Selection from new book, Lessons In Faith—learned the hard way, by C. Aaron Russell. Labor Day Weekend Promotion - Free Kindle Ebook Sat-Mon
Father’s Day Weekend, June 2012—Arab International Festival, Dearborn, MI—A group of Christian demonstrators was attacked by an angry mob (formed from the largely Muslim crowd in attendance) hurling stones, bottles and debris. The assault was captured on video. The police made virtually no attempt to prevent or stop the violence or protect the demonstrators. No arrests were made. Though the Christians had a permit to demonstrate and remained peaceful, they were forced by the police to leave under threat of citation and possible arrest. It was also surprising how little attention such a shocking incident was given by the national news media, although the video capturing much of the violent confrontation went viral on the Internet.
As an American, it is difficult to watch the video, to see the angry faces and hear the threats that the mob shouted at the Christian demonstrators, without being filled with anger. America is a country founded on freedom—freedom of religion, the right to free speech and the right to have a peaceful demonstration. It is hard to understand what our country has become, when a violent mob has more rights and police protection than peaceful demonstrators. The city of Dearborn, Michigan, and the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department acted as a disgrace to this country by not protecting the civil rights of its citizens.
However, being a Christian, more important than our sense of patriotism, is our loyalty to the Father in Heaven. Therefore, we must consider this from a higher perspective than an American one. It is natural, as we consider such a display of anger and hatred, for our flesh to tell us to fight back. The image of the Apostle Paul, being stoned in the city of Lystra for preaching the Gospel, comes to mind. Our emotions may tell us these people (Muslims) and their wayward religion that is becoming more and more corrupted by violence and extremism, are a danger and must be contained. But before we act, we must pray and seek God’s wisdom, and allow our spirit to be calmed. God does not see things like we do.
I searched for more details regarding this incident in Michigan, in an attempt to get a better understanding of how this could happen. As a Christian, I have to say I cannot agree with all the tactics used in this case by the Christian group of demonstrators, who call themselves the Bible Believers. The group was justified in going to such a place to witness. We are to go to the lost and spread the Good News of the salvation of Jesus Christ, but not to voice our hatred of another religion. The problem is, their intentions were more like those of protestors of Islam, than as witnesses for Christianity, as they claimed.
Instead of sharing the Gospel, with the Bible and Scripture, they displayed signs with incendiary slogans such as, “Mohammed was a Pedophile” and “Proud to be an infidel.” In addition, they carried a pig’s head and blood in an ice chest, an obvious offensive display intended to inflame and ridicule Muslims who view swine as an unclean animal. Just as with the Quran-burning demonstrations of Pastor Terry Jones and his church, the Dove World Outreach Center, these high-profile exhibitions appear to be more of a spectacle, in order to bring attention to themselves and spreading their anger, than a sincere effort to expand God’s Kingdom and give Him glory.
To be clear, this is not an attempt to apologize for the mob in this volatile situation, which were criminal in their actions and did not have sufficient provocation to become riotous. It only further demonstrates there is a growing faction of Islamists (and their sympathizers) with a proclivity to act out in violence. The Christian demonstrators certainly had a right to be there. They were within their American rights to demonstrate and did not resort to physical violence at any moment during the demonstration. And, even as victims in the face of attack, while being bloodied as they were pelted by rocks and debris, they did not retaliate, and should be credited for that part on their self-control.
That being said, we are to be messengers of God’s Word, in love and faith, not in anger. The Bible Believers are most likely devout Christians who truly love the Lord, but they are misguided and overzealous, and made poor witnesses of the Gospel in this instance. As believers, with the Holy Spirit in us, we are to speak to the heart of the sinner, not the sin itself. As sinners all, it is not our place to point fingers at other sinners, and rebuke or judge them, even if it is our perceived enemy. As they seek the truth and come with an open heart, God will deal with them on their false idols and sin, just as He does with all believers. Also, we should not fear those who hate us and would come against us as servants of Christ, for Isaiah told us in prophecy that had meaning for both the believers of his day and those living in the Day of the Lord yet to come (Christ’s Return),
“In righteousness you shall be established; You shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; And from terror, for it shall not come near you. Indeed they shall surely assemble, but not because of Me. Whoever assembles against you shall fall for your sake” (Is. 54:14-15 NKJV).
Neither should we become angry, nor return violence with violence. Jesus, who never followed Man’s natural instinct and always spoke rightly for God, said:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…” (Matt. 5:38-45 NKJV).
Amen. When it comes to witnessing to the non-believer, be it to someone of another religion or no belief in God at all, and regardless of whatever sin or situation it is that may be holding them back—all they need, all any of us need, is Jesus.