Seek good, and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you~ Amos 5:14
In the span of a single year the ISIS terrorist group has gone from being a practically unknown group of upstarts to the most infamous and troubling terrorist group on Earth. The stories simultaneously nauseate and captivate as they invent new and perverse ways to do evil (Romans 1:29-31).
Decapitations, a man burned alive, little boys executed for watching soccer games, a young American woman murdered for assisting strangers. Coptic Christians brutally slain for refusing to convert to Islam. Gay men thrown off buildings, churches burned to the ground, homes ransacked. Christians, young and old, male and female, kidnapped and held prisoner, threatened with death for refusing to convert.
We ignore this phenomenon at our own peril. We will never defeat something we don’t understand, and these people are successfully reaching folks with their message—especially the young, and not just the young and ignorant: Many ISIS converts are surprisingly well-educated men and women.
The success of ISIS’ brazen recruitment programs demand the sober consideration of every God-fearing human being on Earth. According to CNN, CIA spokespersons report that thousands of American, French, Canadian and English men have linked with ISIS and are now fighting in Syria. Young women from England, France and America have left comfortable homes and forsaken Western freedoms to become brides and baby makers for Muslim extremists seeking to construct a society built on their brutal and archaic way of viewing the world.
These realities beg some very important questions: How is a brutal group of thugs intent upon stripping the human race of every imaginable freedom making disciples out of young Westerners who ought to be repulsed by these people? Why would anyone choose to become a part of this community? What are they doing right? How do we stop them?
These questions must be answered quickly. These groups are spreading like a pernicious form of cancer. Like it or not these terrorist groups understand some truths regarding the human condition that we have foolishly overlooked. It pains me to say this, but I believe there are some things Christians can learn from ISIS.
Terrorists groups like ISIS understand that humans need a cause greater than themselves to live for. Human existence becomes bleak and meaningless when life becomes all about making money, acquiring stuff and personal gratification.
Terrorist groups exploit the universal human longing for purpose and significance in life with their own twisted vision of purpose. Terrorists target young men and women who have just enough spiritual awareness to be open to a cause, any cause. They give the men and women who searching for significance and purpose something tangible to live for, sacrifice for, and fight for.
Furthermore, terrorists exploit the human longing for fixed standards of right and wrong. In an effort to reach those yearning for moral guidance and leadership, they bombard their followers with instruction concerning morality, social interaction between the sexes, modesty, parenting, family relationships and business dealings. They have recently released a guide instructing Islamic women on how to become “the ultimate wives of Jihad.”
Terrorists also understand the human longing for community. They entice young people with the message that they can become part of a group of like-minded individuals who will care for one another when life gets tough. Islamic communities tend to be tight-knit and very close; this is a big draw for young people raised in fractured nuclear families and with non-existent extended families.
Sadly, terrorists are selling the lost and searching a flim-flam job. The naïve are being lured with a message of death cleverly disguised as life and sacrifice. Their spiritual longings will be wasted. They will face an eternity of judgment for their foolish gullibility.
Christians have the real deal to offer the world, but we have packaged it all wrong. The fear of coming off as judgmental has overruled truth and we have failed to present a complete picture of saving faith. We have done so to our everlasting shame and to the peril of millions who are longing for a narrow path and a cause worth living and dying for.
We have a cause that is worth living and dying for: Jesus. Jesus calls his people to a narrow path of holiness, righteousness and sacrificial love (Matthew 7:13-14). Jesus calls His people to create caring communities where we admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, and are patient with everyone (1st Thessalonians 5:14). Jesus calls His people to the greatest cause of all: life and sacrifice for Him.