Friday, July 28, 2006

The Tension Between Missions Success and the Military Killing the Terrorists

The Associated Press reports that Al-Qaida's No. 2 leader issued a worldwide call Thursday for Muslims to rise up in a holy war against Israel and join the fighting in Lebanon and Gaza until Islam reigns from "Spain to Iraq."

In a taped message broadcast by Al-Jazeera television, Ayman al-Zawahri said the terrorist organization would not stand idly by while "these (Israelis) shells burn our brothers.

"All the world is a battlefield open in front of us," said the Egyptian-born al-Zawahri, second-in-command to Osama bin Laden.

"The war with Israel does not depend on cease-fires ... . It is a Jihad for the sake of God and will last until (our) religion prevails ... from Spain to Iraq," al-Zawahri said. "We will attack everywhere."

"My fellow Muslims, it is obvious that Arab and Islamic governments are not only impotent but also complicit...and you are alone on the battlefield. Rely on God and fight your enemies...make yourselves martyrs."

I really struggle when I hear such rhetoric and murderous words coming from the mouth of people like Zawahris. Here is my internal conflict: On the one hand I believe we as Christian people should do all we can to change the hearts of people like Zawharis through the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

But on the other hand, I hear Zawahris and I feel that such radical Islamic terrorism can only be dealt with militarily, and the thought of U.S forces killing Zawahris and then systematically destroying every last remnant of Islamic fanaticism is not an unpleasant thought to me. That is what bothers me. It bothers me that I am not bothered by the death of by the Islamic fantatics. I wonder if we in the Christian West are in danger of becoming just like the Muslims in the East.

Does anybody else struggle with the inner feeling of desiring the softening of the heart of Zawahris through the power of Jesus Christ, but at the same time feel pleasure when one hears that Zawahris and his cohorts are wiped out by American, Israeli or European military forces?

I wonder about the fact that we cheer the loudest at the Southern Baptist Convention when a strong, militaristic statement by our Secretary of State is made such as, "We will hunt down and destroy every single terrorist earth until peace reigns on earth" when it seems we ought to cheer the loudest when we hear statements like, "We will take the gospel of Jesus Christ to every nation, tribe, and kindred, and will not rest until Christ reigns in the hearts of mankind."

Please don't misunderstand. I believe we must fight terrorism militarily.

I am just wondering if we as Southern Baptists are in danger of being more passionate about military conquest than we are gospel conquest.

Life is not simple for us at this moment in time.

In His Grace,



Tony Gulbrandsen said...

I see the military as being the sword given to the government that was put in place by God (Romans 13:3-4). Therefore, the government has the God-given authority to take care of the terrorists. My struggle is that our government is by the people, for the people. From that idea, I become the government in a sense. And so, am I personally responsible for both killing the terrorists (as part of the government) and winning them to Christ (as a follower of Jesus). I get wrapped around the axle on this one all the time.

Bottom line: You are not alone in your personal struggle.

Anonymous said...


I am really at a loss myself in coming to terms with what is becoming a three-pronged union (maybe loose confederation) of terroists in the Mideast: Al Quida, Hamas, Hesbollah.

This problem is so difficult on several fronts -- not least of which is that as Christians we should be doing whatever we can to reach out to all people including Islamo-fascists. But I don't think we in the civilized world can just sit around and let they guys run roughshod.

Also, the landscape is very complex due to the mutual hatred between Shia and Sunni. Some of ther terrorists are Sunni and some are Shia. About the only thing in common between them is a hatred from the West generally and Israel specifically.

I agree with you and Pastor Tony. This is a very perplexing situation.

Paul said...

Ditto. You're not alone.

Bob Cleveland said...

I think that inner conflict is indicative of a proper spirit. It's the same thing that causes a twinge of sadness when I hear that a convicted murdered has been put to death.

It may well be that the only way to deal with terrorists is to kill them all. I think it is. But it would still be sad when they die.

God says vengeance is His. Men may be the instrument of that vengeance. But that doesn't mean He enjoys it, and neither should we, even when the inner man wants to high-five someone.

Anyone, you've got a lot of company, I suspect, in that boat.

