Dearly beloved brethren,
Following the recent killing of some southerners by the Fulani Herdsmen in Enugu State, Nigeria, many Christians have been filled with anger, many people have voiced out in support of reprisal attacks and many people have threatened to take law into their hands if this should happen again. It has already happened again as a Senator and a majority leader of House of Assembly in Plateau has also been murdered as they were attending a mass burial of about 50 persons killed by the so called Fulani herdsmen. In fact, some have even quoted the scriptures to support their view and some few persons have really expected me to speak on that issue.
While we keep asking ourselves whether it is right or wrong to fight back we won’t neglect our Bible, the bible is our sole guide as Christians and if we say we are believers it means we must be guided by the scriptures. In the Old Testaments, it seem God has approved of various wars and violence of which the Israelites where asked by God to completely destroy everyone and everything in the promised land. However, we are forced to ask “under what circumstances is self defense good?
In Luke 23:26, Jesus encouraged the disciples to buy sword. Jesus was giving approval that one has the right of self-defense. It wasn’t long, we see Peter cut off someone’s ear in defence of Jesus. Jesus rebuked Peter for that act. That was because Peter was trying to stop something that Jesus had came to do, Peter was acting blindly. What Peter wanted to stop was something that shouldn’t be stopped. However, there are few places from where we can learn how and when we are to defend ourselves. In Exodus 22 verse 2 and 3 God directed
“If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; 3 but if it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed.
“Anyone who steals must certainly make restitution, but if they have nothing, they must be sold to pay for their theft.” (NIV)
Here, we see that when a thief breaks into the house of someone at night and someone defends himself or his home and slays the thief, God does not hold that death over the defender’s head. But because it is not God’s desire that we take law into our hands he said that if the thief is killed in the daylight, the defender is guilty of bloodshed. The daytime attack is talking about the act of thieving and not the act of the them trying to kill someone. So, if the thief is to attack someone even in daytime and the person defends himself and perhaps kills the thief, the defender would be justified.
Self defense has to do with wisdom, you shouldn’t kill someone because you can kill, that you own fuel and matches doesn’t mean that you should burn someone who breaks into your house or even your state. What about terrorism and reprisal attacks? Do we have to revenge attacks?
The Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria have killed many Christians in the Southern part of Nigeria. Initially, Christians in the South have always remained complacent when Islamic terrorists where killing thousands of Christians and bombing Churches in the North, they have always felt that the Northern Islamic terrorists are simply not their own problem. They never saw the need for alarm and because of ethnic bigotry they all relaxed leaving the Northern Christians to their own fate. There was little or no support from the South to encourage the Northern Christians. But now the terrorists in the disguise of herdsmen entered the Christian populated south, so many Christians are calling for reprisal attacks.
First, the Southern Christians failed it a big time. What should unite us as Christians shouldn’t be our earthly ethnic affiliations, our unity has to be based on Christ. It doesn’t matter where anyone comes from but as long as that person is calling on the name of Jesus we ought to view them as our blood brothers. We share the same blood of Jesus! Secondly, is reprisal attack and vengeance a good move for Christians?
The tragedy that struck in one of the Communities of Enugu and Benue unleashed torrents of emotion. Anger, hatred, rage, despair, compassion and lots more are on the rise and many people have come to their worst and some to their best. Some popular preachers came up with biblically backed up messages to encourage members reprise attacks. We should always ask, “and what did the bible say? How do Christians respond to attacks and terrorism?” Let us look at Romans 13:1-2
“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.…”
God has established the government and they are endued with God’s authority to protect its citizens and punish those who terrorize them. The bible didn’t mince words when talking about the extent of the government authority. The authority they enjoy is given by God to anyone who occupies that position and everyone is to be subject to them. In verse 2, Paul talked about those who oppose the government and the things they have instituted. The Book Haram terrorists and the disguised Fulani herdsmen are typical examples of those who oppose the ordinances of God. In verse 3 and 4, Paul said that the government holds no terror for those who do right but for those who who do wrong. He further said that the government are God’s servant, they are agents through which offenders are punished for wrong doing.
What does that mean? It means we should submit to legitimate authorities because they are duty bound to act against those who disobey the law and harm other people. The Nigerian government are the ones to punish the offenders and not the masses. You can defend yourself, your state and your children but don’t launch an attack. The bible doesn’t encourage us taking laws into our hands but to leave vengeance to God through established government. Proverbs 8:15 says
“By me kings reign and rulers issue decrees that are just”
Before talking about the government and their powers Paul had once written in the previous chapter saying,
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil” -Romans 12:17
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” – Romans 12:18-19
You see that? Paul encourages that we live at peace with everyone as far as it depends on us! He deliberately meant that Christians should live at peace with their offenders and persecutors. He discouraged vengeance because the Bible teaches that vengeance belongs to God because only He knows perfectly the hearts of men and only He can temper vengeance and justice.
“It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip” – Deuteronomy 32:35
“It is mine to avenge; I will repay” – Hebrews 10:30
“The Lord is a jealous and avenging God . . . . The Lord is slow to anger and great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished” – Nahum 1:2-3
If we put laws into our hands, we have shared in those people’s wrong. It is for this reason that God will judge mankind. He will judge mankind on the last day but also have vested legitimate government with the responsibility of being his present agents of vengeance. It is wrong for Christians to attack Muslims or people with Northern Nigerian identity. Government of the our countries all over the world has the right to bring people to justice and not citizens of the country.
