Casual conversation became somber and serious at a recent dinner party I attended when a dinner guest asked, “What do you think followers of Jesus should do about ISIS?”
After a moment of silence, one woman responded, “To be honest with you, I feel like we should respond to ISIS like we did to Japan after Pearl Harbor in World War II. We should destroy them. I am not saying this is what I should do as a follower of Jesus, but that’s how I feel.”
Others expressed similar raw emotions, while confessing that what they were saying was not necessarily a Christian response.
“We cannot bomb our way to peace. Let’s say we drop a nuclear bomb on them and kill all of ISIS. What will happen then?” I said after listening for a while.
The man who asked the original question shook his head, acknowledging that many more terrorists would be raised up and many innocents would suffer.
Each morning I pray over the news. I feel the burden. What keeps me from losing heart is realizing that there are no quick fixes to terrorism. We need to develop and work for long-term solutions.
Jesus gives five commands that form the basis for a multi-faceted, long-term approach to peacemaking that addresses ISIS and other expressions of violent extremism.
1. Get the log out of your own eye before you look at the specks in the eyes of others (Matthew 7:3-5).
Jesus is adamant about his peacemaking priorities. He calls us hypocrites if we fail to begin with humble introspection.
Are we harboring ungodly attitudes? Do we have any prejudices or political blind spots that keep us from responding in a Christ-like way?
For example, the U.S. has championed human rights and democracy around the world, yet we have brutally tortured terrorists.
This kind of hypocrisy and inhumane torture of terrorists makes recruiting for groups like ISIS much easier.
2. Love your enemies (Matthew 5:43-45).
The vast, vast, vast majority of Muslims are not our enemies. ISIS and violent extremists are.
I don’t think loving ISIS right now will stop their brutal regime. But what about the future?
What about those young boys playing soccer in the dusty roads of Syria, Somalia, Pakistan or Nigeria? What about young women traveling from the U.S. and Europe to join ISIS?
They could grow up to be business entrepreneurs and teachers serving their community or extremists wreaking havoc on their community.
What if followers of Jesus took this command seriously and demonstrated preemptive love toward Muslims everywhere?
Our love could and would undermine the recruiting efforts of radical extremists.
3. Be shrewd as a snake and innocent as a dove (Matthew 10:16).
Loving our enemy does not mean we should be naïve or gullible. The vast majority of Muslims are just like you and me.
They want to be faithful to God, make a good living and enjoy their family. But we need to be realistic about the evil intentions of some Muslims.
Jesus sends us into the world and describes us as “sheep among wolves.” Because of this, we need to be shrewd. We love and we ask questions. We trust and we verify.
This doesn’t mean, however, that we live in suspicion of all Muslims because Jesus also calls us to the innocence of integrity. He expects us to be both shrewd and innocent in our relationships.
4. Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s (Matthew 22:21).
Following Jesus means we affirm the unique role of the government. This verse becomes the basis for the distinction between the role of church and state, especially as outlined in Romans 12-13.
The church is called to share Christ, to love, to overcome evil with good, and to pursue peace, while the government bears the sword (Romans 13:4).
The government is divinely sanctioned to confront the evil of groups like ISIS with force.
We need to pray that our government will work harder at complementing our military might with diplomatic muscle.
We need to forge diplomatic ties with other nations to confront the crisis of ISIS together.
5. Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39).
Loving our Muslim neighbor is a great commandment that pleases God; it is also a strategic relationship that undermines violent extremism.
The majority of people killed by ISIS and other terrorist groups are Muslim. They face the brutal brunt of violent extremism more than anyone else.
Loving our Muslim neighbors as ourselves means that we want what is best for them.
Mainstream Muslims want to see the end to radical Islam. They are one of the most important keys to undermining and thwarting violent extremism.
We need to amplify their voices and support their efforts. We need to partner with them in any way we can to stop the spread of violent extremism.
These five commands, if practiced, could help undermine and thwart terrorism. Obeying Jesus results in rich relationships and unleashes peace in our world.
Rick Love is the president of Peace Catalyst International and author of “Peace Catalysts: Resolving Conflict in Our Families, Organizations and Communities.” A longer version of this article first appeared on his the Peace Catalyst blog and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @drricklove.
Rick Love serves as president of Peace Catalyst International. He has lectured or consulted in more than 40 countries in the last 35 years and has published five books, including “Peace Catalysts: Resolving Conflict in Our Families, Organizations and Communities.”