I read an editorial a couple of weeks ago that said that Islam was evil. I was troubled by it, so I started reading the Koran, to see what is says. To see if it was “evil.”
Now you all know that unlike some modern day Episcopalians, I actually do believe in “evil.” I do believe in the existence of “false prophets,” and I do believe that there are enemies of God among mankind and in the universe at large. But you know, it surprised me what the Muslim Scriptures actually say. At least with regard to Jesus. They says he was born of the virgin Mary, by the will of God, in a miraculous way. They say Jesus lived without sin. They say Jesus was resurrected from the dead, and ascended into heaven. The Koran even calls Jesus the “Messiah” in a few passages.
And while the Koran does deny the Christian idea that Jesus was somehow the Son of God, nonetheless Muslims are called to give respect and authority to Jesus the man. So much respect in fact, that the growing hatred of Christians by Muslims around the world becomes all the more surprising.
Yes, it’s all very confusing.
I have tried to make sense of it by looking at the differences between the Koran and the Gospel. And also between Mohammed and Jesus. And there are some key differences.
First, Muslims believe that Mohammed was a completely illiterate prophet who miraculously wrote the Koran, word for word, in fluent Arabic. The Koran is a complex book, complete with a startling awareness of Hebrew and Christian stories and teachings, and offering a rigid code of laws and principles for the ordering of Muslim everyday life.
Christians, on the other hand, believe that Jesus was a literate scholar of Hebrew Scriptures, managed to write not a single book. The only thing we Christians believe Jesus ever wrote is what he has etched on our hearts — that humble and holy message which says, “Love the Lord Your God, and Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.”
He wrote no book, invented no new system — offering only spiritual and physical healing, the face of God’s true nature, and the promise of a personal saving relationship with God for all people regardless of time, place or background.
Mohammed personally led conquering armies of warriors against neighboring lands and peoples. By his leadership, he assumed the crown of kingship, and he physically unified the previously scattered and pagan Arab tribes, fashioning them into a committed army of conquering monotheists.
Jesus on the other hand was totally nonviolent. The only thing Jesus ever conquered were the hearts and minds of the people who witnessed him. And when he was crucified, his followers were weak, scattered, and abjectly depressed. And while they grew in faith, they were oppressed by the state for three centuries.
But whereas Jesus said it was better to be poor, hungry, weeping and reviled for the sake of the God of mercy and salvation – within a few centuries, many of his followers would become rich and powerful themselves. Instead of being poor and reviled for the sake of the Gospel, they would seek riches and power, struggling with themselves and other religions all in the name of Christ.
It’s very confusing.
On the one hand, we have Islam, which in Arabic means submission to God’s peace. It is the only non-Christian religion which reveres Jesus in its most sacred writings. And yet it was founded by a prophet who was a conquering, legalistic warrior who acted nothing like Jesus.
On the other hand, we have the Good News of Jesus Christ, which was begun by a pacifist who taught that we should love our enemies and show mercy to those who revile us for God’s sake, because even God is kind and merciful to the wicked. And yet in the name of Christ, Christians have gone on crusades, sold slaves, and killed every different kind of person.
So what is the deal? Are we both just a bunch of nuts?
Well I’m afraid I really don’t know that much about Islam. I am not a Muslim, and I never will be. I appreciate some of the Koran’s teachings, I guess, and I appreciate the discipline and fervor which so many Muslims possess – but as a Christian, I believe in certain key areas, the Koran is plain wrong.
But whether I agree with all of the Koran or not, I don’t believe I am called to kill Muslims. Or hurt them. Or hate them. Or make fun of them. Or disrespect them. Indeed, I feel very uncomfortable even telling you my opinion about their religion.
Because in the way of Jesus, I believe I am called to love them. The way Christ loved us.
For as C.S. Lewis says, Christians have only one goal: “to become like Christ.” We are called to be nothing less than flesh of his flesh, mind of his mind, heart of his heart, will of his will.
We are called to be like him.
And this means we are called to be humble.
To be grateful to God for everything.
To be forgiving of ourselves and everyone around us when we miss the mark.
And if we can become these humble persons, who love God with a thankful heart, and one another and ourselves with a forgiving spirit of mercy, then we will become those sacred, holy people, who are called the saints of God.
It won’t require miracles. Or solitary lifestyles. Or extreme acts of mysterious power. We won’t need to become kings in this world. We won’t need to conquer our neighbor in the name of God. We won’t need a million rules to keep us pure.
We need only the conviction that God is. That God made us. That God loves us. And that God will keep us close to his heart no matter what evil comes our way and no matter what damage is done to our bodies, minds and feelings.
You see a saint is like Christ.
So in the face of our current fear. In the face of our current anxiety, let us see this as nothing more than a test of our calling to be Holy. Our calling to be humble. Our calling to be thankful to God. Our calling to be forgiving of others: especially of those who are ungrateful, unforgiving, misguided, and even just plain-old wicked.
You see I’m not afraid of Muslims in general, or foreigners in general, or even terrorists in particular. I’m afraid for us, that we will turn against the very message of forgiveness which defines our Lord and Saviour’s entire ministry, all because we have been attacked by the wiles of evil, and now we want revenge.
A chilling thing happened last week which points this out. A handful of Muslims went to a Church in Pakistan and killed 16 person as they worshipped God. It turns out the victims were Pakistani Episcopalians. Afterwards, many of the victims’ fellow Christians, gathered outside the church chanting, “Revenge, Revenge, Revenge.”
It is so sad. Because this is not it. This is not what Christ teaches.
For while it is important to defend our homes, our children, and our churches, and our nation against the attacks of evil doers — how much more important is it to defend the calling we have in Christ Jesus to be like him? The Son of God who humbled himself to become one of us — to set us free from the tricks, and snares of evil tempters.
You see God has called us to be like his Son.
The Son who died for the sins of the whole world. The Son who teaches that God’s revenge is shown by Our mercy. Amen.