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How Should a Christian Respond to Terrorism?

Updated: Apr 21, 2021

How should Christians respond to terrorism? The question we must always ask is: "What does the Bible say?"

The terrible tragedy that occurred in New York City and Washington D.C. on September 11, 2001 released a torrent of emotions--anger, hatred, rage, despair, compassion, and more. We saw people at their worst and at their best.

How should Christians respond to terrorism? The question we must always ask is: "What does the Bible say?"

#1 The Bible says that God has established government and government is endued with God's authority to protect its citizens and punish those who terrorize them.

The Bible is quite clear about why legitimate governments are established and the extent of their authority. From the apostle Paul we learn:

"The authorities that exist have been established by God" (Romans 13:1).

"There is no authority except that which God has established" (Romans 13:1).

"Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities" (Romans 13:1).

Perhaps most appropriate to the case of the terrorist attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are the following:

"Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves" (Romans 13:2).

"Rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong" (Romans 13:3).

"He (the ruler) does not bear the sword for nothing" (Romans 13:4).

"He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer" (Romans 13:4).

CONCLUSION: We submit to legitimate authorities because they are duty bound to act against those who disobey the law and harm others. We also submit for the sake of our conscience. The terrorist attacks on September 11th were both unlawful and unconscionable. The United States government has both the right and the duty to God to pursue and punish those who committed these terrible acts and those who harbor them.

#2 The Bible says that we are not to take punishment into our own hands but to defer vengeance to God through legitimately established governments.

Again the apostle Paul:

"Do not repay anyone evil for evil" (Romans 12:17)

"Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath" (Romans 12:19).

The Bible teaches that vengeance belongs to God because only He knows perfectly the hearts of men and only He can temper vengeance and justice.

"It is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord." (Romans 12:19).

"It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip" (Deuteronomy 32:35).

"It is mine to avenge; I will repay" (Hebrews 10:30)

"The Lord is a jealous and avenging God . . . . The Lord is slow to anger and great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished" (Nahum 1:2-3).

God's vengeance is ultimate vengeance when He shall judge all mankind. But as seen above, He vests legitimate governments with the responsibility of being His present agents of vengeance, not individual citizens.

CONCLUSION: While it is the right and the responsibility of our government to respond nationally and militarily to these terrorist attacks, it is not our individual right to respond. It is equally unlawful and unconscionable that US citizens would retaliate out of anger against those with Arabic or Middle Eastern surnames or faces. God and those legitimately established governments have the responsibility for vengeance and retaliation, not citizens of the state.

#3 The Bible says that the way to overcome evil is not through personal retaliation or hatred but through personal good and compassion.

One more time the apostle Paul:

"Do not be overcome by evil" (Romans 12:21)

"Overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21)

"He who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law" (Romans 13:8)

Add to this the words of Jesus:

"Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Matthew 5:39)

And read what the psalmist David said:

"Do not fret because of evil men" (Psalm 37:1)

"Trust in the Lord and do good" (Psalm 37:3)

"Do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes" (Psalm 37:7)

"Refrain from anger and turn from wrath" (Psalm 37:8)

"Do not fret-it leads only to evil" (Psalm 37:8)

David, Paul and Jesus understood God's command to Moses:

"Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord" (Leviticus 19:18).

Undoubtedly during these days of anger and rage we will hear people quote God's Word inappropriately. Many appeal to the so-called "imprecatory psalms" (Psalms 35, 59, 69, 109, etc.) to justify retaliation. But these psalms were not motivated by personal revenge. Behind these cries for justice was the recognition of a divine moral governance in the world and a call for God to exercise judgment as well as grace.

While the psalmists were aware of the constant battle between good and evil, they had no concept of the future judgment where God will punish those who take the lives of innocent people and reward those who live godly lives. The only justice they could conceive was the "here and now" justice. We can see far beyond that.


#1 Let's show the world in these desperate days what the love of God is like.

The discipline of love in the face of adversity is what distinguishes the Christian from other people (John 13:35). This is a time for us not only to show Christ's love to our brothers and sisters in Christ, but also to others who need to feel the warmth of that love in the cold aftermath of loss.

#2 Let's be much in prayer for the safety of those who are demonstrating love to others by their brave actions.

Our military forces, police, firemen, rescue workers, doctors, nurses and volunteers of all kinds are living out Jesus' words, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). Those who risk their lives for others are set in stark contrast to the cowardly terrorists who used the lives of others as a shield for their despicable acts. Let's pray for these men and women and thank God for them.

#3 Let's speak up for understanding, tolerance, justice and forgiveness.

While you and I cannot tolerate the methods of these terrorists, their actions arose from the frustration of their feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Who better to try to understand that hopelessness than those of us who have found hope in Christ. We need to be vocal in our insistence that there should be zero tolerance for any backlash of hatred against Muslims, Arabs, or people of Middle Eastern descent living in America. That will demonstrate the love of Christ. "But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:15).

#4 Let's be a voice for calm in an atmosphere of hatred and retaliation.

James said it so well: "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. For man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires" (James 1:19-20). This is both a time for patriotism and a time for patience. Let's be patriotic Americans who bring God's Word to bear on the national debate about how to respond to terrorism.

#5 Let's be men and women of prayer, both for those who victimized and those who were their victims.

Pray for the friends and families of those who have lost lives due to terrorism. Pray for those who heroically continue to fight terrorism. Pray for our President and his aides as they formulate an appropriate response. Pray for Christians everywhere who have the opportunity to minister hope and comfort to bereaved families. "Pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16).

And while we pray for the families of the victims of terror, let's pray as well for the families of terrorists. God's grace and love extends to them too (John 3:16). Pray that God will break through their hatred and that the Holy Spirit will soften their hearts and draw them to Himself in salvation. "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:44).

The Christian response is always to look for the fingerprints of God in every situation. The New York City and Washington D.C. disasters were devastating--as well as the on-going war on terror--but let's seek opportunities to bring hope and forgiveness, help and grace, in the midst of that devastation. Let's seize every opportunity to speak of God's love and man's need. Let's do the work of an evangelist, a comforter, a friend. Let's respond as Christians should; let's respond with God's love and care. God bless you as you do.

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