Christians must understand that the world is evil and we have been given a way to overcome evil. Paul wrote in Romans 12:21
” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Christians who want to follow God’s outlined principles are often seen as foolish and cowards, they are seen as very weak people. However, Jesus wants us to remain like that. This is what he said
“Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” – Matthew 5:39
Even the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 37:3 that we should trust in God and do good. Throughout Psalm 37 there are lots of encouraging places. The basic message of that place is that we shouldn’t agitate because of evil men but that we should refrain from anger and turn from wrath. Anger may only lead to making mistakes. Two wrongs cannot make right.
It is common to hear people quote God’s word inappropriately these days out of anger and many will even subscribe to the “precatory psalms” (Psalm 35, 59, 69, 109 and so on) so that they can justify and convince people to retaliate but those psalms were not motivated by personal revenge. While the Psalmist was aware of the constant battle between good and evil, they had no concept of the future judgment where those who do evil will receive their punishment and where those who do good will be rewarded. The only judgment they knew then was instantaneous judgments. Even as those Psalmists cried for justice, they recognised that vengeance is of the Lord.
HOW WE CAN RESPOND TO TERRORISM AND ATTACKS
- We can respond to terrorism and attacks by intensifying the preaching and teaching of God’s love even in the face of adversity. We must keep showing Christ’s love to everyone and not just Christians. Terrorists are killing out of frustration, helplessness and hopelessness. We Christians understand better because we are examples of helpless and hopeless people who experienced help and hope in Christ. While Jesus was on ETH as a man, he would rather escape than engage in a fight. He chased people from the temple with whip, he wasn’t doing so because they attacked him… He was being disciplinary… He didn’t oil anyone after all.
We should stand for tolerance and throw our weight behind it no matter who is affected. This may be one of the most stupid thing to the do, the world may call us foolish but we must remember that God has used the foolish things of this world to bring the wise to shame. While we may not be able to tolerate the methods of this terrorists we must always know that their action is based on their ideology, they are hopeless and helpless. We must speak out for understanding and love, we must speak for tolerance and we must help protect northeners and Muslims from reprisal attacks. Remember that in Matthew 6:15, we are asked to forgive men their sins. By being kind to Muslims, we can win them to Christ.
While there are voices of prominent Christians speaking for retaliation, we have to be a voice for calm and peace in an environment threatened by hatred and retaliation. James said “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. For man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” – James 1:19-20. Even while engaging in national debates, let us take God’s word priority. By being angry, we will end up doing evil.
When the Governor of Enugu State called for statewide fasting and prayer, it was seen as the worst thing to do and as the worst thing a governor would say. But what more could he say? We have ignored the power of prayers a long time ago, we have ignored what we have as believers and we have resorted to dropping our bibles and picking our sword. The Apostles never fought for once, Paul who was a rightful citizen of Rome never fought. Even they have the right to defend themselves, they avoided being violent, in the face of attacks they didn’t retaliate. Rather the prayed and miracles happen. Today, people would laugh at me if I tell them to pray and allow God fight his battle. We should pray for the safety of those who are demonstrating love to others by their brave actions. This includes our military forces, police, firemen, rescue workers, doctors, nurses and volunteers of all kinds. They are living out Jesus’ words, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” ( John 15:13 ). They risk their lives for others in contrast to the cowardly terrorists who used the lives of others as a shield for their despicable acts. Let’s pray for these men and women and thank God for them. Since we are people of the word and not of the sword, let’s be men and women of prayer, both for terrorists and those who were and are terrorized.
We should pray for the families of those who have lost lives in this fight and pray specially for our President and his aides. We may not like these people, they may seem clueless to us but the right thing to do is to pray for them. If we think they are incapable, we should pray that they become capable instead of criticizing them and seeking for their downfall. James wrote
“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” – James 5:16.
While we pray, we ought to pray for the families of the terrorists. Let’s pray that God’s grace and love extends to them too because while we were sinners Christ died for us. God loves us, we never loved him! We must pray that God break and soften their hearts by the power of his Spirit. Yes… And draw men to himself in salvation. Jesus encouraged us in Matthew 5:44. We are Christians, we are Christ’s image here on earth and we must portray it!
Let’s seize every opportunity to speak of God’s love and mercy, his grace and kindness. Let’s do the work of an evangelist, a comforter and a friend. Let’s respond as Christians should, let’s respond with God’s love and care.
Yes, this may seem to be the highest level of cowardice ever displayed by Christians in Nigeria, this may seem as the highest level of weakness ever displayed by us but this is the way to fight darkness! It is not a fight with sword, it is a fight with the word!
We are Crusaders, not with mere weapons! We fight evil with good… That is how light defeats darkness. The kingdom of God is forcefully advancing, the devil wants to distract us with other things, he wants us to focus on helping ourselves, defending our selves and protecting ourselves… But we must remember that it is God who protects. The best we can do for the terrorists is to pray for them. The best we can do for our President and Governors is to pray for them. Criticism doesn’t solve a thing in this regard.
I believe this will go a long way to help us fight the good fight of faith.
God bless you.
I am your brother and friend