Jeremy Green said...


I think that you are right in saying that although it is necessary, it is still heartbreaking that someone has died without knowing the Savior and thus they will spend an eternity in Hell. God bless!!!

In Christ,

Jeremy Green said...

I believe that government not only has the authority to protect its people, but that it also has the responsibility to do so. Thus, in a republican form of government where the people choose their representatives (our founding fathers believed this to be the Biblical form of government), we also share the responsibility of protecting human life. One might think that it is wrong for us to take the lives of terrorists and/or the forces of a terrorist supporting nation – especially since they are unbelievers. However, is that not necessary in order to save the lives of others (both in America and elsewhere)? Therefore, in taking the lives of those that do not respect human life, we are protecting others so that they might have the opportunity to come to Christ - just a thought. Thanks and God bless!!!

In Christ,

Anonymous said...

Your statement, "It bothers me that I am not bothered by the death of by the Islamic fantatics. I wonder if we in the Christian West are in danger of becoming just like the Muslims in the East." resonated with me at a deep level.

God asked me to go to NAME the spring before 9/11. It was a bit of a shock to me, as I'd spent most of my time in East or South Asia and was actually on an ISC assignment in SA when He asked, but I thought little of it till the weekend after the towers fell.

I remember that as I watched the towers fall and the fires in the Pentagon something deep within my soul cried out, "Father forgive them! They don't know what they are doing." I repeated that all day long.

That weekend however, a great rage grew in my heart. I realized that since my pre-teen years, watching "America Held Hostage" night after night on what later became "Nightline" I'd harbored a deep anger, even hatred, for Arabs in general and Muslims in specific. Why in the world was God calling me to NAME?? Did He not realize what was in my heart?

I struggled with my anger and hatred and fought with God over His "wisdom" in asking me to go. One day He finally said, "who better to go than you? Than someone who for so long has hated but will someday love them as I do."

Yeah, I thought that was pretty wacked too. But it turns out... perhaps He was right... In the following months as I prepared to go, God did something I never thought possible. He turned my hate into crazy love, my anger into sorrow and tears and my questioning of His wisdom into begging Him to rain down and drench NAME with His love, grace and mercy.

All I did was ask Him to give me His love for them, since I had none of my own. All the rest was His doing.

I no longer serve NAME as a paid advocate. But I still serve them through my prayers, and through my conversations with people about the region. This new conflict/war has given me great opportunities!

I used to not have any problem with killing terrorists. But now, while I realize that sometimes their deaths are necessary for the safety of thousands, my heart grieves every time.

Is this the way God feels? Does He cry and mourn when lives are lost even when those lives are set on doing evil and hurting His people?

GeneMBridges said...

Does anybody else struggle with the inner feeling of desiring the softening of the heart of Zawahris through the power of Jesus Christ, but at the same time feel pleasure when one hears that Zawahris and his cohorts are wiped out by American, Israeli or European military forces?

Yes, and when I do, I remember that the taunt song is part of God's Word too. There's a right way and a wrong way to handle this tension, and I think the taunt song, at least for me, has a way of reminding me of that. Just remember that they sung them in victory over their enemies or as pronouncement of confidence before the battle was waged. Yet remember also the reason they had to fight those enemies...more often than not it was because God was allowing their enemies to fall upon them in judgment on their nation. The taunt song reminds us that God is victorious over all His enemies and we are right to rejoice in His justice, but they also remind us that if we do not repent ourselves, then the same thing will come upon us all.

Bryan Riley said...

Your post made me think of the scene in the End of the Spear, when the son asks his father, "Dad, will you use your gun against the Waodani?" And his dad says, no, son, we can't shoot the Waodani, they aren't ready for heaven yet. We are.

Oh that I would have that kind of heart for unbelievers.

Terry Hamblin said...

Theologians have struggled for centuries with the concept of a just war. Some Christians refuse to be involved in any sort of military action. Even in WW2 - action taken against a military dictator killing millions of Jews and enslaving many foreign countries - there were concientious objectors. They had the example of Gandhi (a Hindiu rather than a Christian) who with passive resistance was later to free India.

