I am about to talk with you about a pretty touchy topic in the world today, so I want to preface everything I write with the fact that it comes only from my mind, it comes from my hands as I type this, limited by my bias, my experience, my ideologies, my spirit, my ancestors, and my relationship to the world at large.
We need to love the people of ISIS.
I also want to say to any of the people who are related to or know the twenty one Christians that were beheaded that I do not have the faintest understanding of your pain and struggle; I cannot comprehend the burden you bear and its weight that will be felt for the rest of your life.
I do not ask anything of you, nor have any expectations for you to continue reading, I would not expect you or those you love to listen to me, I expect only that you will grieve your loss, and hope that you would grieve those you love well.
We need to love the people of ISIS
I am not saying that means we need to be nice to them, condone their actions or be passive in the wake of their immoral criminal attacks. But neither do we need to tar all Muslims with the brush of the extremists that claim to represent them.
If we were to do so, then the church we belong to should be held in the same palm as the KKK – which claims religious roots to their atrocities. The ritualistic torture of the Spanish inquisition was made under the Christian banner and countless indigenous peoples' lives were trampled on in the name of God and the missionary.
What I am saying is that even in the face of murder and death, the greatest threats to our flesh, this is when we need to love most.
As Peter watches Jesus about to be taken by Roman soldiers, ultimately to the cross, he draws a sword and cuts off a man's ear (what a horrible swordsman he must have been).
Now I do not claim to know a lot about 'Just War' theory or when taking a life is considered right (essentially the entire Old Testament) but I did hear a strong sermon spoken about the verse I have just mentioned.
The speaker said words to this effect, "If ever there were a reason to go to war, to rise up in righteous anger in defence of purity and goodness then it was in the Garden of Gethsemane."
As a Christian, there can be no greater act than to protect Christ himself from the sin of man, no greater reason to lay down life for a cause, other than for the love of the son of God.
Yet, as Peter does this very thing, as a disciple (I imagine Peter) draws the sword for Christ, Christ has him lower it. Christ heals his persecutor and sheaths Peter's sword, telling him that he himself could call down legions of angels to his aid, surround himself in the violence of war, draw his beloved mankind against him and achieve victory.
But Jesus goes willingly to the cross at the hands of those he loves.
Violence only ever creates violence; there has never been peace achieved at the end of a sword, or a bullet. We are called, as Christ's body, to love those he loves. This includes those who persecute us. This is no easy task, but it is our task.
I cannot say what I would do when faced with death for my beliefs, which I am often uncertain of, however I cannot say I do not know what I am meant to do when confronted with the challenge to my flesh. I am meant to surrender it that I might live in the spirit. I know that I am meant to love those who hurt me.
The men and women of ISIS, violent and misguided as they may be, were lovingly created by God, and I am sure God weeps for them daily. If we maintain our hatred of those who hate us, then all we have done is bring more hate into a world our God loves.
I do not condone ISIS' actions. I do not condone the actions of Christians who would beat the drum of war out of fear. I do not condone countries calling their wars and invasions into other countries blessed by God.
My words are easy to type but hard to live.
But just like Jesus in the Garden, we know the path set before us – it is one of self-sacrifice and love. It is simply up to us, up to me, to walk it.
Trent Hohaia is a graduate from Te Whare Wananga o Waikato with a Bachelors degree in Tikanga Maori and Sociology. Fond of embellishments and sometimes outright lies, Trent is in love with his people, and is on a journey of restoration and development for Maori in Aotearoa.
Trent Hohaia's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/trent-hohaia.html