Is there anyone whom God does not love?
Is there anyone for whom Christ did not die?
I can only respond to these questions in the negative. No, there is no one. I must confess my faith that the Lord Jesus died as much for Hitler, Pol Pot and Idi Amin as He died for me.
And that He died for the members of ISIS, the Islamic terrorist group claiming responsibility for a recent act of bloody terrorism in Paris. And for their victims. And for the French officials who have now sent warplanes to bomb Syria.
He died for us all. We are all beloved of God, regardless of what we do or believe. We cannot change the God who is love, no matter how badly we sin.
I am not in the practice of writing political pieces on this blog and this is no exception. Although at one time I was a very political person, participating in demonstrations and writing letters to the editor, I have withdrawn from the political world.
I cannot have faith in politics. It asks the wrongs questions and inevitably chooses solutions that I cannot accept. I can only believe in God.
When I heard the tragic news of the acts of terrorism in Paris, of course my heart was deeply saddened for the victims and those who love them. Death, trauma and terror was imposed on them even though they, as individuals, had done nothing to provoke it.
Now, they or their survivors will be forever changed. What they once thought of as “life” will be never feel the same, will never feel normal or right again. A deep, deep tragedy.
Yet another thought occurred to me: which is more tragic – the injury and loss of life of innocent victims or the state of the souls of those who perpetrated these acts?
This may seem like an odd, even outrageous question. But, as Christians, we are often called upon to view our world from a radically different perspective.
Let us consider the admonition given us by the Lord:
“And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (Matthew 10:28)
We are to fear death of the soul far more than we should fear the death of the body. This being the case, should we not mourn even more for those who seem to have lost their souls than for those who have lost only their bodies?
Certainly we should pray for those injured and killed. But should we not be praying even more diligently for those who planned and carried out the killing?
It is not our natural human tendency to think so. Rather our inclination is to want to strike back, viewing such counterattacks as necessary to protect ourselves and perhaps “teach” the perpetrators that such acts will not be tolerated.
Yet Jesus tells us,
“But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” (Matthew 5: 44-45)
The call to love our enemies is perhaps one of the most defining features of our Christian faith relative to other creeds, yet it is arguably the one teaching of Christ that we most chronically and publicly fail to obey.
Why is it that we Christians so consistently disobey Christ on this very fundamental issue?
Certainly there are numerous reasons, many of them rooted in our passions and the sins that emerge from them. Yet there is another reason, one that is perhaps even more pernicious.
We know that we who serve the Good cannot be passive and indifferent in the face of evil. We must resist it. And it is through this knowledge we have become seduced by the true enemy into fighting our brothers and sisters.
The world has always had its wars and people have gone off to fight them. Early humans living in caves fought with rocks and spears. Eventually human weaponry graduated to rifles and canons, then napalm and nuclear bombs.
Typically one side justifies hurting the other because of the “evil” done by their opponent. Then the favor is returned because of that “evil” act. And so on…
However, the Lord Jesus is, I believe, trying to teach us that this is the wrong war – and that we are using the wrong weapons.
The true war we are called to fight is the spiritual war and our common enemy is the evil one. Seen in this light, we and ISIS (and all other terrorists and despots throughout time) all have the same enemy, though we may not recognize it.
It is the evil one who shifts our vision away from all other people as God’s beloved children for whom He gave His Son. It is the evil one who seduces us into believing that our fellow human beings deserve to die – and that we should kill them.
If our brother or sister does wrong, we must pray – for we too are sinners who have done wrong. We know what it means to fall from the grace of God and our only desire should be to draw the other from the clutches of the enemy. Especially when we see that he has blindly gone over to the other side.
Yet the true enemy, our adversary, convinces us that our brother or sister is the enemy, not him. And so we are deluded into fighting the wrong wars with the wrong weapons – and these wars never cease.
The weapons of our war, the spiritual war we are meant to fight, are humility, repentance and confession, Eucharist, charity, prayer, fasting and compassion for all of God’s children. And most of all love.
It is love that sends the real enemy running. He cannot countenance it, knowing as he does that love is God and God is love.
Many might read these words of mine and think them naive or idealistic. Perhaps even traitorous.
“Using those weapons will never work with these kind of people,” is the automatic argument of human logic.
Yet if I do not believe that they work, if I do not believe the words of Christ Himself, how can I call myself Christian?
And calling myself Christian is all that matters to me.
In this world of darkness, we who believe must unite ourselves to each other as Church and to the Light who is Christ Jesus our Lord.
For it is by this Light that others shall see…
To Him be glory.