Terrorism will likely be a constant part of the news cycle for the foreseeable future. Less than two weeks after a suicide bomber killed himself and more than two dozen others at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, terrorists showed up in London. Last Saturday, three men killed seven people and wounded 48 others after driving a vehicle into a crowd on London Bridge, exiting the vehicle, and proceeding to stab people.
This month, the United States will sadly remember the one year anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub attacks, where a gunman killed 49 people in Orlando.
Despite the rise of headlines about terrorism in recent years, these attacks on civilians aren’t new. In fact, we can find references to these types of atrocities throughout the Old Testament. What’s more, they’re often wrestled with at a visceral level in the largest book of the Bible.
“One of the biggest issues in Psalms is warfare and the threat of violence from enemies,” said Tremper Longman, the author of How to Read the Psalms.
In particular, the writers of the Psalms wrestle with their feelings of vindictiveness toward their enemies and desire of justice from God. At times, they even implore God to cause horror to befall their foes. However, there is one key distinction about imprecatory prayers that Christians sometimes miss, said Longman.
“The psalmist isn’t saying ‘Give me the opportunity and resources and I will kill my enemies,’” he said. “What he’s doing is turning his anger over to God and saying ‘God you take vengeance against my enemies.’ … You’re taking your anger and fear to God, and you’re expressing hope that God will answer you.”
Longman joined assistant editor Morgan Lee and editor in chief Mark Galli on Quick to Listen to discuss whether the Bible ever justifies revenge, what the Psalms teach us about dealing with our feelings of helplessness in the face of terrorism, and how Christians can offer hope to their loved ones who do not believe in God.