A Call to Love: What is ISIS and what should Christians do about it?

Jeremy Wetherton, Editor-in-Chief

The newest terrorist group, ISIS, has been destroying towns, taking over cities and killing Christians around the world.  However, many people may be uninformed on what ISIS is, who leads them and what they are doing.  The Vision is here to help, as we have brought together information on the group and offer an idea of the Christian response to ISIS.

What is it?

According to CNN.com, ISIS started as an al Qaeda splinter group, and stands for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, the historic name given to the entire region east of the Mediterranean from Egypt, east to Iran and to Turkey, per wcsh6.com, (ISIL) or Syria (ISIS).  It has territory in many countries, ignoring international borders and taking land.

Who leads it?

According to CNN.com, it is led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a man that we know little about except that he graduated with a doctorate in Islamic studies from a university in Baghdad.  He formed the group in Salaheddin and Diyala provinces north of the Iraqi capital before joining al Qaeda in Iraq.

He recently declared the so-called “Islamic State” and began advancing into other countries.  He was in a U.S.-run prison for his affiliation until 2009 but was released.

What are they doing?

Here is where it gets extreme. 

The group is known for killing multitudes of people and having public executions, including killing American journalist James Foley, who had been missing in Syria since 2012, and posting the execution on YouTube.  It carries out many different styles of torture, including beheadings and crucifixions. 

The group is funded by large-scale attacks and taking over land, and therefore oil and money, in the Middle East.  The group has no regard for borders of countries, and seems to aim on taking as much land as possible as a source of power and control. 

The group has kidnapped people and taken over land in large portions of the Middle East, announced its territory as the Islamic-State, and made al-Baghdadi the ruler of the Muslims in the Middle East.  

What is the United States’ response?

Recently, the United States has announced it will be sending troops in, and President Barack Obama has authorized “targeted airstrikes” to protect U.S. soldiers and workers.  As of Sept. 23, the United States has begun carrying out airstrikes against ISIS, bombing cities that are under the stronghold of Raqqa.

What is the Christian response to these actions? 

ISIS has taken a radical and violent approach in trying to take over the Middle East, but what do we, as Christians, do about it? 

While it may seem like a hopeless situation, and many people take different sides, we, as Christians, are called to love in all situations.  It seems crazy, but if we believe in the power of the Gospel, for which love is the basis, we must love them as Christ loves. 

For example, take the life and journey of Paul.  In Acts 8, he is terrorizing Christians much in the same way that ISIS is now.  However, in Acts 9, a radical encounter with the power and love of Jesus Christ made him into one of the greatest proponents of the Gospel this world has ever seen.  If we believe it can happen to a man named Saul, how can we not believe it can happen in the Middle East?

Believing in the Gospel completely means to believe it in all situations, including ISIS.

While they show no love for Christians, we must show love to them.  Multiple times, the Bible tells us to love our neighbor and we must believe what it says.  While this may be a tough truth to live, it is the one that can change the situation. 

Luke 6:27-28 tells us “"But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” 

So, should we stand up for our beliefs?  Absolutely.  Should we defend the Christian faith?  Absolutely.  Should we lash out in hatred at this group?  Absolutely not.  We should respond in a biblical way, by continually sharing our faith and living our faith in all situations and under any persecutions.

When we live this out, the world, especially ISIS, will see the true heart of Christianity and the hearts and minds of people will be changed forever.

“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.  Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” -1 Peter 2:23

 

All verses used come from the New International Version translation of the Bible.