministry in 183 nations of the world, the need for prayerful response rather than panicked reaction is always a must when crises strikes. The COG Global network of directors, superintendents, and overseers is always vital and prompt with information, insight, and response. Through World Missions Crises Relief Funds and Emergency Repatriation Procedures, the church is always equipped to bring our Career Missionaries home in view of pending and/or existing dangerous circumstances. The reality is that while we have many missionaries in many countries open to the Gospel with the liberty to minister freely and without fear, there are some whose names cannot be mentioned in print or whose faces cannot be seen on social media. Yet, they serve faithfully and without reservation and are reaping a great harvest.
We live in an increasingly dangerous world, with terrorism—specifically Islamic terrorism—on the rise in many areas. As stated, even places long considered peaceful have recently been shaken by evil acts.
The following article caught my attention. While not exhaustive in its content, I do believe it addresses pertinent realities, offers meaningful considerations, and provides scriptural insight. It is provided by a missions organization primarily focused on the Asian harvest and is entitled:
God’s Solution to Terrorism
Many people have opined as to why terrorism is on the rise. The world offers human reasons behind the problem: social displacement, cultural and ethnic conflict, political corruption, economic inequality, and more. While there is no doubt all these factors contain an element of truth, what does God say about the real cause of global terrorism, and what does the Bible say about how to prevent it from spreading?
Consider some reasons behind this global problem, and insights into God’s scriptural solution. One thing for sure: the world is oblivious to the true source of terrorism and it’s doubtful that secular news media will ever carry these points as legitimate considerations. Some statements may not be politically correct in today’s age where good is called evil and evil good, but the concern is not to be politically correct, but biblically accurate …
1. The Battle is Spiritual
The first point the world misses when evaluating terrorism is that it comes directly from Satan. Jesus stated, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Every act of murder and terrorism is an act motivated by Satan. He is the father of terrorism. With each passing day, Satan is becoming more active in the world. “Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short” (Revelation 12:12).
While God expects civil governments to stem crime and protect their citizens, many of the world’s methods of warfare will not result in the eradication of terrorism. Many in the world don’t believe in a literal devil, so they have no way of discerning the cause of acts of evil. The Bible puts it bluntly: “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
2. Terrorists Confuse Light and Darkness
The strongest enemies of the Gospel often confuse light and darkness. The Lord told of a day to come when “anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or Me. I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them” (John 16:2-4).
3. The Growth and Rise of the Church
One reason for terrorism you will never see reported in the media—even though terrorist leaders often allude to it in their speeches—is the growing influence of Christianity in Muslim nations.
The stark reality is that many Christians in countries like Syria and Iraq face death right now. In the city of Mosul alone—a city that has a Christian history dating back 1,700 years—terrorists have given all Christians three choices: pay a huge “tax”, leave and never come back, or die. As a result of this tidal wave of terror, the number of Christians living in Mosul has fallen from 60,000 in the year 2000 to zero today.
In many locations of the world, Christians and Muslims lived near or not a far distance from one another for generations without any great trouble, but in recent decades the church has grown both numerically and in influence, which has caused a violent reaction.
Thousands of Indonesian Muslims have been transformed by Jesus Christ. Some local religious leaders felt threatened by these developments, so they recently lashed out to persecute a number of family leaders who had converted to Christ.
God’s plan to bring the salvation of Jesus Christ to every ethnic group is progressing, and will not be thwarted! We anticipate that the more the Church grows, the more terrorism will continue to expand. Yet, the more the Church is persecuted, the more it will grow, just like the children of Israel in Egypt: “But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites” (Exodus 1:12).
4. Animosity and Hatred of the Gospel
As the Church has risen up and millions of lives have been transformed by the Holy Spirit, the leaders of other religions have been faced with a difficult reality. They know that their religions offer people little hope of real transformation. They may be able to give people discipline or focus them on a common goal, but only Jesus Christ has the power to change evil to good and to bring light and life to communities that for generations have lived in darkness and death.
When people are faced with a decision between following Jesus and the desire to retain centuries of tradition, they often choose to strike out against God’s people. Most are unwilling to face the reality that their own belief system is devoid of any real life changing power. The Lord Jesus summed it up: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God” (John 3:19-21).
5. The Role of Utter Disappointment and Shame
Most Westerners don’t understand the huge role that shame plays in Islam and other religions. Shame is a powerful driving force that can compel people to take violent action. Millions feel shame that their religious zeal and dedication fails to give them inward freedom, while Jesus Christ is freely giving others hope, peace, and joy.
