We live in an ugly world. It is filled with broken people who have a penchant for cruelty. After the headlines of last weekend, I have seen a few common emotional reactions. Anger. Sadness. Fear.
The anger is evident. If you listen closely you can probably hear war drums pounding. It is hard to skim through social media without seeing a vitriolic rant about governments not doing enough to stop terrorist attacks or calls to nuke the Middle East until it glows. Both French and American militaries have engaged in bombing strikes over ISIS controlled land. So, yes, you could be angry. But I don't want to be one of those people. There is enough anger out there without my contribution.
Sadness makes sense to me and feels like the most Christian response. After all, the Bible tells us to mourn with those who mourn. Sorrow should be the most natural answer to the loss of life on a monumental scale.
Then there is fear. Fear that the worst might happen and it could happen to you. Isn't that the purpose of terrorism? To make people scared? It's not worth the effort. We may be swimming in currents of emotion but I refuse to be swept away by an undertow of fear.
I am not afraid.
Yes, I realize that I am a member of a culture and society that ISIS hates. I am not afraid. I know that they have threatened our nation's capital. I am not afraid. I am aware that extremist groups are encouraging homegrown militants to attack cities from a kill list which includes the nearby communities of Bonners Ferry, Spokane, and Airway Heights. I am not afraid. I recognize domestic terrorists (people like Timothy McVeigh, Richard Butler, and Dylann Roof) are a greater and more probable risk to my life than any foreign jihadist. I am not afraid.
Even if a suicide bomber were to walk into my neighborhood, my office, my church, my bank, my favorite coffee shop, or anywhere I happen to be at that given moment - I am not afraid.
Because I believe in a God who promised to never leave or forsake His people. A God who told us not to fear anything because He is with us. A God who gave us power, love, and self control instead of fear. A God whose love casts out all fear. If this God is for us - if he is on our side - then nothing can stand against us.
The writers of the Bible had reason to be afraid. The Israelites, fled from a life of slavery. They battled against vastly superior military powers. King David led Israel into a time of peace but was first hunted down by a murderous madman before he could take the throne. After him, the kingdom suffered generations of ineffective leadership and were eventually conquered by a neighboring superpower. By the time Jesus came along, the nation of Israel had fallen under the dictatorial rule of Rome. The first Christians faced threats of torture, imprisonment, and execution under the Roman government. Yet these people were the first audiences to hear God's repetitive command: do not be afraid.
What makes us think we're different? What makes us think we're special? What makes us think that ISIS, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, or al-Qaeda are more deserving of our fear than of the Philistines or Pharaoh's, Nebuchadnezzar's, and Caesar's armies? Are they greater than the tyrants who oppressed the Israelites and the early church? If God commanded His people to be fearless while they were facing the most fearsome conquerors of ancient times - why wouldn't that same order apply to us? If we consider ourselves to still be God's people, what do we have to fear?
We must realize that the greatest weapons in our fight against terror are not methods of modern warfare. Our enemies are undeserving of our rage or our terror. Our best response would be to live our lives as we wish. To combat terrorism, we must fight with bravery and boldness on the homefront. Every western citizen living with love, kindness, generosity, and fortitude will conquer terrorism quicker and more definitively than a barrage of drone strikes and xenophobia. We need nations to collectively declare: We are not afraid. We will not be shaken.