Pray for ISIS

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” – Luke 23:34[1]

jesus-carries-the-cross christWhom did Jesus Christ forgive from the cross: the Roman soldiers or the crowd? Whomever his audience, instead of avenging himself Jesus left justice in his Father’s hands, to show mercy or judgment as he wills (Romans 9:15-18, 12:19). He knew that vengeance belonged to the Father alone (12:19). Seven weeks later, on the Day of Pentecost, three thousand people were saved (Acts 2:1, 41). Would this have happened if Jesus hadn’t said “forgive them”? I wonder.

“Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” – Acts 7:60

Stephen refused to avenge himself as he was dying at the hands of religious leaders. Stephen left justice in the Father’s hands instead. Saul, a Pharisee, stood by “consenting to his death” (Acts 7:58, 8:1, 22:20). Would God have saved this man and transformed him into the apostle Paul if Stephen hadn’t forgiven his murderers? I wonder.

Paul-DamascusSaul “made havoc of the church,” “dragging off men and women” to prison (Acts 8:3, 26:10). In his own words, he “persecuted this Way to the death” by “punishing” believers in synagogues and “compelling them to blaspheme” (22:4, 26:11). This Pharisee “persecuted the church of God … and tried to destroy it” (1 Corinthians 15:9, Galatians 1:13). “Breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord,” Saul traveled to Damascus in order to arrest believers and bring them back to Jerusalem for trial (Acts 9:1-2, 14, 21; 22:5, 26:11-12). A blinding light and a voice from heaven were all it took to humble him (9:3-6).

A roving murderer of Christians with a consuming hatred for Christ: this portrait sounds like an Islamic terrorist. Other than parentage (Jew v. Arab) and religious upbringing (Judaism v. Islam), the only difference between Saul and ISIS is time. If a man full of zeal without knowledge can be saved, then an ISIS fighter can be too (Romans 10:2). Saul’s conversion was “the violent capture of a rebel will,” in the words of Saint Augustine.[2] If God showed grace and mercy on “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man” two thousand years ago, then he can do it again (1 Timothy 1:13). God wants everyone “to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” regardless of heritage and environment (2:4).

“Judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” – James 2:13

isis prayer jesusToo many Christians today want God to pour out his wrath on ISIS. What radical Muslims do to believers is evil, and they won’t go unpunished. However, we still live in a day of grace. Today is still the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). We’re all born sinners. We’ve all fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). How can we not share his amazing grace with Muslims?

God has a plan for ISIS. I don’t know what it is. But if God chooses to humble, convict, and convert an Islamic terrorist on his personal Damascus road, then we shouldn’t be surprised. If he calls us, like Ananias, to go to this person so he can receive the Holy Spirit and be baptized, then we must obey (Acts 9:10-19). God is God. He knows what he’s doing.

Where are the Christians who will love their enemies by praying for ISIS fighters to be saved (Matthew 5:44)? Where are the believers who will pray for their persecutors by saying “Father, forgive them” and leaving justice in his hands (5:44)? God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). If we trust God, what we fear most – ISIS on American shores – may become the instrument that will heal our land (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Prayer Resources

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[1] Quoted in Paul: A Man of Grace and Grit. Profiles in Character from Charles R. Swindoll. Nashville: The W. Publishing Group, 2002, page 22.
[2] New King James Version (NKJV), unless otherwise noted

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