Tonight my heart is heavy and my eyes are filled with tears. I just read about the beheadings of 21 followers of Christ at the hand of ISIS in Libya. Looking at the photos of these 21 men, I can’t help but be absolutely heartbroken. Everyday, we hear more and more stories of the evil actions of ISIS. And, everyday, my heart fills with more and more anger towards them. “When will you judge them, Lord? When will you utterly destroy them for their evil actions against your sons and daughters?” It’s hard not to desire the judgement and wrath against such evil. And, I think we are right in abhorring evil and desiring God’s wrath against it.
However, the Lord has recently started to change my heart towards those who exhibit such evil. I have always been a ‘no mercy’ kind of person. If someone does wrong, they should be punished for it. Evil people should be destroyed. When I used to look at ISIS, I only felt deep hatred for them. I wanted to see God squash them like the varmint that they are. I did not want them to receive any mercy. In a sense, that is still true. I do still desire God’s judgement and wrath against all that is evil. And I know that He will one day stamp out evil once and for all and set things right. But, when I look at ISIS, it’s so easy to just think, ‘I hope they are killed. They deserve hell.’ But, recently, the Lord has reminded me, ‘you deserve hell, too, Katie.’
Talk about a hard pill to swallow. But, it is truth. We have this misconceived notion that sin is somehow on a scale. We see our own sin (lies, lust, pride, jealousy, etc.) as being at the bottom of the scale. We see the sin of ISIS as being at the very top. However, that is not how God sees it. Scripture makes it very clear that ALL sin causes separation from our holy God (Romans 3:23). There is no degree of sin to him. Sure, in an earthly sense, some sin brings greater consequences than others. But, in a spiritual sense, all sin condemns. All sinners are deserving of hell.
But, praise be to God, that is not the end of the story. In the cross of Christ, redemption can be found. I am so very grateful to the Lord for saving me all those years ago. I am in Christ. I am a new creation. I have escaped the judgement and wrath of God through the sacrifice and payment of Christ. But, apart from Christ, I am nothing. Apart from Christ, I am ISIS. My sin before Christ was also deserving of God’s wrath and judgement. I deserved hell and eternal separation from our holy God.
Through this, I have become even more aware of the scandal and beauty of the cross. I have become even more overwhelmed by God’s grace and love towards sinners. And I have become more compassionate towards ISIS. Do I think they deserve God’s judgement? Absolutely. But, I also can’t help but be heartbroken over their lostness. I can’t even imagine the evil and hatred that has overcome them. I am moved to tears even thinking about that. They need Christ. THEY NEED CHRIST. Only Christ can heal the brokenness. Only Christ can snuff out the evil and hatred. Only Christ can make all things new.
So, my prayer has begun to take a different shape. I still pray for God’s judgement. I still pray for God’s justice. But, also, I pray for his glory to be known. I pray that ISIS will be overcome with conviction. I pray that they will bow in total submission to God through Christ. May their eyes be open to their wickedness. May they turn to Christ for salvation. Yes, they are deserving of hell. But, apart from Christ, so am I.
May we mourn the slaughter of our brothers and sisters for their faith. May we pray for God’s protection of them. May we cry out for God’s justice and judgement over these evil acts. But, may we also mourn the lostness of ISIS. May we pray for their eyes to be open. May we cry out to God to save them from their enslavement to Satan and sin.
“Who will deliver me from the body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 7:24, 25