The recent attacks on Paris have rekindled much of the anxiety, confusion and anger we all felt after 9/11. Our first response is one of retaliation and retribution. France has responded in just such a fashion. God has placed the sword in the hand of the State to exercise justice. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:4)
But as followers of Christ, how are we to respond? Should we be taking matters into our own hands to protect ourselves from these threats? The answer we get from the Bible is a resounding no! There are several key principles that need to guide us in times like this.
First, remember that we are in a spiritual battle that is acted out in our temporal world. Paul tells us, in Ephesians 6, that our enemy is not other people, but evil forces that are directing them. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12) These terrorists have been deceived by Satan. They are blind to the truth and are following a destructive lie. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4) They are responsible for their actions, but they are also victims of Satan’s deceit.
As followers of Christ, we need to take a radically different path from the world. We need to leave justice in God’s hands and seek to “capture” as many of Satan’s troops as possible. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21) It is our responsibility to demonstrate, in tangible ways, the truth of the Gospel; the only truly effective weapon against all forms of terrorism.
We cannot change the course of nations or terrorist movements on our own. But we can change the course of individual lives. Every person that we rescue from the Kingdom of Darkness is one less terrorist in the world. Our greatest and most powerful weapon is God’s truth. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5) We cannot change people with force from the outside. Genuine change comes only through a transformed heart and mind.
The major tactic of terrorists is to control through fear. If we give in to fear, Satan wins. The major tactic of Christ is to conquer through love. If we will reach out in love, to one person at a time, Christ will win. The global situation is complicated and will continue to involve military power. The local situation is simple: Love your neighbor as yourself.