THE GOSPEL and Not Negotiating With Terrorists

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The gospel is a truth without compromise.

While often (rightly) applauded as “flexibility”, compromise can also be the product of simple cowardice.

I have no political statement to make today. But I do want to use one of the bigger news stories at the moment to illustrate a basic point about compromise.

Today, President Barack Obama said that he “absolutely makes no apologies” for seeking the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in a prisoner swap with the Taliban. He went on to say, “We don’t condition whether or not we make the effort to try to get (imprisoned soldiers) back.”

Since entering office, Obama has been talking about shutting down Guantanamo. So it probably shouldn’t surprise too many that, without Congressional consent, five Taliban detainees held there were released as part of an exchange to bring back Bergdahl. The checkered military past of Bergdahl along with the unilateral decision-making of Obama in this case have caused Republicans and Democrats alike to object to the swap.

Frida Ghitis wrote an interesting piece detailing the ethical questions behind all of this at cnn.com called “Five Moral Issues in Bergdahl Swap.”  She says, “America holds two principles high on its moral agenda. First, the U.S. does not leave any of its soldiers behind in the battlefield. Second, the U.S. does not negotiate with terrorists. But what happens when the two principles collide? Which matters more?” That’s it. That’s really the heart of the issue that will probably cause this case to be debated in ethics classes for years to come.

And while I love to discuss things like the basis for moral implications, that’s not what we’re doing today. What we’re doing today is acknowledging the wisdom of the long-held national stance that “you DO NOT negotiate with terrorists.” We want to get to the bottom of why caving to terrorists is so unhealthy. And we want to draw out some applications for Christians.

Why Not Negotiate With Terrorists?

This part should be simple, but we routinely make these sorts of compromises in our day-to-day lives.

A terrorist makes demands by holding something that you want and threatening to damage it or destroy it completely. What you’re willing to pay is ultimately dependent on how much you value the thing they’ve taken, the threat that’s causing you such “terror.”

While the natural impulse might be to give in – because, after all, “I love _________ more than _________”, (e.g. “I love my puppy more than money,”) what this compromise actually does is it positively rewards the terrorist’s terrorism. Psychological Conditioning 101 tells you that when you positively reward a behavior, you spike the prevalence of it occurring again.

On a military level, this is what is so concerning to people about Obama’s decision. Yes, regardless of Bowe’s shady history, it seems nice that the Taliban doesn’t have opportunity to torture him. But you have to believe this sends a message to the rest of the world that if you want something from the wealthiest country on the planet, by all means, don’t murder, but kidnap one, any one, of their soldiers, and the U.S. will gladly give you whatever you ask for.

In a society that idolizes tolerance, it’s important for us to see that compromise can be a weakness as well. Time will tell if this is a lesson we learn.

Christian Applications

You and I can do very little when it comes to U.S. military decisions. And to be quite honest, we’re probably not qualified to make many of those decisions. So it’s really not worth getting too bent out of shape by the Bowe Bergdahl incident.

What we can do is be more aware of our own willingness to compromise in our lives and the negative effects that may cause. Let’s look at some practical examples:

1) Parenting

Little kids are sometimes the best terrorists. They want what they want when they want it. Regardless of how much you’ve sacrificed for them, if they don’t get their way on the most trivial of issues (e.g. bed time, new toy, chore), they have the audacity to say, “I hate you!” or perhaps even more delusional, “You don’t love me!” 

What can you do? Well, first, you still love the child who doesn’t deserve love. That’s called grace. God showed it to you and me in infinite amounts. And to the degree that we see that, we will be able to show grace to others, including obstinate children. Nonetheless, what you don’t do is….

You don’t negotiate with terrorists.

2) Significant Others

You’re young and dating. The Taliban has nothing on teenage hormones when it comes to hijacking human behavior. And Osama Li Bido is causing a young man to pressure a young woman to physically engage in behavior that she’s uncomfortable with. Since one of the strongest desires young women have is to be cherished by a man (Gen. 3:16), she will feel tremendous influence to comply to the young man’s pursuits. What should she do?

You don’t negotiate with terrorists.