I often wonder how suddessful Gandhi would have been if it had been Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan that had ruled India rather than Britain, which for all the oppression of the Raj, was a democracy where public opinion counted.

I believe that we are wrong to think first in military terms. President Bush's term 'war on terror' is misleading, suggesting that it can be solved by warplanes and bombs.

The terrorists of the Middle East are better thought of as criminals. Terrorism is the nature of their crime, the term concealing murder, extortion, blackmail, sedition, destruction of property and a host of other specific offences.

Scripture gives sufficient warrant for police action against criminals in Romans 13:3-4. Indeed it is the duty of rulers to bear the sword in this way.

It is usually the case that the terrorists are a minority group within a specific country and are opposed to the government of that country. Terrorist acts in America, Spain, Indonesia and Britain all fall into that category and the authorities were fully justified in hunting down the criminals and imprisoning them - even causing their deaths, as happened in Spain. In Lebanon Hezbollah were also a minority group acting against the law of the country. Unfortunately, the government there has been too weak to do its duty.

The problem arises when such criminals assume control of a country. This happened in Germany in the 1930s and more recently in Afghanistan. It has also happened in Iran. In these circumstances in order to restrain a criminal nation the police action becomes war. The threshold between other forms of pressure short of war and war itself is a matter of judgement. War is a terrible scourge to inflict on any people, but economic sanctions may also be very difficult for the people. Those who oppose the decsion to attack Saddam usually forget the privations that Iraqis were suffering because of sanctions.

There are plenty of examples in the Old Testament where God used war as a sanction against an evil ruler.

I think an appropriate question to ask is why these criminals are able to gain control of a country. It is a given that they will use unscrupulous means to inveigle their way in, but many are able to win democratic elections. Hamas recently won a fair election in Palestine. They did so because the previous regime was impossibly corrupt and Hamas promised social support for the poor and welfare for the sick. A sophisticated electorate might have asked how they were going to pay for it, but the elctorate was not sophisticated. In a way Hamas cheated, because they did not reveal that their only source of finance was foreign aid and this was contingent of their making peace with Israel.

Here then is the place for mission. There are many in the world who are hungry, homeless and oppressed. They are a fertile recruiting ground for criminals. See how it is in our own cities. In Belfast the IRA was able to recruit its criminals from the poor and unemployed, by the simple expedient of paying them 400 pounds a week - money raised from drug dealing, bank robbery and donations from America. In America itself, the poor and unregarded are recruited by gangs selling drugs and prostitution. But think that the success of people like William Booth, fishing in the same waters.

I am afraid there are some criminals who have so hardened their hearts that they are beyond rescue.

The writer to the Hebrews suggests that for some salvation is impossible. Our hearts must ache for those who are going to eternal punishment, but all Scripture tells us that not all wil be saved.

Bro. Rob said...

I'm struggling with you and like you, Wade.

MediaDude said...

I was in the National Religious Broadcasters convention during the 1991 Gulf War. Chuck Colson spoke that night about how America was called by God to use it's military might against Saddam Hussain. Right afterwords Dino played America the Beautiful to the cheers of thousands - I walked out in disgust. I couldn't help contrast this with my roommate at the Quaker Guest House in DC who was planning a silent demonstration against the war.

Somewhere, we as evangelical Christians and SBs, have equated Republican party, military might and Christianity as the same. Few white evangelicals are democrats and if they are, they don't talk.

Indeed, I struggle, Brother Wade and flinch at standing ovations in Christian gatherings to speeches like that of Dr Rice!

Aaron K. said...

A thought I struggle with is can we rightfully pray for the destruction of our enemies as David did?

Those who are Islamic fanatics are on the path to hell. The more we kill the more who are in hell for eternity.

May we pray for the expansion of God's kingdom and not American might.

Anonymous said...

It does seem that we are yelling about the wrong things. Recently our Church was talking about selling some land to a major corporation but the cry over the land was so loud that the Pastor cut off any further discussion with the corporation, for fear of spliting the Church, whereas the visitation and witnessing program of the Church goes begging, and attendance has dropped off, but we remain the status quo in attitude. There is something wrong with this picture isn't there?

