Enemy is a strong word. It carries a weight that’s more permanent than opponent, more violent than antagonist. An enemy has examined the data, weighed the cost and decided that there is enough hatred to systematically set energy and resources against you. An enemy wants to kill your family and then destroy any remnant that your culture ever existed.
Enter ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), the newest terror group on the international landscape. ISIS has made a name for itself by militarily conquering cities across eastern Syria and western Iraq in pursuit of a pure Islamic state, completely devoid of any Western influence. By invading Mosul and making off with 400 million dollars in stolen assets, ISIS has instantaneous brand recognition within the world of jihad as well as international media outlets. Their brutality even has al-Qaeda (their parent organization) reportedly distancing themselves from the group that now controls massive portions of the region.
Just to recap, a new terror organization is spreading across the Middle East so effectively, that even the guys who planned 9/11 think their tactics are too extreme. And now they are flush with almost half a billion dollars.
They have our attention.
To ISIS, Americans and the West are enemies. This is disorienting and terrifying. How are we to respond to this kind of hate? How do we handle enemies like this?
Its clear that Jesus would have us love our enemies. He insists that we turn the other cheek. It’s fair to point out that Jesus’ instructions were intended for interpersonal ethics and probably not foreign policy (although its equally fair to point out the colossal failure of any type of foreign policy in bringing peace and stability to the Middle East) but perhaps Jesus’ words were meant to shed light on our condition as much as improve our condition.
We are called to love our enemies, pray for our enemies, serve and sacrifice for our enemies. This is not a national defense strategy as much as it’s an accurate depiction of what was done for us. While we were sinners, traitors, rebels — enemies — Christ died for us. Praying for terrorists is not an act of counterterrorism. Praying for terrorists is an act of theological clarity. It is a cognitive exercise that proves you understand the biblical description of your own depravity. Praying for terrorists is an act of humility and gratefulness that a perfect, holy God would lay down his life for his enemies, both Islamic militants like ISIS and American consumers like you and me.
Enemy is a strong word. And it is precisely because it's a strong word that grace is an amazing word.
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation...” Col. 1: 21-22