Why You Should Pray for the Terrorists

If reading that title made you uncomfortable, join the club. It left a bitter taste in my mouth too.  If the thought of praying for the folks that committed these cowardly acts is offensive to you, it’s offensive to me too.

I could be snarky here and say that we should pray for them because a Marine QRF (Quick Reactionary Force) is on it’s way to Libya, and to put it as politely as I can, those guys bring the pain.  And that’s probably pretty satisfying to a lot of us who, deep down, really want these guys to get what’s coming to them for the barbaric acts they’ve committed.


But if you’ve read this blog for very long, you probably know that this is headed in another direction.  And if you’ve ever read this blog, you know that direction is… the gospel.  The gospel is bigger than politics. It’s bigger than nationalities. It’s even bigger than any actions the bad guys could commit.  “All men, everywhere” is big.  Big enough to be uncomfortable.

Here’s a favorite “Bible Story”  you’ve probably heard a hundred times. But I think you might be surprised at how it ties into the events over the last few days.  Jonah.

Wait, Jonah? And the whale? How on EARTH does that have anything to do with praying for the terrorists? These animals just gunned down an unarmed man and you’re going to give me some stupid kids story about “Who did, who did, who did swallow Jo-Jo-Jonah?!?!?”

You probably know how Jonah begins; God commands Jonah to go to, where? Nineveh!  But Jonah resists, and tries to run from God.

We know that he boards a ship in Joppa and heads for Tarshish.  (Which is over 2,500 MILES away). In those days, that was really heading for the hills. To say he was running away would be an understatement.

(OK, so what does this have to do with terrorists?)

Well, everything.  The actual story recorded in scripture is quite a bit darker than the picture above:

Nineveh was the capital of Assyria. And the Assyrian cruelty surpassed anything we have seen from the terrorists; Prisoners were skinned alive, and buried in the sand. If the Assyrians came calling on your city, they would commit unthinkable atrocities; beheading people, gouging their eyes out, ripping their tongues out, impaling men on poles while they were still alive. Burning children in piles.  Unimaginable.

Scripture records Nineveh as “the bloody city” (Nahum 3:1) for good reason!

Cities would hear that the Assyrians were marching toward them and, understandably, they would be in complete panic. They would beg for mercy, or in some cases commit mass-suicide, seeing it as preferable to the horrors of the Assyrians.

In one case when a city resisted as long as possible instead of immediately submitting, Ashurnasirpal proudly records his punishment:

“I flayed as many nobles as had rebelled against me [and] draped their skins over the pile
[of corpses]; some I spread out within the pile, some I erected on stakes upon the pile … I
flayed many right through my land [and] draped their skins over the walls.”

“I cut off the heads of their
fighters [and] built [therewith] a tower before their city. I burnt their adolescent boys
[and] girls.”

A description of another conquest is even worse:

“In strife and conflict I besieged [and] conquered the city. I felled 3,000 of their fighting
men with the sword … I captured many troops alive: I cut off of some their arms [and]
hands; I cut off of others their noses, ears, [and] extremities. I gouged out the eyes of
many troops. I made one pile of the living [and] one of heads. I hung their heads on trees
around the city.”

The Assyrian “palace without rival” in Nineveh had, literally, miles of stone walls carved with depictions of their terror.  In one, we see an Assyrian soldier grasping the hand and arm of a captured enemy whose other hand and both feet have already been cut off. Dismembered hands and feet fly through the scene. Severed enemy heads hang from the conquered city’s walls. Another captive is impaled on a stake, his hands and feet already having been cut off. In another detail, we see three stakes, each driven through eight severed heads, set up outside the
conquered city. A third detail shows a row of impaled captives lined up on stakes set up on a hill outside the captured city. In an inscription from Shalmaneser III’s father, Ashurnasirpal II, the latter tells us,

“I captured
soldiers alive [and] erected [them] on stakes before their cities.”

“I cut their throats like lambs. I cut off their precious lives (as one cuts) a string. Like the
many waters of a storm, I made (the contents of) their gullets and entrails run down upon
the wide earth. My prancing steeds harnessed for my riding, plunged into the streams of
their blood as (into) a river. The wheels of my war chariot, which brings low the wicked
and the evil, were bespattered with blood and filth. With the bodies of their warriors I
filled the plain, like grass. (Their) testicles I cut off, and tore out their privates like the
seeds of cucumbers.”

Get the picture? These guys were worse than anything in my lifetime. They certainly rivaled the Nazis.  Please don’t misunderstand me here, i’m not saying that the terrorists aren’t evil. Far from it.

