Like many people, I have been trying to make sense of the violence that we have been confronted with over the past week in Paris, Lebanon, Iraq, indeed over the entire world. I am at a loss. I do not know how to address many of these things. I feel sorry for our world leaders who are trying to make wise decisions in this area. They deserve our prayers and good thoughts now more than ever.
Unfortunately, I see very little of that in some people's conversations.
Several United States governors have blocked the admission of Syrian refugees to their states. What was the response of my fellow Christians?
"Michigan is home to Dearborn - better known as Dearbornestan because of the huge Islamic population."
"Yes, they should go to an Arab country - not here."
These refugees are fleeing the very terrorists who struck their homeland. They have no place to go to and we shut the doors on them. As I write this, I am reminded of another similar event. Beginning in 1940, the United States restricted the amount of Jewish refugees to the United States for "national security reasons." How many lives could the United States have saved if we opened our borders to our Jewish brothers and sisters.
It is just as the Kohelet (the writer of Ecclesiastes) stated in Ecclesiastes 1:9:
"Whatever has happened - that's what will happen again; whatever has occurred - that's what will occur again. There's nothing new under the sun."
When I lived in Germany, it was during the attacks on 11 September 2001 and then afterwards through the terrible aftermath of the Afghanistan and Iraqi wars. I remember the outpouring of sympathy from all quarters. Friends in Germany called me up to express their condolences to me, even though none of my friends or relatives were in the affected areas. German politicians stated dramatically, "Heute sind wir alle Amerikaner." ("Today we are all Americans.") Many Germans had a strong affinity for Americans, especially after President John F. Kennedy famously said to them, "Ich bin ein Berliner."
The camaraderie was short-lived. The United States and NATO invaded Afghanistan. Many Germans could understand that. That was where al-Qaeda was. The Taliban weren't giving them up. The we invaded Iraq. Hardly any Germans could understand that. The soldiers (members) of my corps (church) asked me if I supported the invasion because they certainly did not.
I must sadly report that at the time I did support the invasion of Iraq. I thought we were justified and that there were Weapons of Mass Destruction. I was wrong. My government lied to me.
Then I began to suspect that my whole position on war and fighting was wrong. When is it ever right to fight? When is it ever right to attack? When is war ever justified? As a follower of Jesus, the answer for me is: Never.
We were attacked by al-Qaeda. We retaliated. We killed more people than died in the attacks on 11 September.
France was attacked by ISIS. France retaliated. How many will die because of these attacks? How many innocent will perish?
Violence begets violence.
It does not make any sense to stop people from fighting by fighting against them.
Paul said in Romans 12:17, "Don't pay back anyone for their evil actions with evil actions, but show respect for what everyone else believes is good."
We need to encourage our leaders everywhere in this. Instead of seeking vengeance, why don't we seek out love?