I have been blogging over the past few days about identity. My point has been that we need to maintain closely our relationship with Christ. This is important for at least three reasons. Firstly, so that when difficult times come we are not shaken because we are not what we do but we know who we are. Secondly, it is important because this enables us to hold lightly to parts of identity when we enter other cultures. The final reason I want to give today is that we need to know our identity in order to identify with others.
As you will have already read the title of today’s blog, you will know that I want to mention Wednesday’s incident at the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. I want to identify with the victims of that evil act of murder. You may know the magazine and have seen their cartoons which are normally aimed at being offensive to especially religious people, whether they be Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or any other religion, They do also target politicians and many other institutions.
The people who carried out this attack were clearly committed, well-trained and utterly brutal and ruthless. They were driven by a deep hatred of those who they see to have blasphemed Mohammed. We have seen with the growth of ISIS this year that radical Islam creates people who hate anything that is not their brand of Islam, especially Christians.
It is not surprising that it did not take long for many commentators in the media to begin the rather tiresome traditional bashing of all religion. Salman Rushdie (probably not surprisingly) is leading the way saying that all religion deserves our deep disrespect. Christian medics and nurses, motivated by their faith, who go and help vicitms of Ebola are hardly worthy of deep disrespect.
How do we react to the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo and their like? How do we react to radical Muslims? How do we react to those who condemn all religion because of this terrorist act?
How do we react as Christians? Well, I would suggest something rather simple. You don’t need to read too many pages of the New Testament to find the answer to my question: fewer than 5 chapters of Matthew. This is Jesus speaking,
I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
No matter whether those enemies be Humanist cartoonists, Muslim extremists or liberal commentators, our responsibility is to love them. Hate is not an option. I personally can easily start getting angry at the injustice of it all and shout at the TV or write to the Independent an angry email.
How do we find the love in our hearts? The truth is we can’t. This love only comes from being “in Christ”. Having our identities firmly rooted in Him. God is love.
Peter also broaches the subject of how we react to evil and insult,
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
I Peter 3 is rather a lot further through the New Testament but the point is easily seen: do them good, bless them. We can only do this if we know that we are children of God. Insults from any enemy can hurt but when we know that we belong to Christ we can identify with even our enemies like Christ did.
Therefore, I say today Je Suis Charlie.