Facing our Fears: A Christ-like Response to Terrorist Attacks

The terrorist attacks in Brussels confront us with new challenges. The challenges our government will face is how to stop such kinds of terrorist attacks from happening. For those of us who are not working in those government agencies tasked with our safety, our greatest challenge will be to  confront and be victorious over our fears.

It is completely normal for us to be concerned about our safety after such an attack. This emotion of concern seems to be something that is hard wired into our systems as human beings. Even animals seem to express this kind of reaction when confronted with danger. So, it would be abnormal not to feel a bit worried about our safety when terrorists attacks happen, even if they happen in another country.

When concerns about our safety arise in our hearts, the Lord asks us to pray. Through the mouth of Paul he told us: Don’t be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:6-7).

It is in times like these, when anxious thoughts arise, when we need to be especially aware. We have an evil adversary whose only task is to steal, kill, and destroy. Satan can use terrorist attacks like these to cause us to slip, to falter, and to lose sight of who our real enemies are. He takes advantage of the all-too human tendency toward being ethnocentric to our detriment.

You may be wondering: “What? What does ethnocentrism have anything to do with terrorist attacks?  Let me explain.

The terrorist attackers were Muslim. We, as followers of Christ, are not Muslim. Many of us in the US do not even know a Muslim. Due to this we lack any meaningful interaction with Muslims Due to this lack of interaction, we really don’t know what Muslims are like. So, in the absence of any meaningful relationship, it is quite normal to wonder: What are Muslims like? It is also quite normal to wonder: Do they share sentiments similar to these evil terrorists?

This is where we need to be alert. Satan, our adversary, can take advantage of our lack of relationship with Muslims against us. Remember, Satan is also called “The Accuser.” He will work overtime in our communities to put accusing thoughts against all Muslims into our minds. Our lack of relationships with Muslims makes us susceptible to the ethnocentric inclination to stereotype a group of people that are different from us. Stereotyping happens when we assume an entire group of people is the same as a few members of that group.

Let’s not forget: Stereotyping a group of people based on the actions of a small representative of that group is a completely normal thing to do. Yet, as normal as it is, it is not right.

We are called to rise above our very normal but sinful inclinations and be those who “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). Jesus not only calls us to live a different kind of life, he empowers us to live and love as he does.

The way this “new self” manifests itself is not that we don’t feel what is normal for us as human beings – after all, we are human beings. The difference is in how we deal with feelings – in this case, with our anxious and fearful feelings. We are to face them and deal with them in Christ-like ways. Let’s not forget that Jesus, even though he was God, was also fully human. When feelings of fear arose in his heart, Jesus prayed (see Matthew 26:36-46). Paul did likewise (see Acts 18:9-11 and 2 Cor. 1:8-11). In those times of great anxiety and fear they were given the grace they needed to overcome their fears and face the challenges set before them.

We are no different; we experience the same anxious feelings as they, and we can experience the same grace as they. God does not change.

So, please, if these terrorist attacks are unsettling to you as they are to me, first, let us acknowledge to God what is in our hearts and minds. We can relax; he already knows. There is absolutely nothing wrong with our being fully human and having fully human feelings. God created us to be human. Second, let’s tell God about our anxious thoughts and fears. Third, let’s join in praying for those in government, praying that they will get the wisdom they need to do a good job. Fourth, let’s ask God for the peace that surpasses all understanding, the peace that guards and protects our minds and hearts from Satan’s accusing thoughts against all Muslims. Finally, let’s pray that God gives us opportunities to express grace and peace to the Muslims who live in our communities. They are as fearful of the terrorists as we are, and they maybe as fearful of us as we may be of them. They don’t know if we will lash out at them, holding them accountable for the evil these men did.

As we pray and submit to our Lord Jesus, we will find that we are peacemakers, and we will find ourselves acting as children of the Living God, just as we have been called, made, and empowered to be.

The Lord be with us all!