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Be beautiful in the ugliness around you

Philippians 4:8J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)

“8-9 Here is a last piece of advice. If you believe in goodness and if you value the approval of God, fix your minds on the things which are holy and right and pure and beautiful and good. Model your conduct on what you have learned from me, on what I have told you and shown you, and you will find the God of peace will be with you.”

“There are the things which the King James Version and the Revised Standard call lovely. Moffatt translates attractive. Winsome is the best translation of all. The Greek is prosphiles (Greek #4375), and it might be paraphrased as that which calls forth love. There are those whose minds are so set on vengeance and punishment that they call forth bitterness and fear in others. There are those whose minds are so set on criticism and rebuke that they call forth resentment in others. The mind of the Christian is set on the lovely things–kindness, sympathy, forbearance–so he is a winsome person, whom to see is to love.” 1

The apostle Paul calls the Christians at Phillipi to focus on what various translations say is lovely and others say is beautiful. The murder of journalist, James Foley, by an Islamic extremist, shows us the ugly part of humanity that is so vulgar it fills us with rage. In preparing this piece I watched the video of the murder of James Foley, the man who his brother, Michael, said sacrificed his own life to save other hostages. It is the vicious murder of a man President Obama called a friend. Let us all lift up our prayers for the family of James Foley and President Obama in their need for inner healing and peace within. We will all need to heal from seeing or hearing about a life taken when so young that gave to others, that put loving others before himself, that yet had so much to give.

I found myself grappling with my own outrage. I want those responsible for the murder of James Foley to be treated the same way James Foley and all the other hostages are. I want all the members of the extremist ISIS group who have raped children and murdered many people found and meted out a death of a thousand cuts, to die not quickly but slowly, painfully, with each day of their existence reminding them that they will never be free. I want them confined for 23 out of 24 hours of their day in a 6 by 8 feet cell. 2  Yet, this is where all that is dark and depraved in this world wants us. These terrorists would want you to think about vengeance and retribution, of getting even. They want you to live your life with that constant and gnawing fear that will eat away like a poisonous cancer to all the joy in your life. They want to have you not focus on what the apostle Paul said are the things that remind us of all that is beautiful around us.

These terrorists have violated Islamic law. Usman Khan, spokesman for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, said: “The murder of the innocent journalist James Foley is completely shocking, barbaric and unIslamic.

“The extremist militants say they are acting in the name of Islam but have contravened the clear injunction of the Quran which equates the killing of an innocent person to the killing of the whole of mankind (Q5.33).

“British Muslims as a whole abhor and condemn such murderous acts.” 3

I urge you not to give terrorists the victory over you. We have a more powerful weapon to defeat them; it is the power of love. Let us think how James Foley would want us all to live — for others, for our families,  for the family James Foley says he will see again in Heaven, for something much more powerful than hatred. Let us love as Christ calls us to love through the example He set of unconditional love, that gives expecting nothing in return.

I encourage you to remember this thought from William Barclay. “The mind of the Christian is set on the lovely things–kindness, sympathy, forbearance–so he is a winsome person, whom to see is to love.” Let others see love alive in you in every word you speak, in every hug, handshake, every act of kindness and generosity to those who need you. Go that one step more for that hurting soul, who is ready to give up. Extend your hands of compassion to the weary, lonely, addicted, abused, the stranger, friend, family member, pastor, church member or that colleague whose hope needs to be lit with the healing beauty of your love. Love is beautiful. Love is giving. Love will heal the venomous poison of hate.

The terrorists need to be brought to justice. They have broken God’s commandment not to kill and Islamic law. History will write its own record of their deplorable actions. It will also make an account of how we responded to these despicable acts that make us boil with anger and fuel the fire of our vengeance. 

We have with all our advancements as a civilized society not yet defeated the indifference, injustice, ignorance and intolerance in our world. What each of us can do is shine our light right where we are in our community, loving one person at a time. We can practice the power of presence by truly being there for all who need us. 

Let the sacrifice of James Foley for others inspire us all to live as he lived — for God, Truth, and love for family and others. This is also the message of the apostle Paul spoken over two thousand years ago to the Christians at Philippi, to set their minds on the beauty in themselves and in others. When you look up into God’s painting in the sky remember James Foley, the apostle Paul and the Christians at Phillipi, who call us to a love that gives and sacrifices for others. When we do that all that is dark and ugly in this world cannot win. Love will win. We will have the victory over hate because we let love in and let all hate in us die.