What Would Jesus Say To A Terrorist?
A British prosecutor said Wednesday authorities had taken 100 computers in a raid on suspected terrorist conspirators within the UK. The New York Times quoted the prosecutor as saying that this was 'the very early stages of a complex investigation' and that it was 'just the tip of the iceberg'.
While terrorism as a tool for political change has been with us for centuries, its modern form is more virulent. With the advent of weapons of mass destruction, terrorists have or soon will have the capacity to threaten entire populations.
Religious extremism is one of the great forces that drives the engine of international terrorism today. Teachers of religious extremism often align themselves with terrorist groups because they believe that these organisations will help them stop the spread of unhealthy values.
For their part, some terrorists adopt a fiery religious outlook simply to add respectability to their murderous actions. They hijack religious teachings, twisting them to their own ends. Many times, their loose-living lifestyles belie any real religious commitment.
Terror groups want to produce anarchy and disorder. This is what really makes them dangerous: they have no positive vision for the future. They offer only a negative view of the present and a hateful interpretation of the past.
Terrorist groups often set out a list of wrongs that they say need to be corrected -- and sometimes, they have a point. But they give no solutions to the pressing problems of hunger, poverty or disease -- even among their own people.
People the world over will tell you that Jesus was one of the greatest peacemakers ever to walk this earth. His life has inspired some of the greatest modern peacemakers, too, including Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.
Yet he lived during one of the most violent periods in human history. He faced oppression, fear, extremism and violence in a very personal way.
He was born into a nation that had been living under the heel of oppression for many years. Having had their culture and religion spat upon by their Roman rulers, many Jews were paying up to eighty percent of their income in taxes to Rome. As a result, Israel was a hotbed of political and nationalistic unrest.
As a man of extraordinary compassion, Jesus must have been keenly aware of the suffering all around him. That makes his words and actions all the more remarkable. Can you imagine how these oppressed people must have reacted when he told them to love their enemies?
Jesus knew that people only ever really change when they choose to do so. Coercion through fear never brings about lasting solutions; only love can do that.
Jesus also confronted religious extremism. He had major problems with leaders of strict religious sects, because he was a man of grace.
Extremism is built on legalism. Legalists have no interest in freeing people to lead better lives; they want people bound up in chains, doing only what they're told.
Legalism treats laws as ends in themselves. Jesus taught a different way. Rules are important, but the best they can ever be is a means to an end. The end is grace.
What would Jesus say to a terrorist? He'd say, right up front, "God loves you… If you've committed crimes, you will have to pay a penalty. But God is willing to forgive anyone who sincerely calls on his help." (Cf. Romans 10:13).
Jesus would also say, if you look at the immorality, injustice, greed and oppression in this world and think, "This needs to change", you're right. But everyone on earth, irrespective of race or creed is a sinner before God.
Every human life is broken at a deep, spiritual level and needs to be restored (Cf. Jeremiah 17:9). This is the root cause of the jealousies and wars in this world. You can't change the condition of people's hearts through violence.
That is the core of the Christian faith. Faced with the ultimate act of violence, the Son of God didn't respond with his hands raised in anger. On a Roman torture stick, he spread his arms wide in love. That perfect love is capable of casting out all fear!
© Mal Fletcher 2004
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