Last night we saw another outpouring of terror. This time it was Paris. At least 120 people killed, thousands terrorised and filled with fear. A few days ago, it was Beirut.
As I listened to the reports, I had the words of John 10:10 going around in my head:
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
What we’re seeing in ISIS and its associates is a movement of fear. People who seek to undermine the once stable foundations of peoples lives and to replace them with the idea that at any moment terror could strike.
And in all honesty, Government leaders don’t have a clue about dealing with such organisations.
ISIS and Al Qaida, and other like minded groups are organised as decentralised starfish organisations. If you cut off the leg of a starfish, that leg becomes another starfish.
The essence of their organisation is not dependent on strong, charismatic leaders, but on an ideology that lives in the hearts and minds of its members. One leader dies, another takes over. The vision is bigger than any one person.
Western governments are more like spiders. You cut off their legs and they walk with a limp. All control is centred around one control centre. If that centre is undermined, chaos ensues.
That’s the reason why last night it was vital that French security services whisk Francois Hollande away from the stadium as soon as they became aware of the attacks. He is their top leader. If he is killed, the government is in disarray.
I’m not writing this to instil yet more fear, but because I believe that the only way to counter the work of such destructive starfish organisations is through the work of other such organisations.
I mean organisations of people who are not governed by the charismatic leadership of a single person, but who carry within them a way of looking at the world that they know is worth laying down their lives for.
Many of the people joining ISIS now are people who are disillusioned with what life has offered them. They’ve drawn the short straw. Born in ethnic minorities in countries that don’t understand or respect their cultural background. They’ve tried to navigate the competing worldviews of their family cultures and societal cultures.
They know they’re seen as outsiders by the culture around them, and they don’t fit in their parents' culture.
They long for what every single human being in the world longs for: belonging and being part of something that’s bigger than themselves.
Then a figure steps into their lives who offers them these things. They can belong to a group of other young people who share something in common. They understand the ways of Jihad. Their lives can be worth something. It all sounds like an adventure, and far more appealing than a life on the margins of a society that isn’t theirs.
Back to what I was saying earlier…
There is another “starfish” that is present in the world today. Unfortunately, many of them are in sleeper cells, not yet activated for their purpose.
The starfish I’m thinking of is those people who love and obey Jesus, and who know that HE (yes he, the person of Jesus) is the answer to every question.
Unlike governments, we have the ability to infiltrate society subversively, to present a true story that is worth living for. We can organise in small groups for prayer. We can share with neighbours and friends.
We can build constructive friendships with people who are arriving to our countries from war torn places. Alone coming children who have been scarred by war. Families who know no one in their host cultures.
We can perform the ministries of listening, hospitality, prayer and friendship. And through these ministries, we can bring an end, one friendship at a time, to the destructive cycles of isolation and disillusionment.
Because the war on terror isn’t fought with drones and AK47s, but with love.
Because terror is just another word for fear.
And because perfect love casts out fear.
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