After the ISIL strikes against Beruit and Paris this past week, I will join the long line of bloggers to use my own voice as a Jesus follower hoping this crisis can birth a greater piece of God’s Kingdom on earth than ever before.
Before you read my thoughts, I commend those of my fellow Elder in the UMC, Mike Slaughter, who writes in response to this crisis: http://mikeslaughter.com/blog/do-love-prayforparis-prayforbeirut. Read Mike before you read me. He is much wiser than me.
In no way do I disagree with any of Mike’s words about doing love. Yet, I pose the question that is on the mind of Christians everywhere in response to these crises of violence we see everywhere in our world, including those perpetrated by ISIL in recent days, weeks, months and even years. How should we do love in response to ISIL?
Wisely, Ginghamsburg Church is seeking to do both physical and spiritual love through its partnerships with UMCOR in the middle east. I get it. I’ve read Walter Wink, too. Yes, the enemy is “spiritual evil” itself, if we are to fight the cause and not just placate the symptoms. Love does respond to both the physical symptoms and the spiritual “root causes.” I think that’s where Mike and Ginghamsburg and even UMCOR is going with all this.
If I can add anything to the conversation at all, it might be to suggest that sometimes a global “tough love” must include military force against an actual, physical enemy. When it comes to the question of “how to do love” in response to ISIL, I quite easily lose my own theology and begin to look like a hypocrite. My systematic theology, as a few of you might know, is predicated on the belief that sin is fear manifesting as “taking control over others of whom we are afraid.” We do this in the faith that this will make us more God-like, when in reality it separates us entirely from God. God is anything but a control freak. He’s just the opposite. He refuses to control others out of fear; opting to instead influence others out of love. We as Christians are challenged by I John 4:18 to have faith in God’s perfect love to cast out human fear in the long run. That very verse of scripture informs much of my theology, and my faith in love’s true meaning.
Until something like ISIL comes along.
Now I struggle with my own hypocrisy, for I find myself in a kind of reverse repentance mode and trying to justify a “do TOUGH love” approach using the allied forces of western, and even Russian, military power to stop ISIL now. Not in the long run. Not just spiritually. Physically! Now! If not sooner!
What my heart desires is to see a world in which all refuges can safely return home. No more ISIL when, say, Syrian and Iraqi refugees return home from their Lebanese and European and even American asylum. I want to see a full surrender on part of ISIL’s thieves and murderers. I want them to suffer the physical consequence of war criminals for the evil choices they have made, each person among them. I want to see the equivalent of America’s D-Day during WWII as an act of self-sacrificial love to save the innocents, and I want the equivalent of America’s Marshall Plan to then restore the sovereignty of those now dispossessed by ISIL. I want the equivalent of the Nuremburg Trials for all ISIL members captured alive. But I want it all to start with an allied military invasion of the ISIL Caliphate territories.
Here’s the point of this blog, however. I’m not sure but what my hearts’ desires are not rooted in my own fearful and thus sinful nature of taking control over others. I’m not sure that what I’m wanting is not to do fear instead of doing love, even tough love. And so I’m not blogging today to make a statement, but rather to ask a question that expands the conversation.
How should we do love in today’s world? How should we do “tough love” when responding to crises of violence, be these perpetrated by German Nazi’s thinking they were doing Christ a favor when killing Jews and even other Christians OR by ISIL et al in thinking they are doing Mohammad a similar favor with their own similar acts of violence. How, and then how else? I’m eager to learn from each of you.