Violence throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa has escalate over the last several weeks as relatively sizeable groups of Muslims have vandalized and attacked embassies in so-called retaliation for a film that has been determined to be offensive both to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. People have been murdered and physically assaulted in these attacks even though they themselves have no affiliation with the film that supposedly caused the offense.
It should also be noted that there have also been many peaceful protests by Muslims against this film. In no way am I trying to categorize or stereotype the situation. The facts are simple. A film offended many Muslims; some have responded extremely violently, some have protested peacefully while most have simply been offended without an extroverted response.
This is not the first time that Muslims have responded in violence to art, books, films, speeches, etc. that they have deemed offensive to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. Unfortunately, there have been multiple incidents in the recent past that have produced bloodshed by those who were outraged on the behalf of Allah.
I am not a Muslim and I do not have enough knowledge of the Quran to speak concerning the proper Muslim response to the offense of the Prophet Muhammad. I will leave Islamic doctrine to Imams who are tasked with teaching and leading their congregations.
I am a Christian and all I have to say concerning these acts of violence that have been perpetrated is to repeat the Sixth Commandment, “You must not murder.” (Exodus 20:13 NLT)
I would like to be able to tell you that Christians have never been guilty of such acts of violence in the name of God or in the name of defending the faith but that simply is not true. Throughout the centuries people have committed many atrocities in the name of God.
Catholics and Protestants have both been guilty. There is no biblical foundation for these actions, therefore, they are always wrong and always sin. The Lord Jesus said it this way:
“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. (Matthew 5:38-39 NLT)
We find ourselves outraged at entertainers, philosophers, authors, speakers, politicians and many times by others who call themselves Christians.
Jesus jokes seem to become increasingly more popular. False doctrine is abounding. Persecution of Christians is rising at an alarming rate throughout the world (especially in the Middle East and Northern Africa). What are we to do? What is the Christian response? What does the Bible teach us?
How do you combat heresy, blasphemy, false doctrine, mockery and persecution?
Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. (Romans 12:17-21 NLT)
You combat heresy and false doctrine with the truth of God’s Word. You combat offense and persecution with love and prayer for those offending and persecuting (no one said it is easy). You combat mockery and blasphemy with a consecrated and holy life that is lived beyond reproach.
We are not wrestling against people. We are not at war with those who do not believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are in a war with the ideas and ideologies that stand in opposition against our faith. We are in a war with the spiritual forces that oppose the message of the gospel. We are on a mission to spread the love of Jesus Christ to those who do not believe.
I know this sounds really simple but it is really hard to spread the love of Jesus with violence, hatred and persecution.
Here are some basic things that never work when trying to promote the love of Christ:
- Violent Protesting
- Defaming the character of those you disagree with
- Law Suits
As followers of Christ it is extremely normal for us to constantly encounter people who do not believe what we believe. Many of those who do not believe the gospel hold beliefs that are in direct opposition to the gospel.
Attacks against our faith come from Naturalists, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Pagans, New Age Adherents and many times from within the Christian community at large. Most of these attacks come in the form of teaching and preaching doctrine and ideas that are unbiblical. However, some of these attacks are actual physical acts of persecution, directly inflicted against followers of Christ in harmful ways.
The love of God reached out to us when our lives were separated from Him through sin.
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:6-8 NLT)
The Son of God was rejected and crucified by the people that He was sent to. We must also be willing to endure words and actions that offend our faith, demean our Savior and even persecute us. Our response must be the same as Jesus, love.
The people of this world and the people of other religions may respond in violence when their beliefs and sensibilities are offended but the followers of Christ must respond in love.
“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48 NLT)