I’m not a prophet or the son of a prophet, but I’m a shepherd (Amos 7:14 paraphrased). I do not have the supernaturally given gift to know the future, though a prophet may. I’m a shepherd, a pastor. One of the responsibilities God has given the shepherd is to protect the flock, the Body of Christ, the Church (Acts 20:29-31). I take this duty seriously. My desire is to honor Jesus by carrying out my responsibility to guard the flock. I understand the Acts passage is concerned with guarding against false doctrines and false teachers. The problem I am writing about is not false doctrine, but a problem with the sheep themselves!
If you’re still reading this then you’re willing to hear some criticism about how we Christians are (mis)understanding our role as ambassadors of Jesus, especially in light of Islam. So my aim is to offer two observations about Islam and Christians. Then I chastise the Church—euphemistically, it’s a “course correction”—which is followed by a suggested behavior change the Church must begin to make. So if you’re willing to put up with possible criticism, keep reading.
Observation one: Islam is the religion, but the person is a Muslim. Over and over I am amazed by the confusion of Christians about these two words. Islam is the religion. Muslim is the person. The religion of Islam is the codification of the life of Muhammad as the final prophet of Allah. Islam is known for its 5 pillars, jihad, sharia—it’s not “sharia law,” just sharia because sharia is Islamic law—masjid (mosque), and madrassa (Islamic school). Islam is the religion and Muslim is the person.
Observation two: Muslims are made in the image of God. Islam is a religion that blinds men and women to the truth about Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). Islam’s Jesus is not a Jesus recognizable to Christians! Muslims are victims of a religion that emphasizes perfection by the flesh (see Galatians 3:1-3). Islam is systematic enslavement of Muslims. Islam is a religion that should be hated and loathed by the Church—yes, those are strong words; however, Christians must love Muslims (I’ll tell you what this looks like below). Christians must defend the dignity and honor of Muslims. Christians must be hospitable to Muslims. Christians must stop demonizing Muslims. The religion must be critiqued, criticized, analyzed, and shown for what it is: a religion that makes the example of Muhammad’s life and teachings the norm for all Muslims.
My humble course correction for the Church is 5 words. Love the Muslim. Hate Islam. Please stop hating Muslims. Our hatred for Muslims does not honor Jesus. How does our responsibility as ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) square with being misinformed and full of misplaced hate? How does hatred for Muslims reveal God’s reconciliation of the world? The last time I checked, the “world” included anyone that doesn’t know Jesus—or even hates him. This leads me to the behavior change I believe the Church must make in light of Islam, Muslims, and terrorism.
Let me iterate. I hate Islam. There is nothing good in a religion that glorifies a 6th century tribal warlord, his sexual exploits, and his megalomaniacal plans to submit humanity to his religion; yet I love Muslims. I have defended their honor before Christians. I have had Muslims in my home for meals, for visits, and even to live. I have visited with Muslims in their homes. I have Muslim friends. I don’t nervously look over my shoulder when I know Muslims are nearby.
My challenge to each Christian is to do the hard work of separating, distinguishing, and understanding the differences between the religion of Islam and the person, the Muslim. The Church must love Muslims, and the biblical way to love them is to talk about Jesus. It’s not enough to show your hospitality to a Muslim, but it is loving to share Jesus while hosting them in your home. It is loving to point out the inadequacies of Islam to a Muslim. It is loving to admit your own misgivings and fears about Islam, while affirming your compassion for the Muslim. Don’t fall into the trap of making enemies of those who bear the image of God. When the Church hates Muslims, we dishonor and diminish the death and resurrection of Jesus. When the Church loves Muslims, Jesus is given his rightful place of honor as God and Savior of all humanity.