Tag Archives: Muslim

In the Face of Evil

Terror Headline Collage

Courtesy of Huffington Post.

Suicide bombings in Beirut kill 43, wound 239. Terrorist attacks in Paris kill 130, wound 368. Ten dead at an Oregon college, fourteen in San Bernardino. And those are just in the past two months.

Gun control. Prayer shaming. Closing borders. Fear.

These are the responses to the evil and violence that seem to be growing in intensity and frequency not only in our nation, but around the world. Politicians on one side call for gun control; on the other side, for border walls. The news media calls for solutions while reveling in the business; fear—like sex—sells.

Christians divide: some call for war, some for peace, all for prayer. Some want to reject Muslim refugees, some want to eradicate Islam altogether. Others want to win Muslims through love and service, a la the Good Samaritan in one of Jesus’ more well-known parables.

This morning I read these familiar words in a new light:

Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. (Psalm 37:3-6, ESV)

It is a passage often quoted by Christians, offering hope and encouragement through trust in a good and faithful God. What struck me this morning, though, was the broader context in which these verses lie. Far from being a simple call to faith in the midst of the normal challenges of everyday life, the backdrop to Psalm 37 is a time of great strife, enmity, and threats from surrounding nations. The aging David’s reign over Israel has been marked by war and bloodshed; his victories on the battlefield have left behind jealous, hate-filled enemies. Even before ascending the throne, David’s life since youth was spent running from his own king, fearing for his own life.

This warrior-king’s call is to place faith over fear; to trust in God even in the face of threats and imminent danger. When David uses words like evil and wicked and wrongdoers, he is not talking primarily about swindlers or cheaters, but about bloodthirsty adversaries bent on killing. If he were writing today, perhaps he would use the word “terrorists.”

And how does David say we should live in the face of this great evil? Not in fear or hatred, which “tends only to evil” (v. 8), but in goodness and trust, in worship and faithfulness, in righteousness and justice.

We should live with great trust in the Lord who “laughs at the wicked, for He sees that his day his coming” (verse 13).

Today, will you live in fear or—worse—in hatred? Or will you trust in the God who sees…and who will one day act to end all violence and fear and hatred? …the God who laughs in the face of evil.

The Faith of Community


Directly across from me, leaning back against a tree, sat the family patriarch. He looked 75 but was likely 15-20 years younger. Around us sat his family – young children, teenagers, and a few perhaps in their early 20s. My hosts brought me a small stool on which to sit, and for the next 30 or 40 minutes we talked about my faith and theirs, the Bible and the Q’ran, about Jesus and Islam. Several times, the patriarch – I never got his name – told me, “What you say is good.” As we concluded our conversation he invited us to return the next day to talk more, but with regret I explained that this was our last day in the area. Repeating his affirmation, “what you say is good,” he added, “We will believe, me and my family. Not today, but probably in two or three days, we will believe.”

This encounter took place ten years ago this past week, in a village in southern Ethiopia. Two days later, the team I was with flew home, spending Easter morning on a layover at Frankfurt International Airport in Germany. My mind often returns to that village and the twice-translated conversation with the family. Did the life-giving resurrection of Jesus Christ take place in their hearts? If I were to return to the village today, would it still be dominated by Islam, or would the patriarch—or one of the children sitting with us in the shade of the tree—be leading a ten-year-old church? For a decade I have longed to return and to meet this man and his family again. Maybe someday I will.

Across the barriers of language, I learned something under that tree that has shaped my life, my faith, and my ministry as a pastor: faith is not a do-it-yourself encounter. We do not come to faith, profess faith, walk in faith, grow in faith, or live in faith alone. Faith is a community affair. It is conceived, born, and nurtured in community. It grows and matures in community. It lives and thrives in community.

This challenges much of what I was taught growing up, which centered on making a personal decision for Christ, a personal confession of faith. This notion of individualized faith, while not theologically incorrect, is at best incomplete. Scripture is filled with stories of households and communities that believed in Jesus…apparently as one, at one time. When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at a well and told her everything about her, she believed; then she went back to her village and told them about Him, and they believed. (Read the encounter in John 4.) When Peter and a Roman centurion named Cornelius each had a vision directing them to meet, Peter shared the good news of Jesus and “the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word” (Acts 10). Or read of the conversion of Lydia in Philippi (Acts 16) or Crispus in Corinth (Acts 18).

I don’t know all the implications of this community faith idea. It certainly doesn’t absolve any individual of confessing Jesus for himself or herself. Nor, I think, does it mean that children raised by Christian parents get a free pass into heaven. (These concepts of “fire insurance,” “ticket to heaven,” “get out of hell free” … they’re all really bad theology, anyway; they completely miss the point of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. But that’s a subject for another post.) Maybe this would be a good opportunity for you to share some thoughts. What implications do you see for yourself, your family, your church, your work, other people in your circles of influence?