And now, back to Jonah, and to the part of the story you may have never heard as a kid…. why did Jonah run from God?  Why didn’t he want to go to Nineveh?  The obvious guess would be fear!  But no…

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the LORD said, “Do you do well to be angry?”

(Jonah 4:1-4 ESV)

Jonah ran, and didn’t want to call the men of Nineveh to repentance as God instructed because he knew that God would be merciful to them if they repented!  Jonah knew about the Assyrians and their reputation. He didn’t want God to be merciful to them in their repentance.  Jonah’s response?  I knew it! Isn’t this what I said?!?!?

God’s response?  “Do you do well to be angry?”  (Jonah 4:4)

Let’s read the rest of the account, in context:

Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. Now the LORD God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” And the LORD said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

(Jonah 4:5-11 ESV)

Ouch.  Man, I really want the terrorists who attacked the twin towers to get what’s coming to them. And the guys gunning down someone over a YouTube video? Yeah, they’ve got it coming to them. Get ’em God!

“Do you do well to be angry?”

That’s the gospel. That’s gospel enough to be offensive.  That’s gospel enough for me to get hate mail about.  That’s gospel enough for crowds wanting God to exact revenge on their enemies to scream “Crucify him!” when Jesus came with the gospel to the people they hated.

Hmm.  Let that one sink in.

I’m not saying  that the terrorists are Assyria. I’m not saying God is going to turn their hearts to repent.  But the gospel is big enough for even them, no matter how bitter that tastes in my mouth. It’s bigger than their sin. It’s bigger than the geo-political situation. It’s bigger than my anger, even if I want to do like Jonah and tell God they don’t deserve it. It’s big enough to turn the great persecutor of the church, Saul, into Paul.  Jesus himself spoke of the men of Nineveh when he said:

The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah
(Luke 11:32 ESV)

Let the weight of that hit you. The men of Nineveh will stand with you in heaven. You’ve got more in common with the repentant Ninevite than the unrepentant American.

Thats uncomfortably big.

That’s gospel big.

Pray that those who committed these atrocities would repent and believe on Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.

Marc

marc5solas@gmail.com

Added: I just want to make it perfectly clear, as a veteran myself, that this is no way means i’m not praying for our troops. Nor does it mean that I think the terrorists are in any way justified in their actions.

Post Chik-fil-A: A call to Repentance (There is no “us” and “them”)

Purpose:

I’ve noticed lately that in the conversation regarding “same-sex marriage” and homosexuality in general, that there has been much heat and very little light.  The recent Chik-fil-A discussion has shown me that most folks aren’t particularly interested in honest dialogue, but in scoring points for their side, even (and often) at the cost of truthfulness.   Being “pro-family” isn’t the gospel. Being “anti-gay marriage” isn’t the gospel. And some of the activities I’ve seen have drawn lines political lines in the sand which have made it extremely difficult to accomplish our mission of  gospel proclamation.

With that, I’m going to write what I know may be a dangerous blog post. It may hurt me professionally, may cost me some friends on both sides of the fence, and will almost certainly be taken out of context.  Why risk it?  Because I see the biblical position on this issue horribly misrepresented, and am saddened to hear many Christian youth woefully unprepared to even engage the subject.  I write as a Christian, to other Christians here.  I am writing to an audience who believes in objective, external truth as revealed in the bible.  If you do not hold the bible as authoritative and inerrant, or if you are a relativist, even the most accurate exegesis of scripture will conflict with your worldview.  If, after I present the biblical position you find you disagree with what I’ve written, ask yourself honestly if the disagreement is with what is in the text, or is it simply not what you want to believe.

As I write, please hear my heart. I hate no one.  I look down on no one.  I know my own sinful heart and work to remove the beam from my own eye as I attempt to faithfully and accurately present the truth of scripture.  You aren’t going to find anything hateful as I address this issue. My goal is to speak as clearly and as accurately as possible on this sensitive and emotional issue.  The church has often interacted with an inexcusable lack of respect and civility with the homosexual community, and for that, I truly apologize.  It is my earnest desire to address this issue with love, grace, civility and truthfulness.  There is no “us” and “them”.  We are one, united under a command to repent and believe.  The call to repentance for some will be from pride, and for confusing our political agendas with our mission to preach the gospel of repentance to all men.  For others, it will be a call to repent of the sin of homosexuality after a clear presentation of God’s word in this blog.   And so… my prayer.

Prayer:

My prayer is that the light of God’s word would illuminate this subject. I pray that Christians would obey the clear commands in scripture to be both well studied in the word, and to love neighbor as self.  I pray that the Lord would use my very limited abilities to lay out a simple presentation for youth who are unprepared to engage this subject biblically.  I pray that I never allow my pride to ignore the plank in my own eye, or to see my sins as less offensive to God than those of other men; Even if theirs are sins which are less acceptable in the church.  I pray for those who struggle with homosexuality. If you gain nothing else from this blog, get this… there is grace for you.

