I was in Canada on July 7, 2005, on an island retreat, without television, radio, Internet, or newspapers, so all we heard was that there had been simultaneous terroist bombings in London. Not knowing the extent, my mind immediately went to that terrible day, September 11, 2001, and I dissolved into tears. Thankfully, we found out the next day, the terror attacks in London were not of the same magnitude as 9-11, but any time innocent life is destroyed it is a cause for mourning.
Then, yesterday, there was another set of "copycat" attacks in London - I praise God for His mercy that no lives were lost in those attacks.
I have a lot of issues with Islam. My heart wants to find its Christ-center and pray sincerely for these humans who must, as Carolyn Arends so eloquently put it, "live in such a hell that perpetuating these acts seems rational and justifiable." But, I just cannot yet. The first international incident that I have a clear memory of was the hostage crisis in Iran in 1980. Throughout my life, almost every act of terrorism against civilians has been done by people who call themselves Muslims. And then, that dark day, September 11, 2001, came, and my soul revulsed, and the rage poured in. I cannot yet separate these actions from the religion of Islam. I cannot yet forgive them.
But I know that as we have been forgiven by God, so must we forgive others. There is no way around it. Jesus says over and over, throughout the Gospels, that continued forgiveness from God is directly related to our forgiveness of others (Mark 11:26, Matthew 6:14, 15 and 18:21-35). The original forgiveness, the saving grace of God, never washes away, but, as regenerate sinners, we must acknowledge our continual need for forgiveness by expressing true forgiveness. So, I struggle every day with this hatred that I feel.
I think that I could forgive these monsters were it not for their choice of victims. In other words, if they carried out attacks merely against military targets, I would not have this rage against them. I hate for anyone to die, but at least military or political centers have a symbolism that is understandable. It is the fact that this scum targets people just going about the business of living that makes me ill and hardens my heart. Knowing that they hate my daughter Sadie, who is a delight and a joy and a person so free in her love of others and open and trusting - knowing that had she and I been on any of the hijacked flights on 9-11, that had they seen her sweet face, it would not have stopped them from killing her cold-heartedly by ramming that airplane into the side of a building - knowing that they would slit her throat at any given opportunity and record that heinous act on video tape while shouting that "Allah [not God - never my God!] is great!" - knowing all these things - I just cannot "turn the other cheek." Sweet Jesus, forgive me!
One other thing I hate is that so many secularists associate their satanic god, Allah, with the one, true God of Israel. Then, all religious people get lumped together in the secular mind - Christians, Jews, Muslims, oh, they're all the same, dontcha know? Lord God, please keep Your people from ever falling out of Your arms and into the arms of the Evil One - keep us from ever doing the will of darkness under the name of the Lord of light. Help us to be the peacemakers, whom You call blessed.
I am really, really trying to shed this hatred for Islam, especially for Arab Muslims. It is a constant work for God, since my rebellious nature is always getting in the way of His refinement. I want to pray Jesus' last prayer - "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." - and mean it.
I do not want to be bound to this earth - I want my spirit to commune with the Most High. I know that everything suffered through in this fallen world will fade away in light of eternity - yet, I have so much trouble letting go. I know that the evil terrorists will pay forever for their vile deeds, yet that strangely doesn't bring me much comfort. I don't want to think of people being forever separated from the Holy One - I want people to get it right, right now, here on earth and stop causing so much pain. And, maybe that is the key to open the door to forgiveness. When I think of human souls, led so far away from the light, being kept forever away from the Father, having thought all their time on earth that they had been serving God, I pity them.
Oh, but then I think of Sadie's precious face, her love of life, her exuberance, and I think of the person who wouldn't mind blowing her to bits. I think of the killers in Israel who ran up to a car with a pregnant woman and her four daughters inside and didn't stop shooting until they were all dead. I think of those vile Islamic Chechens in Beslan, Russia last year that took an entire school hostage and killed over two hundred children. I think of every bus blown up in Israel. I think of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. I think of the eleven Israeli Olympic athletes murdered in Munich, Germany in 1972. I think of the Pan-Am plane that exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, killing 270. I think of TWA Flight 800. I think of American troops being attacked in Iraq by suicide bombers while they were handing out candy to children. I think of the USS Cole in 2000. I think of the nightclub bombings in Bali, Indonesia in 2002. This list could go on and on.
Yet, God has forgiven me, I know He has. I know that He has separated me from my transgressions as far as east is from west. Why cannot I let go of these events? Am I a hypocrite? No, I do not believe that I am, because a hypocrite tries to hide his failings behind a mask of righteousness. My righteousness lies only in Christ's sacrifice. I have no problem laying out all of my failures to meet His standards for the world to see. I think a lot of us are struggling with this, especially since September 11, 2001. I am so interested, dear blog reader: how do you deal with forgiveness? Does forgiveness mean inaction against evil? If you take proactive measures to prevent further terrorist attacks, using retaliative force, is this wrong from a Christian perspective?
I've asked seminary students, Christian friends, and myself these questions over and over. I hate war. I think it is so awful to put people in a situation wherein they must become killers. I do not know how our amazing troops handle it without becoming monsters.
Is there ever a reason to use the ultimate force of taking life? Jesus said to "turn the other cheek." Would that have worked against Hitler and Hirohito in World War II? I think even most Christians would say, "No." I cannot believe that Jesus would have thought it better to allow the Nazis to continue incinerating Jewish people, than for the Allies to advance through Germany and Poland, liberating many while killing many too. Can you express forgiveness while, at the same time, fighting an enemy to the death? Can you love your enemy and kill him too? I think that fighting Islamic terror is even more difficult, because it is more insidious, more scattered, more decentralized. How much more easy to bomb a hostile country like Germany which is spreading itself across Europe like a festering boil without falling under the censure of the world, than to detain suspects or detect sleeper cells without violating international laws and civil liberties!
These are the tough questions. One thing that Jesus makes clear is that one of the signs of His Coming will be "wars and rumors of wars." He goes on to advise: See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. - Matthew 24:6-8. In light of this, what can we do but get along as best we can - watching, hoping, praying, loving, forgiving? If I cannot be filled with a forgiving spirit now, through the grace of God I can throw myself upon His mercy and pray, similar to the prayer for belief of the troubled father in Mark 9:14-29, "Lord, I will forgive; help my unforgiving!"
And, above all things, despite my many shortcomings of faith and obedience, I am confident of this very thing: That He who began a good work in me will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ - Philippians 1:6. Amen.
Your comments and suggestions would be appreciated. This is a long and continuing struggle.