In the last message of Mixed Signals, we take a look at Islam and how Kingdom people should be responding to the growing worldwide Islamic movement. We explore the growing disparity between the life Jesus led and calls us into and the normal worldly response to those who are different or potentially threaten our way of life.
For many western people, the word Islam immediately conjures up thoughts of terrorism, radicalism, Taliban, ISIS, Al Qaeda, and growing worldwide violence associated with Islamic extremists. News stories and documentaries have seared the demonic images of beheadings and bombings in our minds and many have responded out of fear. Our brains function, especially when we’re afraid, by recognizing patterns and responding to protect our self. Unfortunately this has led to many associating all Muslims with terrorism. Although the religion of Islam has exploded in growth over the past few decades in America (4x growth in the Twin Cities) and around the world (estimates near 1.6 billion worldwide), the fraction of Muslims participating in violent extremism is extremely small.
As Kingdom minded people we need to guard our hearts from being sucked in to a fear based way of living that dehumanizes people by putting labels on them. We are called to live in love – live in a way that drives out fear. Our love isn’t complete if we’re living in fear. We’re not called to love based on merit, but rather indiscriminately like God who loves like the rain falls and the sun shines. Instead, many Christians have let fear guide their actions toward prejudice, hatred, and retaliatory violence.
In reality, much of peoples’ fear is irrational and has been swayed by the extremely small minority of Muslims that participate or support violent activities. While it is true the Koran doesn’t have a New Testament like prohibition against violence, we as Kingdom people must by honest when asking ourselves how many Christians actually adhere to Jesus’ teaching on non-violence and enemy love. In fact, whether or not Islam is based on violence or not is actually irrelevant when defining what our response to Muslims should be. We’re called to love in a way that drives out fear whether it actually does make sense to be afraid or not.
In Matthew 5 Jesus was talking to a Jewish audience under the unjust persecution of the Roman Empire who ruled by a form of power over terrorism. These Romans are the people Jesus told the Jews to love sacrificially, bless, and do good to. This would be analogous to America being taken over and ruled by ISIS, and our call as Kingdom people to treat ISIS the same way the Jews were called to treat the Romans. Loving of enemies is one the distinguishing marks of a Kingdom disciple. We are known as God’s children in so much as we love the way Jesus loved, dying for those who were persecuting him, forgiving them with His last breaths while they were still enemies.
The question isn’t what percentage of Muslims are acting violently towards us. Whether it’s 0.000006% or 100%, our call is to put our trust and authority in Jesus Christ who modeled love by His death on the cross, even for those who couldn’t deserve it less. It wasn’t common sense, but it was beautiful. We’re called love people as individuals, not file them in to categories.
Lastly, there are actually many areas of commonality with Islam and Christianity that can spark healthy conversations with Muslim folks we’re meeting. Islam has a very high regard for Jesus as a prophet, but differs in several key areas. They don’t believe he rose from the dead and because they view Him as merely a human prophet they see it as blasphemous to worship or pray to Him. In the Koran a person is judged solely on their merits, so the NT idea of forgiveness and grace for free is a very foreign concept to Muslims. That said, because everyone human being was created with a longing and hunger for unconditional love, this can be a great area to engage and share the uniquely Christian picture of God.
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