“Let’s annihilate Islam!” Quotes similar to this have filled my news feed, only eclipsed by “Could America be next?” I write this while in the UK where the terror threat level has been raised to “severe,” which means, “A terrorist attack is highly likely.” These two responses, expressed in anger and fear, are entirely understandable. Anger for the injustice of the killings in Paris and Beirut, and for those driven into exile from Syria, makes sense. Also understandable is the representation of fear for one’s own life and loved ones. In light of the recent atrocities these are natural human responses. However, only a supernatural response can heal the brokenness of our despairing situation.
Jesus, in his life, showed humanity how love (Mt 5:21-26, 38-48), and not retaliation or domination over one’s enemies (Mt 26:52-54), ultimately conquers injustice. And in his resurrection, he proved this to be true. His life affirmed for us that he did not need to exercise force or violence to stamp out the world’s wrongs. At the same time, the resurrection affirms that Jesus did not stay dead when supposedly eradicated by his enemies. It is in the hope of resurrection that we can act in the present with the integrity of Jesus, who, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). Living in light of the resurrection affords us the opportunity to refuse any acts of retaliation based in anger and hatred, and to see beyond it into a future rooted in the hope of God’s restoration and justice. Likewise, resurrection living dismantles the heart of fear by reminding us that God is truly in control.
The buzzing of fear riddled the media’s news feed on Friday. Everyone’s worst fears became reality—ISIS, on a large scale, infiltrated a developed country. Could America be next? Admittedly, I found myself looking at people differently, some with suspicion. I wanted to get home quicker so not to be exposed to any threat. I thought, “Could Edinburgh be next?” Though safety and risk-assessment have its place, I recognize how this new predicament can stifle life. However, the Christian faith was birthed in the face of adversity and Jesus never promised ease. In fact, Jesus not only spoke of his own death (Mk 8:31), but the certain death of any who would follow him and his practices (Mk 8:34). If death, for the sake of love (Mk 10:45), is the outcome of the Christian faith, then why fear in the face of threat? Fear only strips us of our humanity by restricting us from living out our fullest potential—though, God’s fullest potential may look differently than our own conceptions. In fear, our creativity, innovation, and self-giving take a back seat to self-preservation. Consequently, our fear removes the humanity of others by casting judgment carelessly on innocent bystanders. It is the resurrection that calls us to look fear in the face and say, “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:35). The resurrection further confirms that we died once and for all the moment we started following Jesus (Rom 6:4). Where’s death’s sting on someone who has already died and resurrected (1 Cor 15:55)? What can fear conquer that the resurrection hasn’t already? In a world where anger and fear is expected, I pray that Christians present another path, one that views the world through the lens of Jesus’ life and resurrection.