He put his hand up. “Why are Christians being killed in Iraq?” he asked.
I looked at this brown-eyed 6-year-old boy in my Sunday school class and wondered how in the world I could begin to explain this to him.
How could I explain that most Muslims are not like this?
How could I explain that all of us are sinners, in desperate need of God’s forgiveness.
“People who don’t know Jesus don’t know His love. People who hated him killed Jesus on the cross. But when he was killed, He still loved and forgave. The Christians in Iraq are also being killed. But, like Jesus, they can also love and forgive. We can love and forgive.“
We spent the rest of our Sunday school class talking about God’s global love and His plan from the beginning of time that all nations would come and worship Him.
Many years ago I was wrestling with these same questions. I had been leading prayer groups for the persecuted church when one day God cornered me: “You’re angry”. He was right. I was angry with Muslim extremists for killing Christians. God pointed me to Matthew 5:43.
“You have heard people say, ‘Love your neighbors and hate your enemies.’ But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you. Then you will be acting like your Father in heaven.”
Love these people? People who have hurt my brothers and sisters around the world?
I was cut to the core.
Yes, love them. Pray for them. Forgive them. Overcome evil with good.
That verse transformed my hatred and anger against persecutors into love. After all, the Jesus way is the way of love, not of hate. It is the way of light, not of darkness. Even the persecutors are made in God’s image, and He deeply longs to be reconciled with them. It is God’s desire for all Muslims to know Him.
God’s plan for all time was to use the Church, his bride, to reach the lost. He could have dropped iPods and MP3 players from heaven to get the message out. But instead He commissioned the church to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. He commissioned us to go into all the world. What’s your role? How would God have you love your enemies?