I once pulled a lion's tail at the zoo just to see what would happen. The results were not good. Suffice it to say that in the terrifying moments that followed I almost lost control of my bodily functions. I have never heard a lion roar from two miles away, let alone two feet away. Take my word for it, angry lions roar loudly when they want to eat you.
By the way, I wasn't a three-year-old toddler or a thirteen-year-old teenager when I tugged on the tail. No, I was a thirty-year-old pastor out enjoying a date at the zoo with my soon-to-be-embarrassed wife.
Why do I bring this up? Because I'm sure that you, like me, have heard all about another not-well-thought-out idea from the pastor in Florida who has got a love for matches and a hatred for the Koran. On September 11, he and his gullible followers have been planning on burning a pile of Korans during what they have dubbed "Burn a Koran Day" But now they are re-considering.
Wait, maybe they're not. Wait, maybe they are. I guess we will find out on September 11.
CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, NPR, The Christian Post and a host of other news outlets wait with bated breath on what this camera-happy man of the cloth will decide. Will his Saturday be smoking or non-smoking? Oh, the drama of it all!
Now I'm not real bright myself (I did just admit to pulling a lion's tail), but here's a good basic rule of thumb: if it is something that Hitler is more likely to do than Jesus, it's probably a bad idea.
Isn't the way of Jesus found in Matthew 5:43-45 – "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven"?
And then there is Paul's command in Romans 12:17-21 – "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord. On the contrary: 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
Here's the problem: when good pastors go bad and repay evil for evil, they pull the lion's tail. Actually, if this pastor in Florida decides to go through with "Burn the Koran" day, he will be pulling the tail of three distinct and dangerous lions in one fell swoop.
The first and most obvious lion is that of all those already jolly for jihad. If this renegade preacher chooses butane over brains, he will ignite not just a pile of holy books but unholy hatred for American Christianity in much of the Islamic world. Pastor Pyro and his friends will most certainly become the Al Qaeda Poster Boys for thousands upon thousands of potential terrorists who are looking for every reason to hate followers of Jesus even more. And for the anti-jihad Muslim, this act of provocation will reinforce the stereotype of the anti-Muslim Christian.
The second lion's tail that would get pulled is that of Satan himself. 1 Peter 5:8 reminds us that, "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." This pending bonfire of stupidity would not be a harmless act of patriotism but an opening act for the Devil himself. Satan would use this to spread hate and close even more hearts to the good news that is found in Jesus alone.
The third lion's tail that would get pulled if this preacher follows through on his threats is that of the Lion of Judah. When God's children choose earthly ways of dealing with spiritual problems, He will take decisive action. If you don't believe me, take a look at how loudly the Lion of Judah roars at five of the seven churches of Revelation who were doing things their way instead of His.
Don't get me wrong, I, like this preacher, wholeheartedly reject the claims of Islam. It's a work-based religion that rejects the concept of Jesus being the Son of God and mocks the idea of a Trinity. The claims of the Koran stand at odds with the claims of Christ. But although I reject Islam, I love those who are subject to its strict demands. I have met some wonderful Muslims over the years and have engaged in many great conversations about these very issues. I am committed to rescuing as many Muslims as I can from the kingdom of darkness by helping them to see Jesus as more than a mere prophet, but the Savior of all those who trust in him alone for the salvation of their souls.
How do I plan on doing this? By lighting a match and burning a pile of Korans? No! I plan on following the strategic plan of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:3-5, where he wrote, "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
I refuse to use the weapons of this world and choose to engage the minds and hearts of my Muslim friends with the message of the gospel (yes, even the extreme ones who want to kill me), and I challenge you to do the same. The "weapon" we fight with is love, not hatred, living water, not burning fire.
My prayer is that this pastor chooses the way of Jesus and rejects the way of revenge. My prayer is that he refuses to pull the lion's tail. If he does, he will have the hot breath of three dangerous lions breathing down his neck. And that is not a pleasant place to be.
Take my word for it.