100 Answers in 100 Days

More questions answered on this blog:

Sharing answers to the various questions of faith I have faced, and which others have been challenged with also.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

#61: How should Christians react to the rise of Islam?

There is a growing awareness in our society of the increase in numbers of Muslim worshipers. Just a few blocks from my home, for example, a new mosque is being built right now. We've also seen things like the introduction of “Halal” products in our supermarkets. And we find many emails and YouTube videos (like this one called Muslim Demographics), which are beginning to stir up a fear of this rise in the Muslim population. We might understand this fear in light of the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, which was the work of a radical Muslim sect. Some of the emails I've seen draw attention to practices like amputating the hands of thieves; so that we're left to wonder what our world might become like if Muslims become the majority and begin to influence things like the legal system. And we ought not to be na├»ve to the fact that Islam began as a militant religion, converting people to Islam by force. And it's true that this militant side of Islam still exists today. But the reality is that only around 10 percent of all Muslims are radical, “Shi'ite” Muslims. Most Muslims are really very much like anyone else. Generally, we don't fear the Jewish, or the Mormons, or atheists, or whatever other faiths. Neither should we have this fear of Muslims. We really need to be wary of what is really a ploy of the Devil to cause fear in our hearts towards Muslims. When we react out of fear, rather than acting out of love, we have fallen for the Devil's trickery and we are not behaving according to the Spirit of God. All Muslims are people just like us; sinners in need of Jesus Christ. We need to be prepared to invite Muslims into our lives; into our homes and our churches. We need to be their friends, not their enemies. They need to hear the gospel.

The Bible says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). We, the Church, are the “Body of Christ”. That means that we are His hands and His feet and His mouthpiece, to go and speak all that He desires to say in this world, and to do all the He desires to do. Why did God give His only Son? “That whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” The salvation of souls is what Christ's mission is all about. We are to imitate Christ. Do we “so love the world” and desire the salvation of all the world, including Muslims? Of course we should have a desire to see Muslims saved. Fear of them may keep us from sharing the gospel with them. I am addressing an issue here which I have found amongst Christians; that their fear of Muslims has made them unsure of how to react to the growing Muslim presence.

Should there be a legitimate fear and avoidance of Muslims? Well, even if it were true that Muslims meant harm against Christians, consider that unbelieving Jews and Romans ultimately put Christ to death. And the unbelieving world that Paul preached to ultimately put him to death, as well as very many Christians who were persecuted for their faith in the first few centuries, A.D. The unbelieving world will oppose Christians; whether Muslims, or atheists, or anybody else – But how we treat our enemies, and how we approach them with the saving gospel of Christ ought to be as the Bible teaches us. We extend the love of Christ towards all mankind, sharing the gospel of salvation with all. Jesus said:

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:44-45)

Even if the Church undergoes persecution at the hand of some anti-Christian movement, we need to “love our enemies” (and I emphasise this bit...) “so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” That is to say, “so that we can be imitators of God”, who doesn't treat the evil any differently from the good (the sun rises on both). We need to share the gospel with all people, without distinction. That also means being careful not to show favouritism towards a particular group of people. For many Christians today, there is a keen effort to evangelise the Jews; which can actually become a perfect example of favouritism. As one writer put it, “a bumper sticker which reads 'Christians for Israel' might as well say 'Christians against Islam'”. Let's not exclude anybody from God's world mission!

We cannot deny that some Muslims do mean harm, not only to Christians but to anyone who opposes Islam. But most Muslims are not like that and disapprove of that branch of Islam as much as anyone would. Let's be careful what we believe as we take in all these things on television and the Internet, never forgetting who we are in Christ.

Until tomorrow...
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:18-19)

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