Love Will Prevail

“On the morning of the shooting at Charlie Hebdo in Paris, Maclean’s contributor Scott Gilmore filed this column. In the Jan. 29 issue of the magazine, he expands on his argument:

“On Jan. 7, Islamist gunmen ran through the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo screaming “The Prophet is avenged!” By coincidence, at the very moment they were killing the journalists, the International Space Station passed silently over Paris.

“Consider that for a moment.

“As terrorists committed a primitive act of tribal savagery in the name of a prophet who lived 1,400 years ago, right above them, orbiting through space, was the most sophisticated expression of mankind’s ability to transcend ignorance and fear with hope and reason.”

The above was copied from a news report published on the internet. Mr. Gilmore continues the article to show that the Muslim world has largely isolated itself from major development in the world and that isolation is continued and made worse by terrorist acts. There are several measurements or indicators of his argument but I believe the most telling is that Muslims are isolating themselves largely by Muslims killing Muslims. Although the extremist elements constantly berate Western culture and the Western way of life; the violence is largely Muslims against Muslims.

To quote Mr. Gilmore again:

“Internecine conflict in the Islamic world is endemic. The unrelenting Shia and Sunni schism dominates it, but it also includes tribal and ethnic divides. In 2013, there were 12 Western victims of terror attacks compared to 22,000 non-Western fatalities.”

I work and live my life as a follower of Jesus Christ. I am convinced that love as expressed by Jesus is the ultimate answer to the conflicts in the world. One of my constant struggles through the years is to understand and express the milieu or social/religious context from which Jesus emerged. The exodus from Egypt and the subsequent conquering of the Promised Land by the Israelites would appear very similar to the current violence among Muslims. For example, in the very ancestry of Jesus was a woman who survived Jericho because she had hidden the two spies sent by Joshua. All others in the city were completely exterminated. Even though the text justifies the event by noting the 400 years of the sins of the inhabitants; it is very difficult for us in the modern Western world to understand such violence. It is especially difficult to get our heads and hearts around such events when we see similar acts of violence carried out today for declared religious reasons.

I do not know the religious or spiritual views of Mr. Gilmore whose article I have quoted above. The editors and staff of Charlie Hebdo, however, are avowed atheists and produce the satirical magazine as a statement against (in part) the irresponsibility of religious totalitarianism. I am not an atheist. On the contrary, I believe in a very personal God who has revealed Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ. I agree, however, with the editors of Charlie Hebdo about the dangers of religious totalitarianism. How, then, am I to interpret the events expressed in the Bible and the historical events since related to the development of religion?

I must be simplistic because of space but also because of the way my mind works. It would seem apparent from the reading of the history of Israel as expressed in the Old Testament that God was attempting to communicate with and live among the people who had descended from Jacob (Israel). This attempt largely failed because of the continued rejection of God by the Israelites. By the time Jesus was born the descendants of Israel (now called Jews because the survivors were from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin) had developed their religion to a very strict keeping of their interpretation of the Law of Moses. The conflict that developed between Jesus and the leaders of the Jews was about the different interpretations of the Law.

Jesus’ interpretation was based on His view of God as a loving Father full of grace and love. He forgave sins, healed the sick, and delivered from demonic oppression. His opponents, the Jewish leaders, were appalled when He forgave sins, forbade healing on the Sabbath because it was work, and accused Him of delivering from demonic oppression by the power of demons. Perhaps the most telling contrast between Jesus and the Jewish leaders was illustrated by their positions concerning death. I am not referring here to their philosophical or religious attitudes; but to their use and control of death.

Jesus overcame death. He was crucified, died, was buried, and then rose from the dead.

On the other hand, the Jewish leaders believed that the death of Jesus would preserve their religion. It was not true. When they killed Jesus something entirely remarkable and unexpected happened. Jesus didn’t stay dead. Love prevailed.

The Muslim religion is just another expression of the same thing that the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day believed. The Muslims who are killing one another and threatening to destroy the West believe that death will bring about the preservation of their religion. Their use of death to enhance and preserve their religion will fail, and is failing, just as the use of death by the Jewish leaders in the time of Jesus failed.

It is difficult to grasp an over-all perspective of what God is doing in history. The expressions of atheists and secularists cannot grasp God in history because, on the one hand, they do not believe God exists, and, on the other hand, they believe the advance of history is the work of humanity. Truly we must be aware of the dangers of religious totalitarianism, no matter what form, and we need to recognize the contributions of mankind to his own well-being; but it is also good to be aware that a loving, gracious Father is sovereign over all. Love will prevail.