How to Turn the Worst Sauls Into Pauls
Like most reasonable people on earth, I have been horrified by the rise of the Islamic State. It's difficult to fathom a group of human beings so dedicated to engaging in such insidious activities. Their barbarous worldview that glorifies death and condones the slaughter of innocents is deeply disturbing, to say the least.
I'd like to see a swift end to this extremist horror story. The question on everyone's mind is: what's the best way to counter and hopefully rid the world of such a dreadful entity?
My first impulse when confronted with such evil is that all nations should work together to do everything in our collective power to eliminate every last ISIS adherent. Few would be opposed to such an effort. Even Pope Francis indicated that some sort of intervention against ISIS would be "licit."
While I welcome action against these off-the-rails evildoers before they can harm any more innocents, I'm hoping to see ISIS dismantled in a different way, infiltrated and consumed by a force far greater than any bullet or Hellfire missile. I'm hoping and praying for an outpouring of miracles, signs and wonders from God, the likes of which stopped Saul of Tarsus in his tracks on the road to Damascus. I'm praying for these men and women to have the scales fall from their eyes, and to have their lives and hearts changed by God Almighty, the Prince of Peace.
Obviously, praying for ISIS members does not top anyone's "easy things to do" list. But I'm compelled by Jesus's exhortation for us to "love our enemies" and to "pray for those who persecute us." Who fits this bill more than ISIS?
I think it's important to remind ourselves that ISIS members and supporters are all just people -- misguided people who seem quite eager to kill us and destroy our way of life, no doubt -- but people nonetheless. This is no easy thing to affirm when individuals commit brutal, disgusting acts with nonchalance, or even glee. Yet who is beyond the grasp of our God?
In addition to their attempts to intimidate and strike fear, another chief ISIS goal is to provoke aggression and sow discord. They want to frighten us with macabre theatrics, foment anxiety, and parlay their antics into a larger us versus them "holy war" on the world stage. They want to turn neighbor against neighbor. I implore you to not let ratings-seeking news outlets or anyone else frighten you, or to color your opinion of our Muslim brothers and sisters, who overwhelmingly condemn ISIS and its bankrupt ideology.
Don't give into fear-mongering. Reject the spirit of fear. See these people for what they are, like John Goodman in The Big Lebowski: "No, Donny, these men are Nihilists, there's nothing to be afraid of."
No doubt it can be challenging to acknowledge that underneath every one of those menacing black hoods is a fellow human being; much less someone we should bother to pray for. Yet this is a bold first step toward countering the all-consuming, mind-contorting, joy-robbing twins of poisonous hatred, and the insatiable craving for vengeance. Only then is it possible to truly, fervently pray for someone's heart to be miraculously transformed. That's how ISIS and all its ideological cohorts could really be decimated in the most wonderful, profound way.
Let's pray for thousands of Sauls to turn into Pauls, who will lay down their weapons and boldly go into the uttermost parts to declare the awesome, transformational power of the Prince of Peace. Persecutors transformed into evangelists. I reckon Paul would be the first to say that this sort of thing is more than possible.