The shame of realizing they and their ancestors have believed a lie is too much for most to consider, so they channel their frustrations into violence against the Church, even to the point of being willing to murder their own family members who become followers of Jesus. There are countless examples of the role of shame in terrorism around the world. The Mullahs and clerics of Iran continue to kill and punish Christians for their faith, believing that inflicting pain on Christians shows strength and power, but in reality it just shows how empty and spiritually impoverished they are.
Meanwhile, the light of Jesus continues to shine through the good deeds of Christians. The evidence of the transformative power of the Holy Spirit in believers’ lives is undeniable. Even while writing this article, World Missions received the following report from one of the Asian missionaries we support. After their team provided free medical and dental clinics for 700 people in a poor Muslim area, they wrote, “One of the Muslim leaders told us he wanted to know the teaching of Jesus, because of the care and love he has witnessed from us. An increasing number of people are attending our Bible studies and weekly discipleship training.” The unselfish and compassionate acts of God’s people are gradually winning over the hearts and minds of many Muslims who are receptive to the truth. For “It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the uninformed speech of unknowing men” (1 Peter 2:15).
Pray, Believe, and Implement the Following :
1. Don’t Yield to Fear
The words “Fear not” or “Be of good courage” appear 366 times throughout the Bible. God is still on His throne, and His plans both for our lives and for this world will be fulfilled if we endure and don’t lose heart. Our Lord encouraged us, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell” (Luke 4:7).
2. Cleanse Our Hearts
As Christians, our aims and desires should be the same as the Lord’s. He is our Savior, and our greatest goal should always be to love Him and do His will by reaching out to others with the Good News of salvation. We need to be careful that our hearts don’t grow bitter over the wickedness all around us. Let’s focus first and foremost on the wickedness in our own hearts, and ask the Holy Spirit to cleanse us from sin and hate. We started our article with the point that all terrorism is from Satan. He would like nothing more than to choke the life out of Christians’ hearts through fear and anxiety. May the Lord set us free so that we don’t become unwitting victims of terrorism through the snare of bitterness. We need to constantly ask the Holy Spirit to cleanse and purify us from all unrighteousness. Let us bow before Him and pray the words of David, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 51:10-12).
3. Spread the Gospel!
Despite many obstacles and dangers, the Kingdom of God continues to advance in Asia among the many people groups of the world. We must not stop reaching out to anyone in need. The best way to dispel darkness is still to simply turn on the light! Preach the Good News to all creation! Only Jesus working in the lives of people will bring freedom. May we never be afraid to tell the world that Jesus is the answer … if we don’t tell them, they have no chance of ever knowing God’s salvation. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16).
A generation ago, the mission statesman Brother Andrew wrote this about the threat of Communism: “If you do not go to the heathen with the Gospel, they will come to you as revolutionaries or as occupying forces.” If the Church grows disillusioned and weary of spreading the Good News, the scope of worldwide terrorism will expand quickly. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:9-10).
4. Understand your Sentiments
Please don’t think that before you can do anything to reach Muslims and others that you first need to have a deep emotional connection or feelings of love toward them. It certainly helps,
but Jesus loves the unlovable and reaches the unreachable! If you came across someone drowning in a river, would you stop and consider whether you have feelings of love for that person, or even if you like them? Hopefully not! What a drowning person needs is to be rescued before it’s too late. By doing all you can to help a perishing soul, you are displaying true love to them.
5. Remember that Jesus Wins!
Never lose sight of the fact that Jesus wins! He is already the victor through His death and resurrection, and even though it’s difficult to see God’s unfolding purpose when evil seems so prevalent, be confident that Jesus remains fully in charge, and is working everything out for His purposes, both in your own life and in the world. The Lord has a plan that cannot be thwarted. He is busy saving some from among every tribe, language, nation, and people group on the globe! Included in this number will be some who at one time were enemies of the Gospel. Jesus has always pursued those who need Him the most, for “it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). God loves the hundreds of millions of lost people in the world and desires to know them as His children. At the moment, we must work hard to see the kingdom of God expand, but the day is coming when terrorism will be no more, and all the enemies of God will be put under the feet of Jesus. In that day, a trumpet blast will sound, and “loud voices in heaven” will proclaim: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).