Does God love terrorists and do those who commit atrocities against innocent lives have value and worth in the eyes of God? Have you heard of Bashir Mohammad, Kamal Saleem, or Alo-Bridget Namoa? The chances are slim you may have heard of them, but perhaps you have heard of St. Paul the Apostle. What do all these people have in common? They were all considered terrorists of one form or the other who became followers of the One True Lord Jesus Christ.
Alo-Bridget Namoa was found guilty of plotting a New Year’s Eve terrorist attack with her husband for an Islamic extremist group, Bashir Mohammad was a Jihadi who fought on the front lines of the Syrian conflict for a terrorist group connected with Al-Qaeda, and Kamal Saleem joined an Islamic extremist group at the age of 7, learned how to shoot an automatic weapon, crawled through mine fields, and his first mission was to transport weapons into Israel to Yasser Arafat. Now, he hosts prayer groups in his home and seeks to convert as many Muslims to Jesus as possible.
Recently, two bombs exploded at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, Philippines, killing 20 people and injuring 81 others. The attack was carried out by Islamic extremists who were angry following the island of Jolo’s rejection to be included in a Muslim autonomous area. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack and pointed to the Catholic Church’s belief in the Trinity as the reason. They claimed the Cathedral was holding a “polytheistic gathering” and therefore were not true monotheists.
Does God truly love and value those who committed such acts against His own people? Lets take a look at what the Bible shows us and we will find the answer. Acts 7:58 gives us the first glimpse of a man named Saul of Tarsus. He was watching St. Stephen be martyred for his faith and held the coats of those killing Stephen as an endorsement of what was taking place. Saul was an aggressive and motivated persecutor of Christians. He intentionally looked for ways and permission to throw Christians into prison and have them killed. In essence, he could be considered a terrorist during that time. He was taught as a Pharisee and believed the teachings of Jesus being the Messiah were a violation of the Mosaic Law so, as a result, he set out to destroy the Christians and their teaching. But, that was not to be the case as he traveled on the road leading to Damascus. With permission in his hand to hunt down and imprison even more Christians, Jesus Christ stopped him in his tracks on the road and changed his life. He became St. Paul and would die for his faith – the same faith he tried to destroy.
“This man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentlies, kings and Israelites.” (Acts 9:15) God chose Saul of Tarsus, the terrorists committed to destroying Christians, to help spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. In fact, this terrorist of sorts would later write the majority of what we call the New Testament today.
Does God love and value terrorists and those who commit such heinous crimes as the bombings in the Philippines? Absolutely.
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (Romans 12:14)
“And Jesus said ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’” (Luke 23:34)
We as Christians should hurt for those who commit these terrorist acts because we know they will spend eternity separated from God unless their heart is changed like Paul’s was on the road to Damascus. Yes, we need to pray for the victims and their families. Yes, we need to pray for the Church. But, we are expected and taught by the Lord to pray for those who do harm. Jesus forgave those who killed him even as he hung dying on the cross. He prayed that God would forgive them even as they were killing him.
Perhaps we should commit to praying each day for those who seek to harm others. I see all over social media, every time such an act happens, that people talk about praying for the victims, praying for their families, but I have yet to see anyone talk about the need to pray for those who committed the acts. Will you commit to praying for terrorists, gang members, and those who intentionally hurt others? Perhaps you will be praying for the next Bashir Mohammad, Kamal Saleem, or Alo-Bridget Namoa.