Prohibition:

The following are texts which explicitly prohibit homosexuality.  There are other passages of scripture (such as the account of Lot in Gen19) which are often debated (i.e. the sin in Gen19 is rape and not homosexuality). However, for our purposes, we will deal with texts which explicitly speak of the act of homosexuality being a sin:

“Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.” – Leviticus 18:22

 

“‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. – Leviticus 20:13

 

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

 

 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.” – 1 Timothy 1: 9-11

As you can see, both the old and new testaments explicitly teach against homosexuality, labeling it “detestable”, “contrary to sound doctrine”, and that those practicing homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Faced with such direct teaching, those who would maintain the supremacy of the bible and yet defend homosexuality must build their case either outside of scripture, or by denying that these passages apply to them.

Often, a simple appeal to emotion is used, but to put it bluntly, our emotion is to be submitted to the authority and teaching of scripture, not the other way around.

I’d like you to ask yourself this honest question; Do you believe we are to obey every aspect of OT law? Wearing only single fiber clothing?  Not cutting the edges of our beards? Not eating pork? Probably not.  Most of us would agree that not all aspects of the law are binding in that regard. But why not?  Conversely, who of us would say that all of the law is to be discarded; Love your neighbor as yourself, do not steal, do not lie? I can’t imagine anyone is ready to throw all of the law out either.  So, then, how do we determine which laws we follow and which we are no longer bound to?  And why are we no longer bound to it?  In short, how would you respond to the objection below?

Common objections by category:

Format:  I’ve organized my thoughts in a way that I believe will help identify, understand, and respond to the most common objections to the historic view that homosexuality is condemned in scripture.  First, I’ve posted my purpose, my prayer, and scriptures which specifically prohibits homosexual behavior.  I will now work through common objections. These objections typically state the condemnation of homosexuality was only for a particular people, a particular place, or a particular period and are no longer binding.  I’ll address each individually and finish with a discussion of the law, it’s permanence, and a promise.

People:

The argument here is typically that the law was only for “them”, and not for us as New Testament/Christian believers.  We clearly see that the law is not a single, monolithic, body. Rather, it is broken into the three categories above.  What did Jesus himself teach regarding the law?

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

(Matthew 5:17-20 ESV)

As you can see, the law will remain.  Unless you believe that we are to adhere to every aspect of OT Law, we must take a closer look at what  Jesus expressly overturned under His new covenant, what He leaves unchanged, and what He raises the bar on:

1. Ceremonial Law: These laws are no longer applicable, as they have been fulfilled in Christ. Examples of these are:

a. Food (Mark 7:19)

b. Unclean People (The leper in Mark 1:41)

c. A bleeding woman (Mark 5:27)

d. A dead child (Mark 5:41)

And finally,  Jesus ends the ceremonial law once and for all by doing what no earthly priest could ever do; He sat down, at the right hand of the father.  In language that no Old Testament Jew could ever miss, Jesus, the spotless lamb, is sacrificed once and for all.  The foreshadows are gone, the types and shadows are complete. Jesus has fulfilled the ceremonial law.

2. Civil: Jesus ultimately ended the separation of Jew and Gentile as he tore the temple veil. The NT sends the adoption theme to all men everywhere, Samaritan, and gentile alike.  These laws still teach us through principle, but are no longer binding.

3. Moral: Jesus not only holds this in place, but raises the bar to show the ultimate standard of these laws:

           “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

            “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

            “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

            “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

            “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

            “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.        

(Matthew 5:21-48 ESV)

To speak specifically to the fact that the moral law contained within the holiness code was not simply for national/ethnic Israel, consider the following:

Leviticus 18:24-30 teaches that divine judgment had come upon the nations who previously dwelled in the land.  These were nations that did not have the law of God given in the Decalogue (Ten Commandments). Clearly, the prohibition of homosexuality wasn’t only a Jewish matter, it was something that transcended ethnic boundaries.

Therefore, to attempt to lump “the law” into one basket, and then claim that we are inconsistent if we don’t follow all cleanliness or civil laws (such as those in the figure below), is inaccurate.   It is a fundamental misunderstanding (or misrepresentation) of the law.  We do not follow (and are not bound by) the ceremonial laws, since Christ has fulfilled them completely.  We are also not bound by the civil laws, though we do gain value in understanding their underlying principles.

Summary:  The ceremonial code has been fulfilled in Christ, the civil code is an example in principle, and the moral code is applicable to all men.

