“Friday’s Paris strike is not just another in a growing cavalcade of terrorist assaults; instead it signals a tactical change in Islamic terrorist strategies—one that militants have been moving towards for years.” Newsweek‘s Kurt Eichenwald is right.
In 2008, coordinated terror attacks in Mumbai killed more than 175 people. They showed that a small number of suicidal jihadists with sufficient ammunition and preparation could devastate a confined urban area. Militants used the same strategy five years later in Nairobi, Kenya, killing sixty-seven people at a shopping mall.
Last month, a double suicide bombing at a peace rally in the Turkish capital killed more than 100 people. The day before the Paris massacre, a double suicide attack on a crowded urban area in Beirut, Lebanon killed more than forty. Authorities believe a jihadist arrested last week may have been planning a similar attack in Istanbul. Now we have seen the effectiveness of this barbaric strategy in Paris.
What do France, Turkey, and Lebanon have in common? They have recently escalated attacks on Islamic State forces in Syria. Now the jihadists are striking back. In their view, we are at war with Islam. Since the Qur’an requires Muslims to defend Islam (Sura 2:190-192), these militants believe they are obligated to attack us. And since the West is composed of democracies, where citizens elect their leaders and support their military financially, ISIS believes we are all complicit in this war. (For more, see my The Islamic State: What You Need to Know.)
So we can expect more attacks like the massacre in Paris. Any urban center could be the terrorists’ next target. There is no end in sight to what The Wall Street Journal calls “the Long War Against Terrorism.”
What should we learn from the Paris tragedy? How should we respond?
First, the Paris massacre shows that no one is promised tomorrow, that we must “make the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16, NIV). What happened in France could happen anywhere.
So surrender this day to the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), choosing to live and serve in God’s power for God’s glory. Pray for your non-Christian friends and share Christ with them, because every soul deserves to hear the gospel before it’s too late. Live each day as if you would meet Jesus today, because one day you’ll be right.
Second, the spread of jihadist violence shows that Satan is threatened by the advance of the gospel. Radical Islam has arisen at a time when more Muslims have come to Christ than ever before in Islamic history. And Paris has been attacked at a time when the church in France is experiencing a remarkable resurgence. Friends of mine who work with European Christian movements say a genuine revival is at work in this secular nation.
So expect the enemy of God to attack the children of God, and refuse to be afraid. Jesus warned us, “In the world you will have tribulation.” Then he called us to “take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Know that “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). And your joyful courage will be your witness to a frightened world.
Hours after the attacks in France, Parisians came outside bearing signs that proclaimed, “We are not afraid.” Let us join them.