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Seek and Destroy

If you follow the daily news, then you know that there is a threatening Muslim menace in the world.  In recent weeks, videos of Muslims beheading Westerners have been released to demonstrate this Muslim brutality and to provoke the United States into war.  Such atrocities by the Muslims are nothing new, for the religion of Islam was founded in violence, and its bloody history is well documented.  The difference now is that these atrocities are more widely publicized and more graphically depicted than ever before.  Moreover, these public executions are only a small sampling of this Muslim savagery, and those who are responsible have stated their intentions to do much more harm against those whom they consider to be infidels.

As Christians, how should we react to the threat of Muslim violence?  Shall we take up the sword to eliminate the enemy? Actually, it is the responsibility of the governing authorities to bring wrath upon those who practice evil and to punish evildoers (Rom. 13:1-4; 1Pet. 2:13-14).  Those who are rightly endowed with this authority may act in their official capacity on behalf of their governments both to stop and to punish those who do evil.  However, individuals do not have a mandate to take up the sword by their own personal authority.  As for Christians, the Lord has not commanded us to shed the blood of His enemies.  In fact, when the apostle Peter attempted to defend Christ with violence, Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword" (Matt. 26:52). Christ does not compel obedience to Him by violence, and He directs His followers to love their enemies and pray for them rather than kill them (Matt. 5:44).  For example, when James and John asked whether they should call fire down from heaven to consume the Samaritans who rejected Jesus, the Lord said, "The Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them" (Luke 9:51-56).

Nevertheless, Christians are to be on the offensive against the Muslims, but not as violent attackers.  Religions belong to the category of ideology, and therefore religious battles must be fought and won in the realm of beliefs.  Our war against the Muslim religion or any other religion that is contrary to the gospel of Christ is a spiritual struggle of opposing beliefs, and it cannot be won with weapons of physical destruction.  Killing a man because of his belief does not invalidate his belief. Instead, any man's belief is made valid or invalid according to its substance, evidence, and effects.  It is on these grounds that we must fight.

The New Testament is replete with symbols and references to war, but all of them are figurative of the spiritual struggle that Christians are to fight for Christ.  We are to put on the armor of God and take up the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:10-17), serve as good soldiers of Christ Jesus (2Tim. 2:3-4), and fight the good fight of faith (1Tim. 1:18; 6:12; 2Tim. 4:7).  Consider Paul's description of this spiritual warfare in 2Corinthians 10:3-6:

3For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.  5We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 6and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.

Paul speaks boldly of warfare, destruction, captivity, and punishment, but none of these words are to be literally applied, for "we do not war according to the flesh."  Our mission as Christ's army is to seek and destroy not people but "speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God."

There are Muslim apologists who attempt to justify Muslim violence by saying that it is no different than violence by Christians, but they are mistaken.  They point to the wars of Israel in the Old Testament or the Crusades as evidence of Christian brutality, but this evidence fails. Israel acted as a nation under the guidance of God, but their wars occurred long before the new covenant of Christ.  As for the Crusades, these were the misguided military campaigns of the Roman Catholic Church, but they were not the works of Christ or His genuine disciples.  As we have seen earlier, Christ never commanded or condoned such violence.

Therefore, let us fight against the Muslim menace, but let us do so as the Lord has instructed us.  "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12).  Over these, Christ will win the victory without His disciples shedding a single drop of blood.

Stacey E. Durham