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|A Matter of Life or Death||07/27/2006|
How can pious men, intent on living lives pleasing to God, live with such violence? How can a city of peace be surrounded by so much hatred? The answer lies in mankind's concept of God and religion.
In the Torah, the God of the Old Testament speaks through Moses, saying, "I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live..."
This sentiment is reflected in the Christian New Testament when Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."
However, the sanctity of life does not apparently translate to the third dominant religion in the region, at least not as preached by many Muslim leaders.
Hezbollah's Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, the spokesman for the current killing along the Israel-Lebenon border, once proclaimed, "We have discovered how to hit the Jews where they are the most vulnerable. The Jews love life, so that is what we shall take away from them. We are going to win, because they love life and we love death."
The Secretary General's comments are not isolated. Mufti Sheikh Ikrimeh Sabri, a cleric of the Palestinian Authority, said, "We tell [the world], in as much as you love life, the Muslim loves death and martyrdom."
Even in "moderate" Egypt, Abdallah Al-Naggar, a religious columnist for the daily government newspaper Al-Gumhuriya, wrote, "The believers in Allah rightly do not dread their enemies and do not fear jihad, because they see jihad as a profitable bargain, selling their lives to Allah. Our enemies protect their lives...like a miser protects his money. They do not give [their lives] easily; they do not enter into battles seeking martyrdom; they do not act in order [to attain] martyrdom. This is the secret of the believers' victory over their enemies."
This doctrine of death constitutes a dangerous religion. It is very difficult for victims to respond in a manner consistent with their own beliefs. The natural temptation toward vengeance and violence cannot continue unabated. The God of Judaism declared "vengeance is mine" and the Messiah of the New Testament warned that "all who draw the sword will die by the sword."
So how do followers of peace counter the dangerous zealots that seek to murder them? Politically, there is scriptural precedent for governments to defend the innocent and punish evildoers. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told members of Congress this week that "Iraq will be the graveyard for terrorism." This is not an insidious threat against mankind; it is a promise of hope and security to peaceful people. Jesus Christ willingly gave his life as a sacrifice for the sin of the world, but that does not compel his followers to eagerly place their heads on al-Qaeda's chopping blocks. Governments have a responsibility to defend peaceful people from aggressive killers and religious groups need not hinder their efforts.
But the individual believer, both Christian and Jew, has three primary responsibilities as well. First, we must return to the true essence of a relationship with God, which is found through repentance. As much as we despise the external evil that threatens us, we must shed the inner evil by turning from wickedness and wrongdoing.
Second, we must practice religion in its pure form by "visiting orphans and widows in their distress." That is, we must serve our fellow man to relieve suffering. By reaching out, whether next door or around the world, and demonstrating the love of God, we express the religion of life.
Finally, we must pray. Those who believe in the supernatural must remember that we "wrestle not with flesh and blood." Our earthly enemies can be defeated by heavenly forces, but they await our calling.
Our hope lies in the fact that in this religious war, victory is ensured as long as we are on the right side. The "good guys" win. And in this case, the good guys are the ones on the side of life.
Author: James Robison Randy Robison
Word Count: 750
About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, an international humanitarian aid ministry; host of the television program, Life Today; and author of The Absolutes: Freedom's Only Hope.
Media Contact: Randy Robison, editor at jamesrobison.net
Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.