Following the American and British forces withdrawal from Afghanistan, over the last week we have watched increasingly disturbing news reports about the resurgence of the Taliban and the way they are taking control of the region and the very real threat that they will re-establish their reign of terror in this nation.
For 20 years international troops have been “policing” and helping to keep a sense of order in the region. Twenty years is a generation. So the next generation of insurgents and terrorists have now emerged despite the previous defeat of the Taliban and the establishing of a society which, while perhaps not perfect was on the road to becoming a peaceful, tolerant society.
Setting aside arguments about cultural imperialism on the part of western societies, there is a much deeper observation we can make.
You cannot change people’s hearts and attitudes through political will or through military action.
This is a well attested truth the Bible records. In the Old Testament, there were a series of leaders called the judges, and each judge rescued Israel. Judges records a series of cycles which followed this pattern.
- The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord.
- The Lord gave them over to a foreign power who subdued them.
- They cried out to God
- God sent a judge to rescue them and bring them back to him.
- The land sees peace for the lifetime of the judge
- The judge dies.
- The people again do evil in the eyes of the Lord
And the cycle repeats itself.
In the book of 2 Kings, there is another example of this happening. We read that Josiah was 8 when he became king, and he re-established worship of God after a period of apostasy. He renewed the covenant with God to follow him with all his heart and all his soul, and he removed all the altars to other Gods. You can read about all he did in 2 Kings 22 and 23.
However, Josiah unwisely goes into battle against Pharaoh Neco at Megiddo and gets killed. His son Jehoahaz succeeds him – for three months, then Jehoahaz is taken in chains by Neco to Egypt and his brother Eliakim is made king. Eliakim has his name changed to Jehoiakim by Neco showing he is a ‘vassal’ of Neco. Both these sons of Josiah did evil in the eyes of the Lord.
Again, we see that the external actions of the king, the laws he enacted, had no lasting effect on the hearts of his sons or of the people who followed then straight back into idol worship.
This meteoric takeover by the Taliban in Afghanistan should not surprise us, because while our troops have merely been policing the region, ultimately although they have been ‘working with’ nationals, they are an occupying military force and military tactics are not suitable or able to change people’s hearts, so once the external restraints are removed, people will return to their “cultural defaults” and to their own worldview.
The only hope for real change in society lies in the heart of every man, woman and child. The only way to get a society to progress is internal, not external. In the Bible God says: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
Ultimately, the only answer to the hate we see in the world around us, and in the heart of men is the Gospel, and the only one who can rescue men from that hate is he who died on the cross and rose again on the third day – Jesus.