Place:

To believe that the moral law is applicable only to a certain locale is an absurdly weak argument.  Would he say that it would be acceptable (for anyone, Jew or Gentile) to sell one’s daughter into harlotry while residing in Los Angeles? Practice incest in Canada? Obviously not. These actions are abhorrent to God regardless of their location. So much so, in fact that Leviticus teaches us that these practices are so horrid that they defile the land itself (Lev 19:29, 20:19-22).  Clearly, the Levitical prohibitions on homosexuality are not limited to either the land, or to those who lived in the land.  They also pre-date the giving of the ceremonial or civil laws, as shown by those engaging in this practice before Israel entered into the land being held accountable and punished for their behaviors.

Summary: The moral code is applicale in all places. 

Period:

Frequently, those who advocate the bible’s acceptance of homosexuality will argue their position by pointing out things that are contained in the book of Leviticus which are no longer practiced, or simply ignored, by those who profess to follow the God of the Bible.  From this, it is often deduced that the book of Leviticus is no longer applicable to our contemporary situation.  Those who advocate the compatibility of homosexualty and Christianity readily turn to Leviticus and then challenge their challengers with a  “what about this passage” approach to obedience.

A few examples of this approach would be illustrative at this point. Scanzoni and Mollenkott have accused those who oppose their por-homo position with script inconsistency:

“Consistency and fairness would seem to dictate that if the Holiness Code is to be invoked against 20th century homosexual,  it should likewise be invoked against such common practices as eating rare steak, wearing mixed fabrics, (etc.)”

As pointed out previously, this is a clear confusion of the categories of the law.  If you do not understand that the eating of steak (which was a ceremonial law and fulfilled in Christ), or the wearing of mixed fabrics (civil law which was for national Israel), you can easily be tripped up by the seeming “inconsistency” of the modern church.  The problem with this argument is that even if (and we have clearly pointed out that they are not) all these laws were valid, and being violated, it would not make a valid defense for biblical support of homosexuality.  In short, the argument looks like this:

1. You say homosexuality is prohibited in the bible.

2. So is (insert other law here), which you violate.

3. Therefore, Levitical laws are no longer binding.

You see the problem, right?

1. The same Levitical laws prohibit laws which nobody would throw out (incest, bestiality, stealing, lying, etc.)

2. At best, for the pro-homosexual argument, we have a common hypocrisy, which does not negate the validity of the law itself.

This is the argument of a child;  We’re not supposed to hit people. Dad hit someone. Therefore, hitting is OK.   Homosexuality is prohibited, so is cutting your hair. You cut your hair, so both are OK.  Even if both laws were equally applicable (which they are not), a shared hypocrisy would not validate a clear violation of those laws.

Summary: The moral code is applicable in all periods.

Permanence

The non-binding laws were exclusively ‘ceremonial’. They regulated the Israelite sacrificial system and matters such as ceremonial cleanliness.  Although they hold forth moral duties, they were typical of Christ’s sacrifice and since he has fulfilled all they typified, they are abrogated and non-binding to those who follow Christ.  These laws regarding ritual purity and separation differ from the civil law in that they were not for a well-ordered society, rather they were necessary solely because of a Holy God dwelling in the tabernacle and among the people.  For that reason, they dealt with food (Lev 11), childbirth (Lev 12), disease, infection (Lev 13-14), and bodily discharges (Lev 15).  We also see ceremonial laws as having to judicial penalty. They simply made the guilty party “unclean” (often until the end of the day).  These were not universally binding. For example, unclean animals or dead animals (both “unclean” could be sold to travellers or foreigners.)

Laws concerning everyday civil matters in the Israelite community are binding in their underlying principles, as we have discussed.

The only laws that are, without exception, ever-binding are the moral code.

Summary: The moral code is applicable for all time.

Promise:

I have laid out, as clearly as possible, the orthodox biblical position on homosexuality.  It’s clearly not politically correct, and may even ben wrongly branded as “hate speech” in some countries.  For that I make no apology.  However, I will interact with those struggling in this sin with dignity and with love as they are also made in the image of God.  If you are struggling with homosexuality, you are no more a sinner than I am as I struggle with my sins.  But a sinner you are, and repent you must.  But know that you are never, ever beyond grace:

            And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

(1 Corinthians 6:11 ESV)

 

The word is clear, the sin is evident, and the grace is sufficient for those who would repent, in faith believing.

As always, I’m always here to answer e-mails.

Next week: Examples of actual arguments you may encounter, and how to respond to them biblically.

Marc

Note: While not directly quoted or footnoted, this blog contains material from Dr. James White’s “The Same Sex Controversy”, which I recommend:  http://www.aomin.org/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=50