Could the attack in Russia happen here?

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Could the attack in Russia happen here?

“The jihadists won’t spare the US”

March 26, 2024 -

A medic stands near ambulances parked outside the burning building of the Crocus City Hall on the western edge of Moscow, Russia, Friday, March 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Vitaly Smolnikov)

A medic stands near ambulances parked outside the burning building of the Crocus City Hall on the western edge of Moscow, Russia, Friday, March 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Vitaly Smolnikov)

A medic stands near ambulances parked outside the burning building of the Crocus City Hall on the western edge of Moscow, Russia, Friday, March 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Vitaly Smolnikov)

Fifteen-year-old Islam Khalilov works as a cloakroom attendant at the Crocus City Hall in Moscow. When a terrorist attack began there Friday evening, his familiarity with the building enabled him to guide terrified concertgoers to safety. He said later, “I understood that if I didn’t react, I would lose my life and the lives of many people. Honestly, it was very scary.”

Islam’s heroism is being credited with saving over one hundred people.

President Vladimir Putin acknowledged yesterday for the first time that “radical Islamists” executed the bloody assault. As Russia grieves its dead, the world is asking: Are the terrorists who staged the massacre a threat to the rest of us?

The answer is: Yes.

“A premium terrorist target”

France raised its terror alert warning to its highest level following the shootings. Italy has followed suit; other European countries have also issued updated warnings. And the Wall Street Journal notes that “the jihadists won’t spare the US.”

The group responsible for the Moscow massacre is known as the ISIS-Khorasan branch, or ISIS-K. (“Khorasan” refers to a historical region that encompassed northeastern Iran, southern Turkmenistan, and northern Afghanistan.) The group was founded in 2015 by disaffected members of the Pakistan Taliban; it is active in Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and also seeks to attack Europe and beyond. (For more, see “Should we fear radical Islam?“)

Last July, Germany and the Netherlands arrested seven individuals linked to an ISIS-K network suspected of plotting attacks in Germany; three of them intended to attack the Cologne Cathedral on New Year’s Eve 2023. The UN is warning that there is evidence of other “current and unfinished operational plots on European soil” being conducted by the group.

According to experts, the Moscow attack shows that ISIS-K is “intensifying efforts to export its ideological fight directly to the territories of sovereign nations” that are “involved in anti-Islamic State group operations.” Given America’s leading role in combating ISIS across its history and today, we must assume that we are among its targets.

In addition, a major event this summer has many on edge. “I worry about the Paris Olympics,” a top counterterrorism official says. “They would be a premium terrorist target.”

Acts 8:1 fulfilled Acts 1:8

Tuesday of Holy Week finds Jesus confronting his opponents in the temple courts (Matthew 21–23). After he defeats them in debate, they redouble their efforts to have him crucified, a strategy that will come to fruition in three days.

Our Lord warned his followers that many would face a similar fate: “The hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God” (John 16:2). The religious authorities of his day genuinely believed they were serving God by executing Jesus and persecuting his followers. Similarly, Islamic State terrorists genuinely believe they are serving Allah by killing those they think are enemies of Islam.

But here’s the good news: the foes of the gospel will be no more effective today than they were twenty centuries ago. Their persecution only spread Christians across the Roman Empire (note how Acts 8:1 fulfilled Acts 1:8). The sufferings inflicted on early believers only enhanced their witness and inflamed their courage (cf. Acts 4:29–31).

In a day when 80 percent of Americans say religion’s influence in our culture is declining—the highest it’s ever been in Pew surveys—we can counteract this trend by following their example.

“Lead people from living death to eternal life”

The key is this simple imperative:

“Be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:15).

Consider each Greek word in turn:

  • Be: to “become” or “enter a new state of being”; this is a direct command from God
  • Holy: be fully dedicated to God and set apart from the world
  • In all: in every aspect of our lives
  • Your conduct: our daily behavior and lifestyles.

This imperative gives the lie to the Sunday–Monday separation of “spiritual” and “secular” so common in our culture. It calls us to seek holiness in every moment of every day and to ask the Spirit to sanctify us by his transforming power (Ephesians 5:18; 2 Thessalonians 2:13).

Imagine the difference if every Christian obeyed this command. As the Baptist statesman Dr. William Pinson noted, by our witness and our words we would “lead people from living death to eternal life.”

And whatever the threats we face from jihadist terrorists or cultural opponents, they will know that we have “been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

C. S. Lewis observed:

Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself.

To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.

To which “state” are you “progressing” today?

NOTE: Final call! This is my last note about our latest book, a biblical commentary on the gospel of Matthew. In Matthew: A Guide to Genuine Discipleship, I look at selected passages that teach us the true meaning of following Christ. Ask for your copy today—before supplies run out—of this first-in-a-series cultural commentary.

Tuesday news to know

Quote for the day

“A little faith will bring your soul to heaven; a great faith will bring heaven to your soul.” —Charles Spurgeon

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