Several months ago I posted a comment on social media concerning the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks in France. I wrote, “I’m so glad to serve a God who doesn't need me to avenge Him when insulted by mere humans (#MyGodIsLove).” I posted this as I contemplated the actions of several known terrorists who were massacring innocent French citizens as they were heard shouting out, “the Prophet has been avenged!”
I began to think about the many instances where religious zealots feel compelled to violently, whether by guns, stones, or words, attack those who live or say anything contrary to their beliefs/religion. When fanatics defend their god, or avenge people who insult their religion by not abiding by their religious codes, it is obvious that they believe it is their duty to avenge or defend god. Then the thought hit me, “why would an all knowing, all powerful God, need anyone to defend Him by being his hand of vengeance or judgment?” This may be the unmistakable difference between the god that terrorists serve and the God that has changed my life from being full of hate to being filled with His love.
As a Christian, there are three things that give me a sense of relief when it comes to defending the Christian faith:
1.) The physical Bible is not what is “Holy”, but the words contained within that are “Holy”. So you can attempt to desecrate the Holy Bible by burning it, walking on it, or throwing it in the toilet for all I care. I am not offended because I have “hidden God’s word in my heart,” and I know that God’s word is alive in all who believe in Him (Psalm 119:11). I once heard a story of man far from God, who asked a missionary if he could have his Bible and use the pages for cigarette rolling papers. The missionary didn’t blink an eye and passed him the Bible and said, “You can have this under one condition, read every page you smoke.” In the end the man inhaled something much more powerful than mere paper, he ended up becoming a Christ follower.
2.) Cartoon depictions of Jesus don’t offend me, nor should they offend Christ Followers. Death on a cross couldn’t touch Jesus, so I’m sure a cartoon depiction of Him won’t either. I may not be gaining any fans from the Christian community by saying this, but I actually on occasion enjoy a little South Park, Jesus vs. Satan action and it cracks me up. Yes it can be a little sacrilegious but again, Jesus doesn’t care, and obviously Christians don’t either because you don’t see them threatening someone’s life or killing someone over a cartoon show. Even when people directly insult our faith, we ought to do what Jesus did as people spat on and insulted Him stating, “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). When Christians face blatant persecution we ought to “Love [our] enemies and pray for those who persecute [us]” (Matthew 5:44).
3.) It’s not a Christian’s job to judge the world for how they live and what they do. Many professing Christians have vacillated from loving to judging society. It’s like we’re saying, “I love you…but I believe you should live by my convictions, when you don’t even know my God.” We are not called to hold the world accountable for their sin…that’s God’s job. Paul reminds Christians in Romans 2:1-4;
“You may think you can condemn such people [people outside the Christian community], but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. And we know that God, in his justice, will punish anyone who does such things. Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things? Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”
Christians are not in charge of holding people outside our faith to our own religious standards however, what we are called to do is love! We’re called to love people inside and outside the Christian community. If we love them, then they will be more likely to turn God, and then HE can change them.
Now to be clear, the only place in the Bible that says we ought to defend anything other than those who are too weak or poor to defend themselves is when Peter encourages us to, “Always be ready to defend your confidence in God when anyone asks you to explain it. However, make your defense with gentleness and respect.” Notice it does not say, “Defend God,” but it says to “defend your confidence in God.” This can be easily done by sharing your story on how God has changed your life, “your testimony.” The story of how God changed me is one of the most powerful things I can share with people who don’t understand my faith.
In conclusion, it’s not at a Christian’s job, or anyone else for that matter, to defend God. Paul again states, “don’t take revenge, dear friends. Instead, let God’s anger take care of it. After all, Scripture says, ‘I alone have the right to take revenge. I will pay back, says the Lord.’” Sometimes I observe fellow believers who are passionate in their faith get caught up in defending God especially in the political arena or on social networks. They get caught up just like Job’s friend Elihu who instead of consoling Job for his loss of family and home, chastised Job for his lamenting and concluded, “Let me go on…for I have not finished defending God” (Job 36:2)! In the end God chastises Elihu and his friends by stating; “I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me” (Job 42:7).
I wonder how many terrorists or religious zealots may hear these words one day standing before the throne of God’s judgment! Elihu’s defending of God prevented him from sharing the love of God through consolation. Defending God takes a Christian away from their best offensive strategy of sharing the love of God in action, to a world outside its faith! I hope one day all humanity can see that God is love…and love always wins! Let’s choose love!