The war against ISIS may be nearing an end in Syria and Iraq, but, the event yesterday in New York City shows that ISIS is not destroyed. The push for a worldwide caliphate may be in its waning days, but the spirit behind that caliphate continues to thrive in the hearts of those who follow diligently that radical ideology. And always the target is the innocent - those individuals just going about their everyday life. Yesterday it was those biking along a city street or pedestrians walking on a sidewalk. Those people were full of dreams and aspirations. They were loved by a spouse, by a Mom and Dad. They had careers. They celebrated life.
Suddenly, without any warning, eight of those lives were snuffed out. They did not know the one who perpetrated this hateful act. They did not even have the opportunity of defending themselves. In a matter of moments, eight individuals were ushered into eternity. One can only hope that they were ready to meet God.
The investigation will continue for weeks, if not months. The one who used the rented truck to destroy lives will be interrogated. The content of his computer will be analyzed and re-analyzed looking for a motivation for such a horrific act. The media will hurl accusations against governmental agencies whom they believe should have done something so this act would have been avoided. Conversations will be held that will center around the theme of "what did we do that would cause a young man to do something so violent?" Many will begin to bear the guilt that perhaps, just perhaps, they are responsible for the decisions this young man made.
But, friends, what happened yesterday in New York City - and what we have seen happen in London, Barcelona, Madrid and countless places elsewhere - is a product of a radical interpretation of Islamic ideology. Radicalized Islam believes that they are the only conveyors of Allah's will upon the earth. They further believe that everyone must come to the place of accepting Allah's will, which is a universal Islamic state, known as the Caliphate. Furthermore, they hold strongly to the belief that it is permissible to destroy any who would oppose their plan. Innocent bikers on a street - they need to die. Innocent people on a sidewalk - they need to die. Innocent people standing on a train platform - they need to die. Innocent tourists crossing a famous bridge in London - they need to die. And so the slaughter from these radicalized Islamic terrorists continue worldwide.
This month marks the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the beginning of the practice of a Communist ideology. And what was the operating mantra of the Communists? It was the extermination of all those who opposed it. Thus, tens of millions of Russians perished, many within the Soviet Gulags in Siberia, especially during the Stalin-years. And what of the tens of millions of Chinese who perished, often after being brutally tortured, under the rule of Chairman Mao? Hitler also had his own version of eliminating those who opposed Nazism, employing death camps where millions of people perished.
Do you see a common denominator here? A radical ideology, whether it is Communism, Nazism, or Islam, resorts to programs to destroy those who oppose that ideology. And the most common form of destruction is to cause people to die. (By the way, the Church has not been immune from such practices as the Crusades and later Inquisition will attest to). The philosophy is this: I am right, you are wrong; if you don't agree with me, then you deserve to die.
How did Jesus instruct us with regard to those who oppose us? And, yes, He knew that His teachings would create all kinds of opposition. Jesus even warned His disciples that He would be the reason for divisions within a family (Luke 12:51-53). In fact, it would almost seem that Jesus guaranteed His disciples that they would encounter opposition (John 16:33 and Mathew 5:11-12). Was Jesus' instructions to His disciples to go out and retaliate against those who opposed them? Did He give instructions that they should seek to destroy them? Listen to these amazing, yet startling, words of Jesus: "I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44). No death camps. No gulags. No rented trucks mowing down bikers and pedestrians. Jesus's command was simply: love them and pray for them. Now, friends, that is a radical thought!
And which method do you think will prevail in the end? The death camps of the Nazis are now museums. Many of the gulags of the Soviets are now crumbled. And the terrorist threats from the radicalized Islamic extremists will also fail. For, as the story of this world comes to a close, the plan of Jesus will prevail. It is not a kingdom of Nazis, nor a kingdom of Communists, nor a kingdom of Islam, but a kingdom of followers of Jesus Christ that will prevail. And with that truth I will close with a big "Hallelujah!"