Does Jesus love all Muslims? No doubt your answer is an emphatic yes. Perhaps this verse pops up in your head: “God so loved the world…” (John 3:16)
We all agree that the life of Jesus on earth was characterized by love. In the three years of his ministry, our Lord touched the untouchables, reached out to children and women, and healed lepers and outcasts. He loved the poor and the weak, Jews and Greeks alike. Even the adulterous and demon possessed found love in him.
The gospels record many stories that demonstrate the love of Jesus toward others. Here are just three:
- Jesus loved Lazarus so much that he wept at his tomb. (John 11:36)
- Jesus loved the rich young ruler. (Mark 10:21)
- Jesus loved the tax collectors and sinners. (Luke 7:34)
The Two Faces of Love
The image of Jesus as gentle, kind and soft is offset by another face of him that most people do not like to admit. He was confrontational, outright rude, even expressing anger and physical violence at the temple. Was he any less loving in those situations?
Jesus loved like no one can love, yet he confronted people with the truth for their own sake.
How Jesus loved the Samaritan Woman
Watch Jesus love the Samaritan woman, yet confront her with the truth:
“You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. (John 4:22).”
But isn’t this an insult to her Samaritan religion? Can you in fact get yourself to say to a Muslim?
“You Muslims worship what you do not know, we Christians worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Christians?”
Notice how the Samaritan woman’s heart melted when she was confronted with the truth. In my experience, whenever I have told Muslims the truth, they appreciated it and responded positively. I will never forget the imam from Iraq who, after hearing me speak to him about Jesus for an hour, was ready for salvation. When speaking to him about assurance of salvation, I told him that his car insurance policy was more reliable than his religion. He folded his arms and pondered for a moment before he said: “Sahih, andak Haq,” (“true, you are right”). After praying the sinners prayer he admitted to me that he has been reading the Bible and listening to Arabic Christian radio for four years. He was ripe. He just needed a nudge.
How Jesus loved Nicodemus
Observe how Jesus was lovingly patient with the old man Nicodemus, yet he shocked him with the truth: “You must be born again.” (John 3: 1-7) Isn’t this insensitive toward a man who had this high position as a teacher of the Jews?
Several Imams were in my audience in Kazan, Tatarstan a few years ago. At the end of my hour long lecture on Jesus vs Muhammad, one of them blurted: “We cannot trust the Bible, it has been corrupted.” He was sitting in the front row. I pointed at him and with a loud and passionate voice I commanded him: “Get on your knees and repent from the sin of accusing God of being too weak to protect his holy word.” He was taken aback and shouted: “Sorry, I am sorry.” He ended up staying for several hours into the night inquiring about Jesus. When we speak with the loving authority Jesus gave us, people are shaken and awakened.
How Jesus Loved the Rich Young Ruler
Mark writes: “Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21) Doesn’t Jesus know that this man had spent a life time building his wealth? Asking him to give up everything is cruel and unreasonable. It would rock his entire lifestyle and expose him to hardships. To a western reader, Christ’s challenge to this man was hard enough, that he would ask him to give up his wealth. But an eastern reader recognizes immediately that selling all his possessions and giving them to the poor is not just a loss of personal finances, but also a rejection and betrayal of his entire extended family community, who relied on the resources of the ruler for its livelihood, status, and future.
Remember also that this man was religious. He had memorized and observed the law. Yet Jesus was not impressed by his devotion. Jesus did not hesitate to ask him to choose between following Christ and the world. This is tough but it is true love.
Jesus loved these people enough to confront them with the life-changing truth. Jesus did not give them just a touchy-feely love. He told them the truth in love. Because as Jesus said he did not come for the healthy but for the sick. (Luke 5:31) He came to seek and save the lost. (Luke 19:10) He was in the business of changing lives radically (that is, “from the root”).
How Jesus Loved the Pharisees
Jesus loved the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and teachers of the law, yet he was unrelenting in his attack on these Jewish leaders. He hurled insults and woes on them to their face and in the presence of the crowds. Matthew 23 is no gentle approach toward the Pharisees and teachers of the law. He said the harshest things against them.
- Jesus exposed their secret ungodly motives. Verses 1-7.
- Jesus called them hypocrites. Verse 13.
- Jesus told them “woe to you” ten times in this chapter alone.
- Jesus called them blind guides and blind fools. Verses 16, 17.
- Jesus called them “whitewashed tombs.” Verse 27.
- Jesus told them, “you are filled of hypocrisy and wickedness.” Verse 28.
- Jesus called them a brood of vipers and snakes. Verse 33.
- He judged them harshly. Verses 35-37.
- He accused them of being children of the devil. (John 8:44)
Jesus did not stop there, he also warned the public against them. “Be careful. Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees and against their teaching.” (Matthew 16:6,12)
What kind of love is this? This sounds more like hate than love doesn’t it?
Love as Jesus loved
No one ever loved as Jesus loved. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13) The love of Jesus was not in words, he loved to the last drop of his blood. How then can we explain his attack on the Jewish leaders?
The answer is really not that complicated. Jesus loved everyone in different ways. He spoke the love language that his audience needed to hear not what they wanted to hear. His love was tough love that shook his audience and confronted them with their sin.
How do we love Muslims the way Jesus loves?
Jesus called all people to repentance and a change of direction. Tough love may require shaking certain Muslims up and awakening them out of the lie they live and the false teaching they believe. To accept Muslims as they are may well be the most unloving thing you do. In my experience, when I have lovingly confronted Muslims, I have found them appreciative and responsive.
A man from Saudi Arabia begged me to tell him what I thought of Muhammad. I often try to dodge the question but this time I saw his sincerity and I told him outright that Muhammad is a false prophet and that Jesus predicted him. He sensed a deep relief and said: “I have been suspecting that myself for a long time”. People are looking for guidance from those in the know. If you are viewed as one who knows, do not deny people the truth.
Loving a Muslim often means creating a conflict in their mind and heart to force them to consider the claims of Christ that contradict their worldview. No one will change without experiencing deeply felt conflicts. I often tell Muslims, if Islam is not from God it is not your fault. You were born into it. But it would be your fault if you do not search for the truth.
We must create spiritual conflicts for those who are slumbering in the comfort zone of their religious beliefs and practices. This is what Jesus did. And this is what Jesus wants to do through us as we engage Muslims. His goal is to transform them into his likeness by calling them out of their miserable darkness into the his glorious kingdom of light. A gospel that does not shake up people and turn them upside down is not the gospel of Jesus.
Muslims everywhere are looking for rescue. They may resist you initially, but when they see that your motivation is to snatch them out of the fire of hell, they are likely to respond positively. Who on his way to hell would not appreciate you standing in their way and saying to them “STOP don’t go there! Please turn around and live.”
This is how we love the way Jesus loved.