On February 15, ISIS released a video of their followers beheading 21 Christians. Throughout the globe, people of all faiths began to call for an escalation in military action against the radical Islamic terrorist group. And an argument can be made that that is the appropriate response from a national perspective. But what is the appropriate response on the individual Christian level?
Pray for the families of the martyrs. The 21 men killed by ISIS were husbands, sons, fathers, and friends. We as believers need to bring their families and friends to the throne room of God. We should consistently pray for their peace and comfort. We should pray that they not harbor anger or hatred toward those that committed this act of terrorism. We should also pray that if they have not already seen the video, that they be protected from doing so. But if they have seen it, we can pray that God will fill their minds with images of His grace, rather than an image of their loved one being killed.
Secondly, we have to pray for those who participated in murdering these Christians. This goes against every fiber of will. If we pray anything for these men, we often pray justice will find them swiftly. But that is not what we are called to do.
In Matthew 5:44-45, Jesus gave a command saying, “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.”
Paul echoed this in Romans 12:14, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”
So we have the command, but what do we specifically pray for? How can we pray for people so deceived by demonic forces that they can behead another human being and view it as righteous?
We pray for their salvation. If these men were to die right now they would go to hell. Is that something we honestly want to celebrate? Second Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” If we want to pray in the will of God, He makes it clear what His will is right there.
We can also pray for a powerful missionary to impact ISIS. There was once a man who would have looked on in approval and perhaps even helped behead these Christians. His name was Saul. God miraculously saved him and changed his name to Paul. He went on to write a third of the New Testament and became a powerful witness to both Jews and Gentiles. The Middle East, in general, and those deceived by Islam right now need a powerful witness of the amazing grace of God.
I know this rubs against our nature. But just because it makes us uncomfortable doesn’t make it any less of a command of God. We aren’t called to comfort. We are called to obedience.