By Pastor Stephen Hess –
Sometimes it seems that our culture is less and less interested in questions about faith and religion. However, religion has been one of the most debated topics in our national discussion over the past year. As Islamic terrorism is on the rise, even creeping its way into the west (as we saw in Paris and San Bernardino), more Americans are asking questions about Islam: Is the religion of Islam inherently violent or has it merely been hijacked by a small group of extremists who don’t represent mainstream Islam? How should Americans respond to a growing population of Muslims within our country?
These are good questions, but as Christians we have a different set of questions we must first ask as we try to understand the world around us. In particular, before we can answer all of these practical questions we must ask some theological ones. Most importantly, what does the Bible say about how Christians should think about Islam? One recent article by Pastor Kevin DeYoung suggested that there are three Biblical categories Christians should consider when thinking about Islam.
First, with regard to faith, Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God. In recent years, many people have over-exaggerated the commonalities between Christianity and Islam while minimizing the differences. Some have claimed that Muslims and Christians worship the same God because both religions are monotheistic and trace their faith back through the patriarch Abraham. But this claim is false and the reason is simple: Christians worship a triune God who exists as three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Muslims outright reject this view of God. Furthermore, Christians believe that God revealed himself definitively through his Son Jesus Christ, and Jesus said no one can come to God except through him (John 14:6). The Bible also says that those who reject Christ reject God himself (1 John 2:23). Therefore it simply isn’t possible that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.
Second, with regard to identity, Muslims are our neighbors but they are not our brothers and sisters. In recent days I have seen Christian leaders respond to incidents of terrorism in vastly different ways. Unfortunately some have responded by over-generalizing and making hateful comments about all Muslims. Others, in an effort to prevent discrimination against peaceful Muslims have released statements of solidarity and have even called peaceful Muslims our “brothers and sisters.” From a Biblical perspective, however, this language is inaccurate and misleading. Like all other human beings, Muslims are made in the image of God and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. But this does not mean that they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. The Bible uses those terms only for fellow Christians. As DeYoung puts it, “Muslims may be friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even biological family members. But only those who are born again by the Spirit can rightly be called our spiritual brothers and sisters (see John 1:12-13).”
Third, with regard to response, Christians should be both loving and evangelistic. We will undoubtedly have more Muslim neighbors in the United States as time goes by. Jesus calls us to love all of our neighbors, even those who we would consider our enemies (Matt. 5:43-48). Therefore, Christians should look for opportunities to show Christ’s love to our Muslim neighbors. But we should also seek to share the gospel with our Muslim neighbors. Ultimately, Scripture says that only those who believe in Jesus Christ and make him Lord of their lives will inherit the Kingdom of God and receive eternal life. This means that Christians should have an urgency to share the gospel not only with Muslims, but with all non-Christians. The apostle Peter reminds us that “there is salvation in no one else [besides Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Therefore we must never forget that the most loving thing we can do for any non-believer is to share the good news with them.