What do we do with our enemies? Many of us in America don’t have any serious enemies. Sure, we have people who annoy us from time to time, maybe even rivals in sports, business, or relationships. But enemies who actively want to see us dead? Enemies who have beheaded our family members? We have it safe and easy here, however much we like to complain.
Egyptian Christians have it much harder. The 21 Christians executed by ISIS just over a week ago were their family members and friends. We, a Christian nation, call for war against ISIS to punish those evil miscreants. Egyptian Christians in this video call for forgiveness. Where would they get such an idea – forgiving those who kill and threaten? Forgiving unrepentant murderers makes no sense in the eyes of the world, whether we’re speaking of ordinary Americans or hardened members of ISIS.
While being crucified, Jesus famously said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” My first thought is, “What do you mean, Jesus? Of course they know what they’re doing. They have long experience and plenty of practice at torturing, humiliating, and executing those who cross their authority. Those guys know full well that they want to kill you. And Jesus – don’t you think repentance matters? Those guys who nailed you to the cross aren’t repentant in the least. They know full-well what they’re doing – and enjoying every bit of it.”
I could say all that. I could judge that Jesus was just too much of a wimp, a softy, who didn’t know how to handle the hard parts of life. But what if I’m the one who’s wrong, the one who doesn’t understand life? After all, when I argue against Jesus’ position and for “giving them what they deserve,” my logic is just as impeccable as ISIS’s. I may not always like Jesus’ way, I may feel quite the contrary. But as long as I call myself a Jesus follower, I’ll need to submit to his way. I think I can learn something from these Egyptian Christians. Who knows? Maybe the next generation of Paul’s will come from those who currently call themselves part of the Islamic State.