Editor’s note: After an often tearful year, the Christian’s counterattack is hope. The enemy may use the events of last year to strike chords of fear, but in reporting them, we offer notes of hope for 2016. God is in control of this world, and whatever happens, this history being made before our eyes will turn people toward him. He is our hope.
This is our certainty as we anticipate the new year, our hope.
By Eric Reed | The killing of 14 people at a social services facility in San Bernardino, California came only two weeks after the fatal shootings of 192 people in Paris in November. At first, the California attack seemed different from the Paris massacre: far fewer fatalities in a daytime shooting following angry words in the workplace.
But then, similarities emerged. Weapons of war altered to discharge more rounds and kill more people, a stockpile of explosives, young people with Middle East backgrounds, and finally the verdict: self-radicalized Muslims.
The fear of ISIS-connected terrorist attacks on U.S. soil that has marked 2015 appeared plausible and justified. But for some Christians, combatting terrorism on a national security level became complicated by biblical mandates to care for widows and orphans and strangers as we witnessed the flight of 1.5 million Syrians from their own homeland, trying to escape ISIS rebels themselves.
There was no uniform response from Southern Baptists. Several leading pastors agreed that Syrian refugees should not be admitted to the U.S. And polls showed many people agreeing with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump who recommended halting Muslim immigration in response to terror attacks.
But others found themselves defending Muslims as Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, cautioned, “A government that can close the borders to all Muslims simply on the basis of their religious belief can do the same thing for evangelical Christians.”
What are believers to do? First, we pray. That is not a simplistic answer. To know the mind of Christ, we study his Word and we pray. The Teacher who instructed us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” is the same One who said “be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.”
Second, we can educate ourselves. The pastor who said that members of his church are “all over the place” on handling Syrian refugees can lead meaningful discussion rather than allow his flock to wander into emotional or unbiblical arguments.
Third, remember the spiritual need of all persons involved. “Our Muslim neighbors are not people we want to scream and rail at—we don’t want to demonize our mission field,” Moore told Buzzfeed. “I think that the evangelistic missionary impulse of Christianity that sometimes seculars present as nefarious actually is what grounds evangelicals to see individuals not as issues but as persons.
“Every person may well be our future brother or sister in Christ.”