Throughout the world there is currently the constant fear of terrorists and terrorism. The news is full of reports about people who are fanatical in their beliefs, who are ready and willing to kill others and to die for what they believe is right. For many reasons the recent attack on a magazine in Paris is, perhaps, the most disturbing.
In an article in the Daily Mail, the writer Max Hastings reflected some time ago on the fundamental changes that he felt had happened to the world in just five years, concluding that “international order, always imperfect, has seldom looked more threatened”.
That was written in 2006! Recent events in Paris have been seen in a similar light.
An age-old problem
But terrorism is not new and we read about terrorists in the Bible as well. In the time of Jesus, within the Jewish nation, there was a group called Zealots, who fought fanatical guerrilla warfare against the Roman power that occupied Israel. Among them were extremists who were willing to commit acts of terrorism to achieve their ends. They had a vision of an Israel freed from the oppressor and one of them called Simon the Zealot actually became a disciple of Jesus.
We might wonder why a man of this type could be called by Jesus?
The answer is that Jesus came preaching the Gospel or good news of the kingdom of God. The basis of his message was the restoration of the ancient kingdom of Israel, and people like Simon the Zealot knew that this was the same message taught in the Old Testament Scriptures. Simon was probably one of the less extreme members of this group, but he could see that Jesus was a man possessed with power to perform great miracles and bring about a tremendous change.
Bible students have long expected the world to become more unstable at a time the Bible calls “the latter days”. One prediction – recorded by the prophet Daniel – warned of a time that would come when the relative stability afforded by a succession of world empires would be replaced by a mixture of strong and weak powers, ‘elbowing for position’ in a power struggle centered on the Middle East:
“…the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron… so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken (weak)…” (Daniel 2v41-43)
But Daniel’s account goes further. It predicts the replacement of existing world governments with something far better. It’s that message of “good news” that Jesus and his followers announced 2000 years ago.
Indications are, judging by the news, that Daniel’s predictions are about to happen. A ‘change for the better’ is certainly needed, as this comment in The Guardian newspaper indicates:
“We dream of a world of democratic, peace-loving, human-rights-respecting states, working through international alliances and organizations within a framework of international law.”
Jesus came to tell everyone about this hope of a better future. But he also came to teach us how to live our lives now.
One of the many things Jesus taught was picked up by James in his letter, where he wrote about the danger of the tongue:
“The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire…” (James 3:5-6 NIV)
In other words, we all have a tremendous power at our disposal and a responsibility – if we are Christians – to control our ‘tongue’. While enjoying the benefits of ‘free speech’, it can also do untold damage if used unwisely. So we have to set some personal limits, or people get hurt.
Only time will tell what acts of terrorism follow those in Paris.