“For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6

It is mid November as I write this little article. We are moving toward our big “Consecration Sunday” pledge-giving celebration, the Thanksgiving holiday, and the seasons of Advent and Christmas.  The Nominating Committee has been actively seeking leadership for our various boards and committees.  And, the Deacons and I are trying to understand why attendance at worship is down by 10%.  These are busy times and there is much to occupy our minds and energy.

But, mostly what is on my mind at the moment is the series of terrorist attacks in Paris. One hundred and twenty nine people were killed and over 300 more were injured in events that bring to mind the surreal horrors of September 11.  As the Islamic State (ISIS) takes credit and issues additional threats, we are reminded of the radical disconnect between peoples, the seemingly incompatible perspectives that shape our lives, the violence that pervades our cultures, the underlying fragility and instability that marks reality, and the fear that now colors our sense of freedom and mobility.

Honestly, I’m confused. Jesus tells us to love our enemies, but how do we love terrorists?  How do we love the people of ISIS and an Islamic state that is fundamentally opposed to respecting boundaries, diverse cultures and religions, foreign governments and modern societies, not to mention life beyond the lives of those aligned with their own ideology?  What does loving your enemy look like when there is no possibility for common ground and no room for reason?

Usually, when I think about loving our enemies I think about at least being able to pray for their transformation.

I pray that I might be able to put myself in their shoes. I pray that I might see them as God sees them.  This usually softens my heart and opens me to receiving a bit of the transformation that I am seeking for them.  But, in the case of ISIS our enemy seems to be asking nothing of us except to live in fear and die.  They offer us no perspective even to consider, no shoes to walk in.  And so, I don’t know how to even try to love them.

When I think about their transformation, when I think about how God might change their hearts and restore their souls, it occurs to me that perhaps the only way might be through death. Perhaps God can give them in death the grace and salvation they are blind to in life.  But, honestly I’m a bit horrified by my own thoughts.  I don’t like thinking this way.  I don’t want to carry hate.  It feels wrong to wish death on anyone.

Advent means “coming,” and during this season we focus on the comings of Christ. It occurs to me that now more than ever we need this season.  With new fears and fewer answers, with heightened emotions and growing vulnerabilities, our need for a savior to show us the way is ever greater.  I don’t know what to do about ISIS.  I don’t even know what to think.  But, I know that I need Christ.  I know that Christ came into a messy world, and I know that he continues to come.  I know that the best thing I can do, the best thing any of us can do, is receive him again and receive him anew.

God bless you,

Pastor Tim