The Wheat and the Terrorists


Does this look to you like a prime target for Islamic fringe fanatics?

Not to me, either. In fact, this is what I looked at as I ate my lunch today. The Rideau Canal, a World Heritage Site, is one of the many features that give Ottawa its charm.

But my ride on the bus was surreal. I sat among a dozen or so hijab-draped Muslim women and who knows how many Muslim men–they’re sometimes harder to pick out–and read article after article about yesterday’s arrest of terrorist plotters (I guess I have to include the word, “alleged”) here in our city. It’s a big thing, and the articles were suitably dramatic, sporting screaming headlines, large photos and full-colour artist’s renderings of the suspects’ glaring faces. It was not something I could peruse inconspicuously–any passenger within three rows of me knew what I was reading, whether they spoke English or not. A picture is worth a thousand words in any language. 

One column in particular caught my attention. In his commentary, Kelly Egan wrote:

“…So, the news of the terrorist arrests in town puts the reasonable man in this awkward position:

If you begin to suspect your quiet Muslim neighbour, you are sliding down the slope of bigotry. If you don’t suspect your quiet Muslim neighbour, you are just hopelessly naive and possibly failing in your civic responsibility.

Seriously, what are we supposed to be on the lookout for? It has to be more than the word ‘Muslim’?”

It turns out that one of the three terrorists–alleged terrorists–nabbed in Ottawa and London, ON is a physician trained at McGill, one of Canada’s finest universities, and an avid floor hockey player and father of three who once appeared on Canadian Idol. Just how much more normal do you want your terrorists to be? It’s creepy.

Another suspect is a very capable x-ray technician who was employed at the Ottawa General, where my wife’s hematologist has her office and where we’d like to start a Bible study. Everyone loved the guy. The unique thing about this situation is the conspicuous absence of poverty, ignorance, political upheaval or any of the other predictable components of marginalization.  

It reminds me of Jesus’ parable about the wheat and the tares in Mat 13.24-30. The tares, or weeds, lived among the wheat unnoticed until the harvest, when they were discovered and burned up. In the same way that these men devised their sinister plot without the knowledge of those around them, enemies of God dwell among His people and can even pass themselves off as believers for a long time. Churches today are full of people like this, and just as there was a big surprise in Ottawa’s west end yesterday, there will be some big surprises in both heaven and hell when the harvest is brought in. 

Mr. Egan’s question at the end of the quote has a theological sibling: “Seriously, what is it we’re supposed to be on the lookout for? It has to be more than the word ‘Christian’?”

This incident shows us that a terrorist may not be known until he blows something up, or is led past his own picket fence in cuffs, or stands before the judge while evidence against him piles up as if it were being spewed out of a snow blower. It also illustrates what Jesus was teaching in Mat 13. His theological answer to Mr. Egan would be straightforward and concise: “You will recognize them [false prophets, in this passage] by their fruits.” (Mat 7.16)

In a world that grows less safe and more uncertain every day, it is a blessing to have the confidence that God knows the hearts of men and will evaluate them with justice and  righteousness. Even when we don’t know who’s who, He does.

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