The recent grenade attacks [allegedly by the Al-Shabaab Movement] at various social hot-spots on Kenyan soil have been a point of concern for every citizen. For most of us, however, these are not more than an occasional news item that doesn’t seem to arouse any more concern than watching a badly acted movie does. For others, the attacks have had a more personal impact. Memories of a close friend or relative who lost their lives are still fresh. Limping colleagues and maimed neighbors trigger these memories daily, even as people go about their businesses. It is easy to dismiss these attacks as a normal occurrence. We only need a few more similar occurrences and familiarity will eventually breed indifference.
Depending on our areas of influence and affluence, we’ve been known to sometimes even take positive advantage of such tragedies:
As parents, we can use them as warnings to our teenage children, dissuading them from attending the crowded night clubs that they frequent against their parents’ will.
As students, we can use them as the inspiration behind the topic for our thesis paper on politics and national security matters.
As politicians, we can use such events as leverage for our campaign bids, promising a world without grenades and violence, once elected into office.
This sense of opportunism in the face of tragedy even transcends onto our very own pulpits. Pastors have been known to quote such incidences as pictures of the brevity of life, and how we should all “Choose Christ” before it is too late. Bloggers, like me, have been known to grab onto the stories as a launchpad to rant, rave, and suggest “creative”, “unique” and “effective” explanations and solutions for the chaos to our avid readers.
As you read this post, I can’t help but see myself lumped in with that last category. To be honest, any attempt to make myself stand out from the pack will only serve to qualify me even more for the pack. Each blogger tends to clamors for recognition. With this in mind, I choose to address this issue from the Christian’s biblical worldview. How are we to interpret these attacks? How should the news impact and influence my life? What is the Christian individual supposed to do about these attacks?
1. I know that many of us will rightly regard it as an opportunity to pray for the victims and their families.
2. Others may even go to the extent of forming prayer movements for the protection of our beloved cities and nations against the evil spirit of terrorism.
3. Some may go to the extent of religious extremism, condemning other religions for whatever vague ties they have with the terrorists.
4. Then there are those who will choose to take this as a sign of the end-times, considering the attacks merely as a stark reminder of the end that is so threateningly near.
We all have our special reasons for following whichever course of action. I am aware that our perception of the problem and our choice of response is largely determined by the section of the Bible we are currently reading or the last sermon we listened to. We all have our good and biblical reasons for taking whatever actions we take, and I respect those reasons. There are however several important points I thought I should point out.
First, I would like to acknowledge the fact that, as human beings, we have a history of being reactionary when it comes to sudden tragedies or catastrophic scenarios. I am not saying that reacting is bad, but how and why we react is more important. We are reactionary, and our reactions tend to be largely self-focused and self-preserving. This is evident in several ways:
1. As a country, the terrorist attacks will lead us to react with initiatives like Operation Linda Nchi for the sake of protecting innocent citizens.
2. As business organizations, the attacks will trigger a sense of economic insecurity and instability due to the changing patterns of trade in areas such as international tourism or the transport sector.
3. As a church, the attacks will lead us into a form of social activism as we care for the wounded and speak against the insufficient security measures being instituted by the government. The attacks will also change our prayer lives as we remember to slot in “protection from terrorism” in our prayer-lists.
4. As individuals, the attacks will lead us to condemn the evil in the world and also maybe even lead us to thank God that we are not that bad. We will also grow suspicious of crowds as our otherwise dormant xenophobia against Somalis comes to life.
All these reactions, and many others that I may have overlooked and failed to mention, have an element of “it is them attacking us, so we must protect ourselves from them, God help us” attitude attached to them [to a certain extent and often justifiably so]. At first glance, there seems to be nothing suspect in having such reactions. They appear to be completely normal reactions. But what if I was to suggest that we look at the whole matter as biblical individuals? I know you’re wondering, “wait, isn’t that what you’ve been doing in the whole section above?” What I mean by this is, what if we dared to ask what the Bible says our attitude and thoughts in such circumstances ought to really be? What if we dared to overlook the emotionally logical response, and examined the biblical response? Would there be a radical difference or paradigm shift in HOW and WHY we react?
