Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
Islam has always attempted to overcome and conquer through conquest by using means of death and destruction. For them, they are citizens of one kingdom, the kingdom of Islam that equates religion and politics.
Christians proclaim the kingdom of God through death – the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, death to self and the kingdoms of this world, and a willingness to die in the propagation of the gospel since this is the means by which the gospel proclaimed may well be manifested. We are citizens of two kingdoms, or cities as Augustine wrote, that of God and that of man. And for Christians our heavenly citizenship marks and guides all we do while living in this earthly, transient kingdom.
John writes of Christians that we overcome “by the blood of the lamb,” i.e. the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, “by the word of their testimony,” i.e. by testifying that they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and “they loved not their lives even unto death,” i.e. they were willing to die for the sake of this truth (Rev. 12:11). The reason for this, John writes, is because they knew that even though they die, yet shall they live (Jn. 11:25-26).
Because of these truths, Jesus teaches us that we are to love our enemies (Matt. 5:43-48). Does this include the Muslim terrorists known as ISIS?
Please take four minutes to watch this powerful video created by Michael Chang: Who Would Dare to Love ISIS? (A Letter from the People of the Cross). Granted he has not lived this and has not been asked, at present, to give the ultimate testimony to his faith in Christ through death, which he acknowledges. But that does not change the truth of this message. As you watch this video as a believer, do so with these two questions: How do I process this? What is the appropriate, God-honoring response?
And if you have a few extra minutes, I encourage you to read the following in which Chang is interviewed about this video and his on-line video ministry, Mighty: An Invitation to ISIS: Love, Not Hate – An Interview with Michael Chang. I include only the first part of the interview:
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Most people’s first thought when they hear about an ISIS beheading is not to “love ISIS.” Why would you devote a video to the concept?
MICHAEL CHANG: Precisely for that reason. The only thing ISIS has heard are words of vengeance and hate. And they deserve it. Their actions demand heavy justice. But there’s another message out there. The message of the cross proclaimed by the people of the cross. This message of forgiveness and love in the midst of our darkest sins has always been the heart-cry of Christians. However, the world isn’t very fond of Christ and his people, so our voices get silenced or twisted.
LOPEZ: Can a man really be forgiven for beheading another?
CHANG: What’s worse? Beheading someone, or nailing the Son of God to a cross? And yet, Jesus, while He hung there, said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not what they do.” The forgiveness of sins is not determined by the degree of the sin but by the value and worth of Christ.
LOPEZ: Who are “the People of the Cross?”
CHANG: Christians. Christ-followers.