Anonymous said...

Was there REALLY a standing ovation!?!?! Instead of standing to their feet we should be FALLING TO OUR KNEES!!!
I've served in a Central Asian country, and now serve our convention in East Asia and frighten and saddened by this report. For every fanatic who speaks out with such hatred toward Isreal and the West, there are 100 kind, loving Muslims who stand in opposition to such!!! But more importantly, WHO ARE WE to cheer the deaths of soooo many innocent people(and NOT so innocent people)? HOW DARE we stand as a body of believers and cheer such a statement!?!?
HOW DARE we wear WWJD bracelets around our wrist, then appauld such a statement!?!?!?! (Maybe that fad has passed but I'm sure the same sense of pride and spiritual prigishness remains) JESUS WEPT over the hardness of hearts, and with His last dying breath pleaded with the Father to forgive those who killed him.
I can't find the words to express my outrage!!! And if I keep trying, I'm gonna have to get on my knees and ask forgiveness for the sense of anger and outrage that I'm having toward anyone that stood and applauded!!!

Anonymous said...


I am not sure you remember a book called "Christ and Culture" by H. Richard Neibuhr. While he does not answer the exact question posted, he does interact with a larger question, "How should Christians interact with culture?" He gives five options and provides positives and negatives to each. He also cites theologians who would promote each position. If I remember correctly, he believes Luther and Calvin hold different positions. He takes a different position than you or myself may take; nevertheless, it is a helpful work that may aid people in understanding one of the larger questions of your specific question encompasses--a Christian's interaction in culture--whether that be war, politics, etc.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I have had the exact same thoughts. I really don’t understand why Muslims and Jews can’t find a workable peace agreement. Plus we have the conflict between Sunni and Shiites Muslims. The major difference between these two major sects of Muslim religion is the Mohammed's successors.

I think one of the keys to understanding the current conflict is to understand why life is such an expendable commodity. That understanding is where the Ayman al-Zawahri and other terrorist organization get their power from. However I am of the opinion that this is something that is never discussed by western media.

What needs to be discussed in church and in the media is why the young people in the middle east feel they have no future, hence their own life are worthless. I do not believe it is for the reason given by our press “strapping a bomb onto one’s self is for the glory of God”. There is a much more fundamental reason why young men and now women are so willing to give up their lives. What that reason is I do not know.

Ray said...

I feel the same struggle. The movie about the World Trade Center is about to come out, and I do not think I can watch it without feeling angry. I think it is our human nature and maybe even human reasoning to want to respond by wishing they were dead as they wish the same upon us. However I hear the words of Jesus "Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you." What a savior we serve. It's a tough struggle that I share with you Wade.

Rex Ray said...

“Are you going to kill him, or do I have to?”
The death sentence was made and out of respect of authority, I agreed to do the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
As I put a gun to the head of my partner in hunting squirrels, his trusting and loving eyes never left my face which kept me from pulling the trigger. Finally with my eyes closed the rifle made a terrible noise and I did not open my eyes until I was running through woods at full speed. I could hardly see through tears.

What was my pain of dealing with a chicken killing stray dog that I had known two weeks compared to God’s pain of executing his Son for our sins? Such agony that Jesus sweat great drops of blood…if it is possible, may this cup…Father, everything is possible for you…please take away this cup of horror…You will not leave my soul in hell…
It was not the cross or nails that burst his heart but “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” That question was answered only by his Father’s tears.

Does God want us to kill dogs to save chickens and kill Terrorists to save lives?

My uncle died at age 97 after surviving mustard gas in World War One. He believed the Bible said never kill. On a battlefield, a huge German raised his rifle to plunge a bayonet through his heart. My uncle stood at attention with gun by his side. For a moment their eyes locked and the German passed him by. The German may have been a Christian, but if he had been a Terrorist, I doubt I would have ever met my uncle.

The pain of killing Terrorists and sending them to hell, is knowing we have failed in lifting up Jesus to them. On the other hand, if their removal permits more to accept Jesus, then so be it.

Rex Ray