Last week several gunmen walked into the offices of a satirical magazine in Paris called Charlie Hebdo and killed twelve people. Early reports indicate that the suspects may be connected to the Islamic extremist group called ISIS in retaliation for published material they found offensive. Shock, grief and anger have been rippling around the globe.
How the government and the military in France and beyond should respond is an issue well beyond my pay grade. But in the face of these atrocities the words of Jesus are every bit as radical today as they were 2000 years ago:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…. (Matthew 5:43-44)
You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matthew 5:38-39)
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15)
Retribution and hatred will never overcome evil. They merely add to it. Like Jesus we are called to respond to evil and violence with prayer, trust in God and love for others. I find that hard to swallow because I’m angry and scared and I feel helpless. Perhaps you do too. That’s why I’m spending more time with Jesus’ words. I need to hear them. I need the Spirit to re-shape my heart.
Pause right now. Pray for the victims, their families, friends and co-workers. Pray for the perpetrators who are in bondage. Pray for peace. Pray for your own heart. Then let’s go out and live the radical call of the Gospel.
My friend and colleague, Pastor Paul Gauche, shared an article with me about a Muslim response to this tragedy. You can read it here.
Jeff Marian is Lead Pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN.