The terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015 shocked the world. The attacks were not on symbols of government like the Pentagon. Nor were they even in retribution for insulting cartoons of the Prophet.
They took place in a restaurant, a club, a stadium.
They were an attack on a way of life. Their purposelessness reveals their deep meaning--there is no room for negotiation, there is no diplomatic recourse. We Are At War.
ISIS has taken credit for the attacks, claiming that these eight men are blessed by Allah and the terror they have inflicted is honorable. They have promised that a storm of attacks will soon follow.
"Allah had granted our brothers their wish and gave them what they loved, for they detonated their belts in the gatherings of the disbelievers after running out of ammunition, we ask Allah to accept them among the martyrs and make us follow them."
ISIS is an evil in our world.
If you are like me, your outrage over Paris is tinged with guilt that there hasn't been more outrage about the barbaric atrocities we've witnessed for more then two years. ISIS is not simmering down or going away but advancing.
We know that our governments will continue to launch air strikes. But if the past 14 years has taught us anything, it's that violence only begets more violence.
It is clear that more violence is not the answer. Yet it doesn't seem that virtue would fair any better. For example, the Anglican Vicar of Baghdad actually invited ISIS to dinner; their response was to decline...and threaten to decapitate him.
We cannot take a passive stance, ignoring an advancing enemy. But there seems to be no room for diplomacy or hospitality, and war will only bring about more war. Therefore, what can we do?
There is a phenomena that is a quandary to missiologists (those who study missions academically) and which holds a potential insight for our response to ISIS.
There are large groups of people who are becoming followers of Jesus without identifying themselves as Christians. (If you want to know more about this movement see Dr. Tim Tennent's helpful chapter in Theology in the Context of World Christianity.)
This is happening in places like South East Asia, India, and parts of Africa, without any direct missionary effort. We've been aware of it for several decades. It's a movement of the Holy Spirit that raises questions about our foundational convictions about the role of the Church in the history of salvation.
The members of this "insider movement" are called Followers of Isa (Jesus in Arabic). Many of these believers have stories that mimic the conversion of Paul: Jesus has literally visited them in their dreams and revealed his Lordship and Love to them. Like Paul, they are forever changed. But unlike Paul, some of them have been persecuted by Christians (that's not a typo, though it is a tragedy).
For various reasons this group remains culturally Muslim, worshipping Jesus from within their Mosques. As you might imagine, this raises as many questions for Christians today as Cornelius' conversion raised for the Church in Acts.
Couldn't our knowledge of this hidden movement inform our prayer for ISIS?
If our loving acts of hospitality or peaceful martyrdoms have not convinced our enemy, then let us pray that Jesus himself will. For we believe that Jesus has filled all things and will draw ALL people to himself. Therefore, let us pray that he would fill the dreams of our enemies and draw them to himself.
"Lord Jesus visit the dreams of the members of ISIS revealing your Loving Lordship. Come Lord Jesus, Come."
Perhaps God will hear our prayer and one day the leaders of ISIS will become the followers of ISA.