Since 9/11, the West has been skeptical and downright fearful of the Muslim faith. And rightfully so, given the attacks on 9/11 in the name of Islam. The American Church has, at times, led the skepticism, especially conservative evangelicals like myself. You don’t have to look far to see documentaries and books and other media that serve to warn us about the growing Muslim presence in the world.
As a believer–how should a Christian respond to Islam? I’ve thought about this quite a bit in the last year. Should we cower in fear? Should we spread fear? What should we do?
Now, as a believer in the orthodox truths of the gospel, I believe Islam to be a sincere, but misguided religion, one that leads their followers away from an eternity with God in Heaven. Jesus said in John 14, “I am the way, the truth, the life.” I believe that. I also am troubled by the jihad we hear from many parts of Islam and I’m disturbed by the way in which Islamic radicals have threatened and even murdered anyone who exposes the dark parts of their religion.
However, as Christians, I think we have a responsibility to communicate the truth. And often we’ve been guilty of spreading misleading information, especially when it comes to Islam, Islamic nations, and terrorism. The truth is that Islam is a complicated religion and not all of its adherents believe in Jihad. In fact, only a tiny percentage of them believe in and subscribe to radicalism.
Now, I generally believe the media has been favorable to Islam and antagonistic to Christianity. I believe this falls in line with Jesus’ prediction and James words to the early church that followers of Christ would always be persecuted and never be popular (John 15:18).
However, that doesn’t mean we Christians should be part of spreading information that isn’t true. Nor should we be so beset by fear that we adopt attitudes that keep us from wanting to see Muslims come to faith in Christ. God has called us to love Muslims. It’s hard to love someone when you consider them your enemy.
Does that mean we should soften our anti-terrorism policy? No. Does that mean the government doesn’t have the right to pursue terrorists and put them to death? No. Clearly the Bible gives us that authority (Romans 13:4).
But, as followers of Christ, we should live in the truth, walk in love, and avoid “the spirit of fear.” We should also be discerning with all the media we consume–liberal media and conservative media. We should learn about the Middle East, rather than letting our ignorance keep us from engaging people who are different than we are. I think of Jesus’ approach with the Samaritan woman. The Samaritans were people the Jews were supposed to hate and fear. Jesus went out of his way to meet this lady so He could introduce bring her redemption, grace, and a relationship with God. He was faithful to confront her sin, her false beliefs, but Jesus didn’t have any animosity. He sidestepped the social prejudice and another soul was added to the Kingdom.
I also think of the admonition in James 1, where the brother of Jesus and leader of the early church rebukes Christians for showing favoritism, which, in the original language actually means, “lifting up the face.” Diving by race or ethnic background is against to the gospel.
I have to admit that I’ve often been guilty of this kind of stereotyping. I’ve looked at cultures and said, “Hey, all of ____ are like this.” Of this I need to repent. Because as followers of Jesus, we are called to live out the truth of the gospel, desiring all nations (Matthew 28:19) come to knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.