The day after Emad Al Swealmeen was killed in a taxi by the improvised bomb he had built himself, the newspapers were full of reports that he was a failed asylum seeker who had converted to Christianity. He had done an Alpha Course at Liverpool Cathedral, and there is speculation that he had intended to detonate the explosive device at a Remembrance Day service there. He was confirmed at the cathedral in 2017, and at that time he stayed for eight months at the home of Malcolm Hitchcott, a Christian activist in Liverpool, who said that he was sure that Al Swealmeen was a Christian; they had a great time praying and studying the scriptures together.
So what went wrong? How did someone who had become a Christian on an Alpha course end up dying in a botched suicide bomb attack? There are reports that Al Swealmeen had mental health problems, and that he was angry that his application to stay in the UK had been rejected. There are also suggestions that his ‘conversion’ was merely an attempt on his part to bolster his application for asylum. Jesus warned us, ‘By their fruits you will recognise them,’ thereby making it clear that following him is about our lifestyle, not just about a one-off profession of faith. So, when Al Swealmeen was taught about salvation by faith, were the lifechanging implications of that spelt out to him? Was he discipled properly and effectively? Had he been radicalised since 2017? Or was he so overwhelmed by anger and despair that he wanted to end his life and take as many other people with him as he could? We may never know. It is God who will judge him, and God knows the secrets of all our hearts. Perhaps we should just be deeply grateful that no one else was killed, and that the taxi driver escaped with only minor injuries.
But what about you? If you are a Christian, how long is it since you invited Jesus to be Lord of your life? What difference did that make to you back then? And, more importantly, what difference does having Jesus in your life make to you now? We may make an initial commitment to Jesus by saying a prayer and by getting baptised, but that is just the start of a lifelong relationship with him. So where are you now? Does Jesus want to renew that relationship with you, or maybe even start from scratch? Don’t let a spiritual vacuum develop in your life: ask Jesus to fill you afresh with his Holy Spirit and give you his mindset of life and peace. Those who belong to Christ have the Spirit of Christ, and that alone is the sign of authentic faith, the hallmark of the true Christian.