Last week was a terrible week for France… and really for the whole world. Muslim radicals stormed the office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and executed twelve. A few days later, another group of radical Muslims killed four Jewish men in a supermarket.
While over a million, including world leaders, marched in Paris in protest of terrorism, Charlie Hebdo, in their spirit of defiance, began publishing their new article. Despite the offense it caused the Muslim community, the cover featured a cartoon drawing of Muhammad crying with the phrase “All is forgiven” above his head. Inside the issue, Islam was not the only religion they targeted. “For the past week, Charlie, an atheist newspaper, has achieved more miracles than all the saints and prophets combined,” the editorial read. It even bragged that the turnout of a million people at a march in Paris to condemn terrorism was larger “than for mass.”
Meanwhile the phrase “Je suis Charlie” has become the world’s new anthem – a sign of solidarity behind the notion of freedom of speech and press. “Je suis Charlie” has a sweet ring to it; it smoothly rolls off the tongue. French is such a beautiful language, and just saying those three simple words makes you even sound like a Parisian and one who is cultured in the ways of freedom.
But I must ask the hard question: Am I really Charlie? Do I really identify with an atheist magazine who pokes fun of religions, including my own – Christianity? Do I identify with people who just had their whole world blown up and instead of introspection, they turn to satire and making fun?
I can’t really say I do. I can’t really say, “Je suis Charlie.”
Sometime ago, I watched a video of one of those awful Westboro Baptist protests where they attended a funeral parade for a fallen soldier, protesting how God hates America and loves dead soldiers. On the other side of the street, people began hurling insults at them, threatening all sorts of violence. In my disgust of those Westboro folks, I got caught up in the moment. I could feel my blood pumping, salivating at the thought that one of those patriots was going to cross the street and give the “so-called Christians” a good pounding.
Suddenly, I heard this slithering inner voice say, “Choose your side.”
Have you ever played the game – “would you rather?” It goes something like this: You are presented with two options, and you have to choose one. But in order to make the game fun, the choices are hypothetical extreme, repulsive, and really something you would never want to choose. But because you’re presented with two choices, you must choose one. “Would you rather be half your height or double your weight?”
One of Satan’s craftiest tricks is that he gets us to choose between two false choices. In Eden, it was, “Eat and be like God, or don’t eat and don’t be like God.” When tempting Jesus, it was “turn stones into bread, or starve.” In that video, it was choose violence or Westboro. In Paris, it’s choose the atheist Charlie or radical Islam.
Satan is always assaulting our identity. He is always trying to strip away our identity in Christ, and he does this by offering choices as though they’re the only two choices we have. “Would you rather…?” is one of Satan’s favorite games. “Are you an atheist who makes fun of Christianity or a radical Muslim who kills atheists.”
Jesus offers us permission to politely say “neither.” He offers us the freedom to step outside the game and false choices and say, “Je suis Redeemed – I am redeemed in Christ.” I am everything that Jesus stands for. I am with Him, I have His identity, and I claim His choices above all.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! -1 Corinthians 5:17