Other European countries worry with the Swiss that Islam’s expansion coupled with the Christendom’s shrinkage will lead to the imposition of Sharia law. American communities set up hurdles to thwart construction of mosques (p. 18). The majority of U.S. Christian ministers consider Islam to be dangerous (p. 6).
What are we to do about Islam? What can we say about Muslims? One thing we can say is that most Muslims are likeable people. At the risk of sounding condescending, let’s state the obvious. Most Muslims — whether they live in Jakarta or Dearborn — are regular folks trying to raise their families, pay their bills, build friendships, enjoy holidays, and live a responsible life. And they’re people whose beliefs prompt them to be good neighbors to the rest of us. Most of those I know have a great sense of humor. They’re regular folks.
Some Muslims are dangerous — fanatics to be feared. Every major religious system has bred some monsters at some time in its history. We Christians can’t gloss over the sins of either the Crusaders or the Nazis (on whose belt buckles they inscribed “Gott mit uns,” i.e., “Emmanuel/God is with us”). In today’s world it’s a cluster of Muslims who have twisted their faith into a monstrous evil. “Not all Muslims are terrorists,” a Jordanian Islamic leader recently assured me; “but,” he lamented, “most terrorists are Muslim.”
Nevertheless, the statement still stands: most Muslims are not terrorists and are, indeed, likeable people.
Secondly we can say that the devotion of most Muslims puts to shame the self-indulgence of most Christians. How many folks in our churches stop all activities to pray on their knees even once a day, no less five times a day? How many of our children memorize even a book of the Bible, no less the whole Bible? Yet daily prayers and whole Quran memorization are the rule, not the exception, among Muslims. Would we be decrying Biblical ignorance or cheap grace, were we to incorporate such spiritual practices into our daily routines?
A third thing: Islam misses the message of grace. Having been raised in a distorted brand of Christianity that hung salvation out as the carrot at the end of the stick, Blessed Assurance overwhelmed me when I entered into a relationship with God made effective not by my behavior but by Jesus’ redemption. Islam operates with that proverbial carrot. “He that works evil will not be requited but by the like thereof: and he that works a righteous deed — whether man or woman — and is a Believer — such will enter the Garden (of Bliss): Therein will they have abundance without measure.” (al-Quran 40:40)
Such language echoes the Biblical principle of sowing-and-reaping. However, grace grants us unmerited favor. Christ’s atoning work — incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension — paid the necessary price for that gift to be bestowed. And now we serve God out of gratitude for the gift rather than as sweat-dripping effort to hopefully gain God’s favor. I long for Muslims to experience the gift of blessed assurance.
Finally: We Christians are duty-bound to make peace with Muslims.
We can debate till the cows come home the question of salvation for Muslims. Some say Islam offers a valid path to God. Some say all Muslims, not having accepted Christ as Savior, are doomed to hell. Others affirm that Jesus alone saves, but that his salvation may be extended to people of genuine devotion, even if misguided theologically, because such devotion would never come about in sinners unless prompted by the Holy Spirit. In other words, the same grace of the Lord Jesus Christ that gets extended to infant children, saving them by means beyond their comprehension, may also be extended to devoted adults who do not comprehend the gift of Christ’s salvation.
Regardless of which position we might take, what we do know is that Muslims live right now in our midst. And we believers are commanded, “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Rom. 12:18) That command is followed with admonitions to refuse to avenge ourselves; to feed and refresh our enemies; and to return good for evil.
So what are we to do about Muslims? Befriend them, if accessible. Learn from them, where valuable. Proclaim to them, when possible. Love them, regardless.