"Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord. Therefore
'If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of
fire on his head.'
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:17-21, NKJV).
"Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil" (Romans 13:1-4, NKJV).
Shortly after the terrorists' attacks on September 11, 2001, I prayed with a group of Christians for Osama bin Laden and his fellow terrorists to repent, to have a change of heart and to become followers of Christ. Afterwards, a fellow Christian asked if I supported the war against terrorists. I answered, "Yes." Confused, he asked, "Then how can you pray for them on one hand and support efforts to kill them on the other?" That's a fair question.
My answer lies within the tension between the end of Romans 12 and the beginning of Romans 13.
I attempt to care about my enemies, as Paul taught in Romans 12. Despite the evil within them, I want the best for them. I would love to see terrorists turn from Allah to Jesus Christ. I want them to place their trust in what he has done to save them. I would love to see them acknowledging Christ as their Lord and submitting to baptism in his name. I desire to see them expressing faith in Christ through love for others.
I also support my government's efforts to avenge the innocent and to terrorize people who would harm others, as Paul taught in Romans 13. The government has a God-given responsibility to do so. When I served on a jury a couple of years ago, I had to deal with this issue as we were attempting to sentence a rapist and burglar for smashing in his girlfriend's face. Wanting to love my neighbors by protecting them from this violent man, I pushed for the strongest sentence possible. While we need to love our enemies, we cannot allow it to prevent us from loving our other neighbors. The government exists to prevent evil people from harming others. When it is attempting to do its job, I need to support it.
I will continue to pray for the terrorists while supporting the government's war against them. In doing so, I am trying to love my neighbors and my enemies.