Many of us can remember where we were and what we were doing when we were suddenly interrupted with the images of September 11, 2001. It was a tragic day as many were killed, destruction was inflicted, and fear was injected even as confusion and anger arose to a new level towards Muslims and Islam. Since 9/11/01, many leaders within Islam and Christianity have proposed that Islam is truly a religion of peace. Further, they argue that Islam and Christianity promote fundamentally the same thing, “love of God and love of neighbor.” Miroslav Volf, a well-known Christian leader, debates Nabeel Qureshi about the ‘same God issue’, namely that the God (Allah) of Islam and the Quran is the same referent as the God (Yahweh) of Christianity and the Bible. And the statements could go on and on. For many Christians—maybe most Christians—who truly trust and love Jesus and who want to engage lost people with kindness and love, the acts of 9/11/01, mixed with the popular statements of Islamic leaders and many Christian professionals, have left them at least confused about Islam and Muslims, and at worst wallowing in fear, anger, and apathy.
Surely all Christians should reject the Common Word statement for many, many reasons. Global peace is not dependent upon nor built upon simply Christians and Muslims getting along. Rather, God has established peace first and foremost between God and man based upon the person and work of Jesus Christ, and uniquely his shed blood (Eph 2:11-21; Col. 1:19-23). In addition, a basic, cursory reading of the Quran and knowledge of Islamic history and expansion provides a clear vision of how Islam was established and spread. Scripture clarifies that God displayed his love by sending His Son who laid down his life as a sacrifice. The sending of the Son was an act of love by the Father, and still God’s love was displayed as God the Son went to the cross as a display of redeeming love and justice for his enemies. At the very foundation of love of God and love of neighbor we simply do not see any man like Jesus. And still we know from the book of Acts, through the Epistles, and through the history of the Church that God’s kingdom has fundamentally advanced as Christians from all nations have picked up their cross and followed Jesus.
Nabeel Qureshi and others have shown from the Scripture that the God of the Bible is not the same referent as the god of the Quran, and neither should we view the Quran as an inspired book of God as we do the Bible.
But where does this leave us on the seventeenth anniversary of 9/11? Does it leave us confused, angry, and indifferent? Or have we arrived at September 11, 2018 conceding that Muslims do indeed worship the same God as Christians, though a bit differently, as we try to make sense of our daily lives and interactions with Muslim neighbors, colleagues and friends? Even this last week I talked with a pastor who holds this view.
Or are we confused, believing that Muslims do worship a different, unknown god, and their views of Jesus are not compatible with the Bible… and yet finding ourselves not completely able to articulate ourselves on these issues—and even if we were, we are still not sure whether we should say something to a Muslim about our differences?
When we are united by the Spirit of Christ with Jesus, Scripture clarifies that we gain the ‘mind of Christ’ (Phil 2:5). In Philippians Paul employs this reality to remind the Christian community of humility, counting others more significant than ourselves. The presence of the Spirit highlights that we are now members of the kingdom of God, and citizens of the everlasting city of God. Those without the Spirit, whether Jew or Gentile, are fundamentally under the power of sin, and members of the kingdom of Satan. Scripture is clear that these people are caught in a web of idolatry, whether that idolatry is poly-theistic or monolatry, and the only remedy for any form of idolatry is to receive the message of Jesus Christ, repent, and believe (Acts 17).
Do we see Muslims as an opportunity for Jesus to receive honor and glory? Do we see Muslims and think that God’s kingdom starts small and came with weakness, and yet, that very weak little single seed arose from the grave and the power of God exploded a new creation? Do we trust that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation? Do we see Muslims and allow fear to grip our heart, minds and actions? Or do we take all thoughts captive to Christ and overcome fear, confusion, and apathy with the loving, true Words of Jesus and the Bible and engage Muslims by word and deed?
Friends, today on 9/11, as many people reflect on 2001, and many news organizations highlight memorials, and today as many Muslims in the U.S. try to figure out what it means for them to be a Muslim in America—amidst all of this, … how will we? … how will you? … how will I engage them with Truth and Love so that my thinking and my actions are foundationally shaped by union with Christ and citizenship in the Kingdom of God?