When I was a little boy, terrorism had a real name and a real face: Joey,* the neighborhood tough guy.” He would pick on anyone regardless of size or age, and to my six-year-old frame, Joey loomed larger than life. So it came as a real surprise to everyone—and most of all to me—that one day I was able to stand toe-to-toe with him. As we fought, his punches made me cry, but I felt some strange empowerment to keep on fighting—and eventually Joey sulked away, crying. I felt good. I had won. I wasn’t going to be intimidated by him any longer.
As an American and as a Jewish person, I now face an even greater enemy—terrorism—but its face and persona are more difficult to capture. To go one step further, I am also a believer in Yeshua (Jesus), and I know He calls us to a higher battleground, an even more daring adventure. Through my own death to sin, burial and resurrection in Messiah, I have come to recognize His invitation to follow Him. That includes confronting my feeling that it’s right to hate bullies, who now bear the more sophisticated title of “terrorists.”
Jesus challenges me to adopt His attitude towards terrorism.
Sin is real.
There is no other word that so adequately describes the horrible events this past fall. Scripture tells us that sin entered the world through human choice. The beginning of Genesis traces the explosion and infiltration of sin into the human race as man continually rejected God and chose his own ways. Sin is not just a weakness we can overcome by finding ways to clean up and be strong. Yeshua Himself knew sin was real, and it required His death to overcome it.
Yet, despite His victory over death as evidenced in the resurrection, until Jesus returns, sin still affects our lives. The horror of September 11 and the subsequent terrorist acts such as anthrax in our mail system, force us to face the truth that sin is still very much alive. There are those who defy God’s ways and live to personify evil.
God is more powerful than sin.
Sin is real, but God is more powerful than sin. Evil does not defeat God and He has promised that while sinful people can hurt us, they will ultimately fail. Yeshua dealt evil a deathblow when He died on the cross. What was meant for evil became good. The events of the past few months have seen many redemptive moments. There has perhaps never been such a sincere, unselfish outpouring of love, care and compassion in all of recent history. Whereas the terrorists meant to frighten us, they could not have foreseen how their actions would provoke the increase of strength and love in our country.
Whether in death or in life, God will never leave us alone. “…neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
God calls us to join Him in overcoming sin.
God commands us to join Him in the process of turning evil into good. In the Jewish tradition of “Tikkun Olam,” we are called to repair the world, to help make God’s world righteous and just. We can raise money to help the victims, the fatherless, the widows. We can give blood. We will continue to support our people Israel.
But Yeshua also calls us to a higher ground: “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil.…Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 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” (Romans 12:9,14,19).
This call to love in the face of evil is hard to accept. But we’re called to remember that God loves those who hate us just as much as He loves us. He hates evil, but God weeps for the terrorists and for those whom they terrorized. He died for us all. How do we live that out daily as Yeshua’s people? We must stop terrorism, but we must find ways to do this in a manner that reflects Jesus’ love for His world. To do anything less would dishonor our God.
* a pseudonym