As I write this, I have just read the news about what is apparently the latest terrorist attack on innocent Britons. At this point, many of the details are still unconfirmed, so my purpose in this post is not to offer commentary on the attackers, or their apparent extremist Islamic ideology. That commentary will come. But for the time being, I want to share some thoughts for those of us in the West who are beginning feeling the fear and paranoia sink in–the dread that nowhere is safe, and that our security, or our lives, or the lives of our loved ones could be taken at any moment by a maniac with a weapon (for those of us living on the Northwest Side of Chicago, that feeling may be intensified by the recent, seemingly completely random murder of an Uber driver in the area, just as senseless killings are a tragically frequent realityfor many across Chicago).
How are we to cope with that feeling of dread we may feel? There are two “natural” options, and one supernatural one. The natural options are (1) allow ourselves to go numb to the endless flow of headlines, or (2) to give in to the fear and panic, constantly living in terror of the next attack. The Bible, however, offers a third way–a supernatural way–of responding to the news of terrorist attacks. That third way consists of three elements, outlined below (N. B. this is a post about our individual response to terrorism, and it is not intended to be taken as outlining how we as a nation or as a civilization must respond to the existential threat that is radical Islamic terrorism).
The three elements of a biblical response to reports of terrorism are:
- Acknowledge the evil and sinfulness of the attack (it is objectively evil and against God’s good character).
- Search and repent of evil in our own hearts (like the terrorists, we too are sinners in need of repentance and forgiveness).
- Prayerfully trust the sovereign Lord (who protects us, gives us peace, and will ultimately triumph every injustice).
Without going too into detail on each of the three elements, here are some Scriptures for each of them.
Acknowledge the Evil of the Attack.
Murder is sin, and it is diametrically opposed to God’s holy character. Truth and morality are absolute. It’s good and right to call evil actions what they are: evil. The Bible is not ambivalent about the sinfulness of murder and terror. Edit: acknowledging the evil of terrorism allows us to authentically pray to God–that He will comfort those affected, that He will prevent further attacks and harm, and that He will use the evil actions for ultimate good.
- “Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 24:17).
- “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil…” (Proverbs 6:16-19).
- “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
Search and Repent of Evil in Our Own Hearts
The sin of others ought to remind us of our own, often secret sins, and bring us to repentance. The same holy God who hates terrorism and murder, hates our sin as well. This life is short, and when it ends we will stand before our Creator–either as Judge or as loving Father.
- “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21-22)
- “And he responded to them, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were more sinful than all the other Galileans because they suffered these things? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well‘” (Luke 13:2-3).
- “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Prayerfully Trust the Sovereign Lord
Jesus Christ died for sinners–the ultimate injustice producing ultimate justice–and rose again. He ascended to Heaven, where He reigns, and from whence He protects His all who trust in Him, from all eternal harm, and from whence He will return to judge the living and the dead.
- “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?'” (John 11:25-26).
- “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
- “And Jesus said, ‘I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven'” (Mark 14:62).
- “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Followers of Jesus never need to fear terrorism–and not just because of the statistical improbability of being killed by a terrorist attack. Rather, it is because we know who holds our destiny, and nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:35) and the future He has planned for us (Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 8:28-30). Nothing! Though terrorists may kill the body, they cannot harm our soul. Jesus teaches us to, “Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). It is a terrifying thing to consider facing God with unforgiven sin. It is an incredibly joyful thing to understand that, because of Jesus, we are forgiven. And that is the antidote to terror.