A wife prone to emotional imbalance struggles desperately with control issues. She “needs” her husband and her children and her house and her life to be a certain way and isn’t afraid to put others through hell in order for “her way” to be realized. She manipulates through silent treatments, tears, and yes, sex. What shall the husband do? Meathead husband says, “Learn that I’m always wrong and need to say ‘I’m sorry’?” (ANNOYING BUZZER SOUND) Wrong! Granted, you probably have lots of things to apologize for, but in this case…

You don’t negotiate with terrorists.

3) Church

Mr. Charter Member is a pioneer of the congregation and he makes sure everyone knows that. He IS regularly in worship and Bible Study. He IS one of the bigger financial supporters of the congregation. He DOES have more experience with the church than anyone. As a result, he feels he must get his way. He’s the loudest at meetings. He’s quick to point out congregational precedents. And he might even have a good, noble idea, but it’s his own personal agenda.

Congregations can’t pursue every good idea. Pastor Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill, a multi-site megachurch in Seattle, WA has a great lesson called “Your Thing, My Thing, Our Thing” in which he explains how LOTS Of people have good ideas and good causes that they’d like their church to pursue. However, such pursuits are not the vision and mission of the church. Consequently, while the idea might not be an inherently bad idea, it is, in fact, a bad idea for that church, because they shouldn’t be compromising the church’s main mission by allocating resources to pursue the idea. In other words, pastors and church leadership have to be good at saying “No.” And when you do, you find out how offended some people get. You don’t like offending people. You didn’t even think their idea was a terrible idea. What do you do? You have to let them walk.

You don’t negotiate with terrorists.

A Christian Mission

As Christians, we have a mission. In fact, we have a Great Commission. You and I are collectively commissioned to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19-20)

Furthermore, you and I have another rubric on that mission. We are to personally “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt. 22:37-40)

And finally, we have a motive for carrying out that mission: “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) You see, we are unwilling to compromise our main mission in life specifically because Jesus did compromise all of his health, peace, and comfort for us.

Anything that compromises our Christian life mission is, in a sense, a terrorist. The personal idols we all have are terrorists who seek to threaten our mission as parents, spouses, friends, pastors, and children of God. They use terrorist tactics to pull us away from the purpose of our existence – to consume the love of Jesus, live in harmonious relationship with that true God, and reflect this glory out into his creation.

But it’s a question of compromise, isn’t it? What are you willing to give up in order to get the very thing your terrorizing idol promises.

Jesus said, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36)

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2 thoughts on “THE GOSPEL and Not Negotiating With Terrorists

  1. Jenny says:

    Thanks Pastor–sounds like I need to take responsibility for my cowardice. I hate being enlightened. 🙂 Any more on the “how to”?

  2. Thank you Pastor James for some very insightful messages, I have spent some time getting to know you by them and yes I do agree and also disagree with some of what you have shared but mostly I agree because of the confirmation of Scripture and so I have been very blessed as I read.

    What I would really Appreciate you sharing with me Pastor James, is how you believe we are to share Jesus’ Love and yes correction too with those who Blog claiming to be Christians.

    I started Blogging in 2011 and in the years since I have recognized Cult teaching , Paganism, the Occult, New Age, Humanistic and fleshy worldly Teaching but not just shared by Non- Christians but shared by those claiming to be Christians. I have also been treated with disrespect and have been, ridiculed, slandered, rejected, back stabbed, ignored and abused by some of them and also by others even after they share about Jesus and our need to Love Him and each other.

    I see a selfish attitude with some of them too but not all, where they want to be recognized and have people come and visit and comment on their Blogs but don’t take an interest in what others share in their Posts or when someone comes and comments on their Blogs. Some also use the Like button as a come and visit me but I’m not really interested in what you are sharing because my message is so much better and you need to hear it.

    We are to treat others as we want to be treated and if needed I will accept correction but only when confirmed by Scripture through the empowering of the Holy Spirit.

    Thank you for Listening Pastor James, I found you when I was looking for graphics, I believe the Lord lead me to you and I also believe your a Man who passionately Loves Jesus and His Truth but not just for material gain but for the Love you have in your heart for Him and others.

    God bless you greatly in our Unity in Christ Jesus – Anne.

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