There are many verses we could look at, but I would like to suggest just one section of scripture for illustrative purposes.
There are six things the LORD hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
– haughty eyes,
– a lying tongue,
– hands that shed innocent blood,
– a heart that devises wicked schemes,
– feet that are quick to rush into evil,
– a false witness who pours out lies
– and a person who stirs up conflict in the community. (Proverbs 6:16-19)
As (Kenyan) Christians currently wrestling with the problem of terrorism in our own backyard, our worldly eyes have a tendency to magnify the third item in the list outlined above (hands that shed innocent blood). Yes! God hates hands that shed innocent blood! God hates terrorist hands! We should hate terrorist hands!
That seems like a perfectly reasonable and “biblical” response. We could even add a more spiritual version, of hate the terrorist hands, but love the terrorist! However, I can’t help but notice that terrorism is not at the top of the list in the scripture above. Neither is it the seventh item in the list. It can fall at either number 3, 4, or 5 depending on which angle you look at it. The Bible further says that the first 6 items are hated by God, but the seventh is detestable to God, and it is not even terrorism but dissension. One can also argue that dissension is an objective of terrorism, but that’s a bit far-fetched. Such an argument will only serve to prove that all sins are somehow related and eventually merge into one major *original sin – enmity with God. But that’s a discussion for another post. What point am I trying to bring across in all this? It’s a simple, but also a sad point; that the people who hurl grenades at innocent crowds are no worse than the people who are proud. Terrorists are in the same league as liars in God’s chart… and they should be regarded as such even in our own charts.
Terrorists are first and foremost, sinners before God, and what they need most is Jesus Christ.
Now, my deduction above may insinuate that we should all go to Somali and evangelize to the Al Shabaab. That’s not a far off conclusion and I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it. There are others reading this who may get the drift that I am dismissing all the other forms of responses outlined above as unimportant. But that could not be further from the truth, I am not suggesting the gospel as an alternative, I am suggesting it as the basis and foundation for all the other responses outlined and illustrated in this blog.
My point, in this specific instance and post, is to urge us to sharpen our spiritual sensitivity to our own sin. We have a grenade-shaped mirror in front of us every time we watch such news items on our televisions. Every act of terror should remind us of our own sin, and the terror that awaits those who do not repent. Every grenade exploded should convict you of the lie you told yesterday, and that Jesus says that liars are the offspring of the devil himself (John 8:44). Every life lost should remind us of all the people on our own little hate-lists (1 John 3:15). Haters are no better than murderers. If we, indeed as Christians, have a biblical worldview and we live biblical lives, then every sin committed against us should primarily remind us of every sin committed by us. It is first a sin against God, not against us. Not only do I urge us to remember, but more importantly, I urge us to repent. We must repent for every grenade of hateful words that we’ve hurled at our enemy, or a group of them. We must repent of every grenade of haughty thoughts we’ve had in comparing ourselves with others.
The terrorist attacks on Kenyan soil are not just a physical or military problem that can simply be solved by deploying more troops to the Kenyan-Somali border, they are also [and primarily] a Spiritual problem that must fundamentally be addressed by deploying the Cross of Christ to the Life-Death border in people’s lives. To be overly sensitive and vocal about what the Government should do while at the same time being awfully silent regarding what you should do is a mark of spiritual deadness that ought to alarm every believer. This is FIRST a matter of life and death, not just for the physical victims of the attack, but for every Christian who has had the opportunity of witnessing these attacks.
We must heed them FIRST as a personal warning of the state of our own hearts before we can dare address them as just a mere external social disorder. Only when we first have the right view of the evil inside us will we be able to come up with right ways of handling and addressing the evil around us. Evil begins in Eden and ends at Calvary. The rest is details.
In His Service,