Tonight presents one of those rare times in life when I just have no words. I’ve a wide range of emotions, to be sure; I’m angry, I’m grief-stricken, and I’m numb all at once. What is there to say when so much evil has happened?
Let’s talk about Jesus and the hope for which He stands.
Does that sound good? I think it sounds perfect.
Let’s talk about the Jesus who stared Satan and demons straight in the face and never blinked once. He leaned so heavily and loyally on the power of God the Father and the written Scripture that He never had to doubt His standing in the spiritual war of his time. Whereas we read about and hope we can see the unseen powers and principalities and how they work in the world today, He saw them firsthand and stood firm in the power of the Spirit.
Let’s talk about the Jesus whose mind was always fixed on the things of Heaven. This is the Jesus who accused one of His foremost followers of doing Satan’s work, despite him trying to stop Jesus from going to His death in Jerusalem. This is the Jesus who knew just what kind of torture awaited Him at the hands of those who called themselves His children, but went anyway. This is the Jesus who knew He had to die for the world to accomplish Heaven’s will.
Let’s talk about the Jesus who knew exactly why He came. He spoke deliberately about His mission—to seek and save the lost; to give His life as a ransom for many—and carried out that mission in life by forgiving those who would see Him stoned or impaled on a cross. This is the Jesus who, in the midst of raking pain from both the cross and jeers from bystanders, looked down on the very people who were killing Him, and said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Let’s talk about the Apostle Paul.
Here was a man utterly bent on destroying the followers of Jesus, who looked on during the stoning of Stephen and nodded in approval, who actively sought out Christians and put them to death. Here was a man who had a direct encounter with the resurrected Christ while he was literally on his way to attack more of the church.
What did this resurrected, glorified Jesus do when He came face-to-face with the chief persecutor of His followers? Did He respond with a vengeance that would have been within His rights as God? No. He flipped the young church’s world upside-down by turning their most hated foe into their most outspoken leader.
Paul often remarked on his days as Saul following his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, but none strikes me as poignantly in this moment as does his explanation in 1 Timothy 1 of Christ’s mission and how it changed his own life forever:
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life.”
So, as I’m reading this Scripture, why am I having a difficult time not sobbing? I see these verses in the context of the evil that would see hundreds of innocent people killed in Paris and can’t help but marvel at the grace of God. I see these verses and remember how Jesus, in the face of the evil that put Him on the cross, felt nothing but love for those who killed Him.
I see those verses, and my anger turns to love—even for those who kill innocent people.
How much stronger would my response to these horrible acts be if I were able to genuinely say, “Father, forgive these jihadists, for they don’t know what they are doing,” or, “Father, these extremists are acting in ignorance of the love You have for them; help me extend that love, even if it means my death at their hands.”
How much stronger would the church’s response be if this aspect of Christ’s ultimate mission was once again the cornerstone of our evangelistic mind?