At about the same time Muslim radicals were massacring the cartoonists in Paris, Boko Haram was levelling the city of Baga, Nigeria, killing an estimate 2,000 people. I was very angry and outraged at the horrific scale of murder of innocent people of all ages. Although the massacre in Nigeria was not specifically targeting Christians (as far as I know), as a Christian I am deeply troubled by the indiscriminate killing of human beings. I prayed for justice, for the international community to stop these atrocities that grow bolder as each day goes by, and to bring those killers to justice. Where was the sign of international unity against the massacre in Nigeria?
My feelings raise an important question—is my prayer legitimate for a Christian? In the Old Testament King David and others prayed what has been called Imprecatory Prayers—prayers that God would curse and even kill their enemies. Such prayers are not appropriate for Christians and I did not pray that kind of prayer, even though deep down inside I may have thought about it! Imprecatory prayers can be for justice and fairness, which are entirely appropriate for a Christian. The desire for justice and fairness comes from God, while revenge comes from Satan, since it is a warped and evil expression of the desire for justice.
The desire for justice and fairness comes from God, while revenge comes from Satan, since it is a warped and evil expression of the desire for justice.
The most familiar New Testament imprecatory prayer comes from the martyrs around the throne of God in heaven, asking God, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on earth?” (Revelation 6:10) In a sense, while they had won the victor’s crown and gained heaven, they were still not completely satisfied because justice had not prevailed. That makes me think that our yearning for justice is not out of line but is something that will be satisfied by a just and righteous God.
I find myself wondering how best to respond to such grievous events that tear at our hearts. I think the first level of response is to cry out to God what we feel in our hearts. We can lament and mourn the loss of valuable life. The second level would be to pray for the survivors—the families of those killed and also for the persecutors, who are lost forever if they never respond to the light.
A third level of response would be to support the families of martyrs, widows and children who are left behind. The number, as you can imagine, grows every day. Pray for VOM staff members who travel to difficult areas to provide help and give encouragement to not only widows and orphans but to the church that seeks to have a witness in such a hostile areas. Pray for their safety.
A fourth level of response is to contact national and international governmental agencies who are seeking to curb these atrocities. It is also extremely important to pray for them as well, since many have to go into harm’s way to accomplish their task.
Ultimately it will take the intervention of God in a mighty way to stop this evil. We can pray for revival among believers and for God to touch the hearts of the perpetrators of evil and turn them from their ways. May God give us the grace to face these days with optimism that God will have the last word and it will be justice combined, of course, with mercy.
May it be soon!
Roy Stults, PhD, is the Online Workshop Coordinator and Educational Services Coordinator for The Voice of the Martyrs. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene University (BA and MA), Nazarene Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Doctor of Missiology), and The University of Manchester (England) with a PhD (theology). A Vietnam veteran, Dr. Stults served as a missionary for 19 years and pastored U.S. churches for eight years. Prior to joining VOM, he was a Professor of Religion at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.