The Bible is clear: every tear will be dried, and joy will permeate His creation and all who turn to Him. It is equally clear that every knee will bow and every tongue confess Christ is Lord of all. That time is not yet, but it is a promise of God – if we understand His Word at all – and so it is a done deal. We can even say – in this light – there are no un-believers; there are only believers and pre-believers. We can know a taste of the joy is already online for present believers.
The tension of what must come because it is promised by the Living God–and knowing we are not there yet–is the same tension we find in calling an acorn an oak tree because it can be no other thing, and calling a fetus a child because its DNA is irrevocably human. The tension is real because we await what is not yet, but still is.
The Bible also describes God’s adversary as a roaring and rampaging beast. This adversary manifests its spirit in human form often enough, as the severed heads in the streets of Mosul and Tikrit testify. They testify to the consummate evil of the Jihadists running wild in Iraq.
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The same spirit is manifested in the brutality of Nigeria’s Boko Haram, in the beasts who eat the hearts of their victims in Syria, and those who massacred so many in Libya while murdering the equally bestial dictator, Quaddafi. They butchered the American ambassador to Libya and the men defending him. It manifests in Palestinians who gun down shoppers in Jerusalem, pirates who kidnap and murder in the Indian Ocean, and terrorists who do the same in the mountains of the Philippines and the jungles of Liberia. It speaks in the mobs who burn churches and Christians from Egypt to India to Nepal, and in the mullahs who build nuclear weapons in Iran. These people have one common thread running through them – they represent militant Islam, and their spiritual roots are as much in Nazi Germany as they are in Muhammad.
The evil is never more intimate than when it addresses individuals who displease it.
In Pakistan, it has been an especially bloody Spring for honor killings. Twenty-five-year-old Farzana Iqbal was buried up to her waist and stoned to death with bricks by family members in front of the Lahore Courthouse and hundreds of onlookers on May 27. Her crime was marrying against her family’s wishes; she did not even have to profess Jesus to bring the wrath of a false god down on herself. There were three more attacks – two of them fatal – in the first days of June–and for the same reasons. Nadia was burnt alive by her father and brothers. Allah Mafi was strangled by her two eldest brothers. Saba Maqsood was shot twice, her body stuffed in a sack and thrown into a canal. (She survived.) All three were invited home by their families on the pretext their sins were forgiven; all were victims of treachery as much as brutality. There are more than eighty such killings each year in Pakistan alone. Sharia Law provides all penalties for the killings waived if the victim’s family forgives the killers. Since the killers were acting on behalf of the women’s families, one can perhaps say the infernal fix is in.
It is a lie to say all Muslims are militant Islamists. It is truth to say that Jesus Christ died His sacrificial death on the Cross for each and every Muslim – militant or no – and rose in sacramental resurrection for them on the third day as much as He did for anyone else. And so there is the tension of living between what we know He intends for all mankind and the evil we see manifested in so many. The truth is that Muslims are children of God, while Islam is a religion of hatred for all life. The best and only way to address both realities in the Spirit of the Living God is to live and share God’s peace which passes all understanding – not just talk about it. To live there, we must become people of repentance – constantly re-focusing our attention on the One who has come and is to come. He understands our tendency to hate better than we do; He counters it with love that defies our understanding. That is living in the tension, and nothing else really matters.
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