There has been a second terrorist attack on London. Quite probably it won’t be the last in the UK. How shall we respond to this crisis?
In our study of Romans 8, we have seen the ‘aaarrghhh!’ of our present times. It’s our groaning as we go through the pain of life (v23). We are redeemed and adopted through Jesus, but we still have to wait for our final hope when he returns. Verses 26-27 show us the Holy Spirit’s response to this groaning: he leads us to pray, even if sometimes we hardly know how to.
To pray for those hurt by these attacks is the obvious place to start. Is there anything more? Yes!
Pray for the enemies
Jesus told us: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-35).
This seems to go against everything natural – we want to see punishment for the evil! But God loved us even when we were sinners and enemies – he sent his Son to die for us. We deserved punishment but received mercy. So we can become like our Father and seek mercy for our enemies.
Meeting violence with anger and more violence only perpetuates volence. Jesus dealt with the world’s sin by taking it on himself, and calls us to live in a similar way. By refusing revenge and seeking mercy we can become true peacemakers and be called sons of God (Matthew 5:9). Praying for enemies is powerful and effective. Only the sons of God can do it. And perhaps through our prayers these persecutors may find Christ, just as the apostle Paul did. Imagine!
Pray for the government
Paul told us to pray for “those in authority” so we can “lead a peaceful and quiet life” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Since lasting peace only comes through justice, this must surely be a prayer for justice. Rather than looking for people to blame, we can ask God for wisdom and effectiveness for our leaders and for the over-stretched security services. Coming together in unity is far more useful than increasing anger and division by pointing a finger. We can pray that those who want to destroy us will be stopped and caught, and punished where necessary.
On the one hand, we pray mercy and salvation for terrorists. On the other hand, we pray for them to be caught and punished. Isn’t this a contradiction? Certainly not!
In Romans 12:19-21, God tells us not to take revenge but to “leave it to God’s anger”. In this way we “overcome evil with good”. But then he immediately goes on to talk about the governing authorities, whom we should respect. Why? Because the ruler is “a servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s anger” (13:4). When we leave revenge to God, we know there is a final day of judgment when he will put everything right. But even now, in our current situation, he is at work through authorities to bring his judgment on evil. He is not only merciful, he is also just.
As we pray for authorities, we pray for God’s justice. As we pray for terrorists, we pray for his mercy. In the end, “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). For that, we can be eternally grateful.
By John Davy