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The ISIS Crisis: What Christianity Desperately Needs to Learn

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A desert sun bakes the blood on the backs of a few shackled men, as their legs slowly shuffle through the dirt beneath their feet. One stumbles into the crowd surrounding their path, legs buckling from exhaustion. A punishing gun hilt strikes him down, fading his world into black. When his eyes slowly open, and he finds a suffocating darkness. He can feel beads of sweat mixing with blood and tears. He hears the mumbles around him swell into shouts. “Allāh Akbar!” And then the sun floods into his vision as the bag over his head is ripped away. A gun fires, and he falls into the dusty ground, limp. A piercing silence lingers around the edges of his body before it is chased away by his wife’s screams. And the video goes viral.

In the past year, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has tirelessly worked to leave its mark on the world. From newspapers to YouTube, and everything in between, ISIS has commanded headlines, moved lawmakers, and it has begun to wrestle nations with tactics that have troubled the modern world. With radical fidelity to ancient Muslim practices, jihadists have moved towards bludgeonings and executions, explosions and crucifixions, and even the re-emergence of slavery – all in the name of the advancement of their beliefs.

The senior spokesman for the Islamic State, Sheikh Abu Muhammed al-Adnai, has propagandized “the Prophetic Methodology” as the principle reasoning for why the group is what it is, and why ISIS does what it does. They claim to, in essence, strictly follow Muhammad’s example and teachings (with relentless, unmalleable fervor). Practicing takfiri (excommunication) of kuffar (infidels), the Islamic State hopes to purge the world – and has begun attempting to do so, with harrowing brutality.

What if the cause of Christ possessed a similar (but balanced) passion?

Though ISIS recently attainted a foothold on the world’s stage, the story they tell is not a new one. “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the son.” (Ecc 1:9) During the 1st century around the time of Nero, Christians were hunted as if they were beasts of prey. Thousands were imprisoned and thousands more lost their lives to unmentionable cruelties. And it was all done in the name of preserving political advantage and a familiar religion – a stone throw away from ISIS’ goals. The next wave of extremism associated with religion did not come against Christians – it came at the hands of professed followers of Christ. The 12th and 13th centuries are marked by the bloody massacres that occurred during seven major crusades led in the Middle East by the then singular figure of Christianity.

Solomon, in his wisdom and old age, saw that as the centuries turned, history would repeat itself – and it has. Not only did this turn of the century bring back the persecution of Christians at the hands of ISIS and many other groups, but it has brought to light a religious dedication that has been largely unfamiliar to many. The excessive zeal sympathizers of ISIS display shines with striking contrast to the infamy of much of Christianity’s Laodicean attitude. Without endorsing any of the actions of ISIS, is it possible that Christians may have something to learn from the group?

What if the cause of Christ possessed a similar (but balanced) passion? In 2014, when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi publicly assumed the role of caliph, thousands of jihadists literally left all they had to move across the world to follow him. And in Luke 18:22, when Jesus said, “Sell everything you have and give to the poor…then come and follow me.” How many Christians truly relinquished their desire for the newest iPad, and instead chose to give that money to the poor? How many turned away from Hollywood for direction on looks and behavior and turned to follow Christ? When Bagdadi began to enact Sharia law, Muslim followers adopted its principles as a strict code to live by – as the only way to live. And in Matthew 22:39, when Jesus said “love your neighbor as yourself”, how many Christians adopted regular volunteer programs or mission work? How many began to regularly help feed/clothe the homeless, or encourage the imprisoned, or help the local/national/international sick as Jesus asked in Matthew 25:34-36? Jihadist militants while on missions of murder have been known to chant multiple passages from their religious text, the Koran, committed to memory for guidance and “inspiration”. And how many millennial Christians can name (not even recite) five bible verses that could be used to tell someone else that God loves them?

For centuries, the earth has been ravaged by militant groups of people fighting for one religion, or fighting against another. The members of ISIS may live on the fringe edges of what is radical and what is humane, but in some ways when it comes to “being a follower” of what they believe in, they are putting Christians to shame. Now imagine what impact on the world there would be if a group of believers showing Christ-like, Spirit-led love were just as passionate about their faith.

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Nelson Fernandez

Nelson serves as a pastor in a growing in a bilingual and multicultural church district in Greenville, South Carolina in the Carolina Conference. He is married to the love of his life Sarah, who is Venezuelan and American. Born and raised in Miami, FL, he is a second-generation Hispanic of Dominican-Salvadorian decent. He loves reading, learning and blogging about leadership, church growth, discipleship and practical Christianity at www.nelsonsblog.com

This Post Has One Comment
  1. While it is terrible what ISIS does with non-believers, they act according to their understanding of the Koran. I remember standing on places where history records Christian believers having been burned alive on stakes for heresy. Sadly this was done by other Christians that felt chosen by God to judge them heretics and condemned them to death. As humans, we are prone to be judgmental and especially if we’ve grown up in a fundamentalist community. As an SDA, I remember two teenage friends of mine who went canoeing on a Sabbath afternoon and drowned. Church members judged the tragedy an act of God because of His displeasure with their trespassing the Sabbath commandment.

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