Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The face of the faithful

As of this morning, the world knows very little about this man, Bilal Hadfi, although I'm sure more will surface soon. What we know is that he lived in Belgium and was likely a veteran of the civil war in Syria. Authorities say he was among the ISIS terrorists who carried out mass murder in Paris on Friday night, a raid intended to carry the ISIS "crusade" to the City of Light and kill men and women and children doing what they believed infidels do--eat, drink, and be merry. This man--this kid--was one of them.

He was either 19 or 20, authorities say.

Barely out of his teens. Baby-faced, some say. Look. He's dead. At his own hands.

Yesterday's sermon concerned the second letter to the Thesselonians, third chapter, where Paul asks his friends to pray for him. "Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course," he writes, "and be glorified, even as it is with you." I'm guessing Paul wouldn't have recognized a preacher like Joel Osteen, whose ministry looks far different than his. Life was no cupcake for the apostle. The idea of the apostle having the prayerful support of the Thessalonians must have been a blessing as he marched into theological battle all around.

And what should the Thessalonians pray? Simple, Paul says: "That we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men," Paul says; "for all men have not faith."

Men like this Hadfi, a kid.

For me, at least, it was impossible yesterday, on Sunday morning, to imagine "unreasonable and wicked men" and not see a dead terrorist of Middle-Eastern extraction. Hadfi's gang marched into a concert hall and executed dozens of people until French police arrived and, in their words, neutralized them, shot them time and time again until they were bloody dead. Deliver us from evil. Hafdi, a suicide bomber, was part of two or three who attempted to blow up fans at a soccer stadium.

I don't think Paul has it right these days. The great terror loosed in our world today is not engineered by atheists and infidels, but by true believers so confident of their mission and martyrdom--of their faith--that they march into "soft targets" and kill as many innocent people as they can as quickly as they can. They're not faithless; they're faithful.

They're Bilal Hadfi, whose damnable, child-like faith struck him blind and left him mad. And dead. Authorities say Hadfi took no one with him. When he and the others assigned to the stadium carnage failed to get into the match, he walked away and detonated the bomb that killed him--and no one else. 

Today, it's the faithful who are "unreasonable and wicked," or so it seems to me.

These, as everyone knows, are the words of Jesus: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven."


We know that kalashnikovs will kill Bilal Hadfis, but they won't end the faith that generates their mad devotion. Fighting that faith requires a different and far more difficult kind of war. 

Lord Jesus, come quickly.

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