Response to Terrorism – A Christian Perspective

What would be a Christian response to terrorism?  Is it to exert the might and power of the United States of America’s military against terrorist targets around the world?  Is it to bomb targets and cities in Afghanistan into rubble until they finally (if ever) turn over the newly proclaimed arch-enemy Osama Bin Laden?

 The first Christian response always ought to be, “What would Jesus say to do?”  To do that we can look at some passages in Scripture where he disclosed to us his kingdom principles to guide us in our dealings with others.

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person.  If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:38-42).[1] 

Jesus also told us how we are to treat those who are our enemies and who persecute us: 

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43).

 That last scripture squarely hits on the head the fundamental Muslim attitude toward America, doesn’t it?  They HATE America.  They call it the great Satan. 

 Perhaps America and Americans (and the entire group of nations now gathering in a coalition against terrorism) should stand back and ask why the fundamental Muslims hate America.  Why do they call it the great Satan?  And, we might ask, how justified are they in their criticisms?

 Coming to New Zealand greatly surprised us when viewing America from this distance.  We saw what a huge influence America exerted on much of the world, but not always for good.  We saw the pervasive effect of sex and violence presented in the U.S. movies and were surprised to learn that many Kiwis thought that is the way Americans really were.  Some countries will allow no U.S. programming into their country because they consider it so morally corrupt. 

 Have Americans (and American Christians) been like the frog in the pot, which didn’t notice the water becoming warmer and warmer until it was too late to get out?  Has the culture deteriorated slowly but continuously so that it is hardly recognizable from 40, 50, or 100 years ago?  I suspect so.  It is already announced that some TV programs in America will contain profanity this year never before used on TV in the U.S.

 The fundamental Muslims are reputed to have little concern for life.  This has been repeated often with the loss of over 5,000 lives in the latest tragedy in New York and the Pentagon.  But can America claim the moral high ground here?  Have there not been over 40 MILLION abortions in America, the greatest genocide in the history of mankind, including the murders of almost completely born children – the partial-birth abortion?  How does God feel about that?

 It should be asked if this horrific tragedy is a wakeup call permitted by God to America.  Why was this evil visited on America, which God protected from major harm within its shores in the prior centuries?  John McTernan wrote God’s Final Warning to America,[2] in which he chronicled natural disaster after another visited on America, which coincided or closely followed Gay Parades and actions that disadvantaged Israel, even coinciding with visits of Arafat on U.S. soil. 

 For those who seek to blame God, they are ill-informed.  God is never the author of evil.  On the other hand, Satan is described as a liar and a murderer.  We have seen much evidence of Satan’s handiwork in the last few days.  God teaches love; Satan fosters hatred.  Which has been evident?  And is America immune from this?  Now there are those in America who are attacking persons who look like Arabs or middle-eastern people (in the eyes of the attackers).  In Los Angeles an Egyptian was killed.  Was he a fanatical Muslim?  No, he was a Christian.

 What then should be the Christian response?  Friend Bruce Logan and I discussed this over lunch last week.  He has since published the following thoughts:

 “It is interesting to observe the unity, patriotism and ‘Godspeak’ this crisis has engendered.  Amidst the misery, the shallowness of materialism is exposed. Instead of war, repentance would be more appropriate.  One way of responding would be to put US aid into Afghanistan and attack the appalling poverty which has ravaged the country since the war with Soviet Russia; this, it will be remembered, provided the fertile ‘breeding conditions’ for the rise of the Taliban in the first place.  This would frustrate the Muslim militants, undermine their support base, create a new image of the West in the minds of ordinary citizens, and most importantly, improve living standards.  The call for justice under international law for those responsible for the terrorism could still stand.  Perhaps this is too simplistic and the rhetoric of retaliation and war is more expedient.”

 But we’re angry!  Perhaps furious is a better word.  Our country has been violated by people who have no sense of the value of life.  Thousands have been killed; our way of life has been changed forever.

 How are we to react with our anger?  Paul cautions us, “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26-27).  That is hard to do with the pictures of the Trade Center rubble ever before us on television. 

Scripture emphasizes that it is not our right or duty to avenge:  “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

 Paul goes on to tell us what we should do:

 On the contrary:  “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:20-21).

 Isn’t Paul’s admonition about how to treat our enemies strikingly similar to what Bruce suggested?  And isn’t the result predicted by Bruce also what the Apostle Paul said would happen?

 Is America inclined to repent and respond biblically or to go to war?  The choice of war may be a choice to enter a long, bloody conflict that cannot be won.  The choice of repentance would be to engage the enemy with love and the power of the Almighty God.  Consider what God promised: 

When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:13-14).

 If the enemy were approaching the shores of America in planes, missiles, and ships to launch an attack, the clear and proper response would be to defend the nation.  Now, however, America has suffered damage and has the time and opportunity to consider the options.  May America choose wisely.

 In the meantime, Dwight Hills Ministries suggests we pray the following,

 “Lord, I am enraged over the injustices of this past week. Coupled with the rage is a deep sense of grief.  My natural instinct is to strike back.  Calm my spirit, measure my steps, heal my wounded heart.  Endow your peace and healing on the families of our fallen brothers and sisters.  Grant our Government the wisdom to respond Biblically to this grave injustice and impending danger. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”[3]

 May God bless America. 

[1]The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

[2] McTernan, John. ISBN 1-57558-27-6.  Contact John at P. O. Box 444, Liverpool, PA 17045, USA, or by email at:

[3] © 2001 Dwight Hill, Business & Professional Ministries; a ministry of THE NAVIGATORS. Unlimited permission to copy or use is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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