That’s a good question! Pastor John and I have been addressing several tough questions over the past few weeks, with help from The Bible and the book, “Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions” by Elyse Fitzpatrick & Jessica Thompson.
Fitzpatrick and Thompson write:
The most sinister form of war is terrorism. Terrorism happens when a group of individuals seeks to use violence and intimidation… The terrorist thrives on creating… fear, panic and terror.
Jesus knew violence. He endured the most horrible act of violence: crucifixion. Proverbs 6 tells us that God hates violence.
There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil…
Joe Carter wrote a clear three point article about praying for your enemies and specifically terrorists. (you can go here to read more of the article: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/3-ways-to-pray-for-our-enemies)
Here are some ideas of how you can respond:
1. Pray for their conversion
There are two primary reasons we don’t pray for the conversion of Islamic extremists. The first reason is that we believe it is absurd to think they’ll become Christians. The second reason is that we fear they might actually convert.
2. Pray the evil they do may be restrained
It is to their benefit as well as ours that they be prevented from committing more evil. For those who have hardened their heart against God, it would be better that their life was shortened than for them to continue to persecute his children…But we should remember that while the death of the terrorists may be the only effective way to restrain their actions, we should not rejoice in their suffering or death (Proverbs 24:17).
3. Pray they will receive divine justice
Just as we seek justice on earth from duly established governmental authorities, we can seek the divine justice of our holy God.
In asking that divine justice be done, we should be careful to guard our motives. Praying for divine justice can be a way to circumvent our duty to love our enemy. While we must leave vengeance to God, we must not forget what is commanded of us. As Paul writes in Romans 12:19-21:
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
In the order of our prayers, asking for divine justice should be included as the “last resort” option, a plea for doing what is necessary for those who will neither turn to God nor turn away from doing evil.
As former enemies of God, we should be gracious and grateful that we are allowed to pray for our current enemies, secure in the knowledge that Jesus will hear us. We should be thankful enough for the grace of God that we want even our enemies to receive it too. But if they refuse and harden their hearts against the one who would spare them, then we must ask they receive the divine retribution due everyone apart from the righteousness of Christ.
Fitzpatrick & Thompson offer age-appropriate advice for talking to your kids about violence, war & terrorism.
You won’t want to frighten children unnecessary. You don’t need to go into detail about the horrors of war. Just assure children that God is in control and you will do your best to take care of them.
This age group will hear and understand more about violence. Reassure them that we don’t always understand how God works, but we can know that he works in ways too glorious for us to know.
Ages 11 & up:
Children this age have probably seen video from 9/11, school shootings, the Boston Marathon bombings or ISIS. They understand what terrorism is. Be frank with them but always in the context of giving hope in our strong God.
Children know what it is like to feel threatened and afraid. Remind them of these words from The Bible. “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Psalm 56:3-4
Romans 8:38-39 tells us that even death cannot separate us from the love of Christ.