The face of evil has taken on a naked, raw portrait. In the past, we knew that evil was always present, but it did not blatantly show itself on nightly TV programs around the world. The shocking spectacles of watching men having their throats slit and people crying out in praise of Allah, goes far beyond what caring people have experienced to date. For the followers of Jesus, these are especially painful days. To witness the execution of 21 Coptic Christians, who were laborers from Egypt working in Libya to support their families, defies all reason and sense of fairness.
As I watched these events, there was a latent desire for an immediate attack of the forces of Western powers to wipe these terrorists off the face of the earth. “An eye for an eye.” “Let’s give them some of their own medicine.” But somehow I knew that this would begin a cycle of destruction that would only escalate the conflict and cause more collateral damage among helpless people.
The day after the martyrdom of the Coptic Christians, I received a report from the Bible Society of Egypt. The Egyptian Director wrote that he went to his office that day mourning for the Christians who had given their lives and not recanted their faith. “The professionally produced video of the executions shocked the country and has united Christians and Muslims as never before.” He further stated that, “The President (of Egypt) delivered a speech declaring 7 days of mourning for the nation. As I arrived at the Bible Society office in the morning, I met a young worker who told me she was very encouraged. I could not imagine what on earth could encourage her!”
“I am encouraged”, she said, “because now I know that what we have been taught in history books about Egyptian Christians being martyred for their faith is not history but that there are Christians today who are brave enough to face death rather than deny their Lord. When I saw these young men praying as they were being prepared for execution and then many of them shouting ‘O Lord Jesus’ as their throats were being slit, I realized that the Gospel message can still help us to hold on to the promises of God even when facing death.”
This young Egyptian Christian understood what Martin King Jr. said when he faced evil in his fight for justice in America: “To walk the long road of love within a family or community of care and respect is not all that difficult. But to walk that road in relation to one’s enemies is.”
“Love in the face of hatred is not a mere human capacity but the impartation of grace.”
The phrase “Love in the face of hatred” is the biblical response; but how do we live in this way when we are facing such blatant evil? In prayer and reflection, I sensed the Lord reminding me of a story in Israel’s history that took place when Jehoshaphat was king. The combined armies of several kingdoms were gathered against the people of the Lord. When the king heard the news, he immediately proclaimed a fast over all of Judah. Then the king prayed at the temple for all to hear. (II Chron. 20:5-12). He recited the history of God’s people and thanked the Lord for His provisions. He ended his prayer with these words: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” When the Lord heard the humble prayer of the king of Judah, He immediately gave an answer through one of His prophets. “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s… You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you. Go out and face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.”
Really? Go out without swords or other implements of war? How can we do this in the face of hatred? The answer came from the prophet: “Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in His prophets and you will be successful.” When the king heard this word, he appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise Him in the splendor of holiness as they went out at the head of the army singing,
“Give thanks to the Lord for His love endures forever.”
For followers of Christ to love in the face of hatred, the narrative of Jehosaphat gives us a great example:
- Call the people of God to fast.
- Pray to the Lord our God for what He would have us do.
- Keep our eyes on the Lord. The attack against Christians is His battle.
- Listen intently for a prophetic word from the Lord.
- Lift up our voices in praise to the Lord.
It seems that praise to the Lord in the “face of hatred” causes the heavenly hosts to do battle with the forces of evil. Possibly, this is what the Psalmist was saying in 149:6: “Let the high praises of God be in their mouth…to execute vengeance on the nations.”
Let the church of the living God keep their eyes upon the Lord and not on the face of Evil. Justice belongs to God and not to us.