The ninth anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks was solemnly remembered on Saturday. The Mosque-near-Ground-Zero debate and the possible burning of Qurans in Florida seemed to heighten the tensions all across our nation. President Obama pleaded for “tolerance,” and everywhere on the air waves people grappled with how to respond to Islam.
There are three clear responses we must make to Islam and Muslim peoples. If we fail at any of them, we and they will pay dearly for our mistake.
Before we look at those responses, let’s remind ourselves of the historical context. The clash of Western (Judeo-Christian) culture and Muslim civilization is one of the paramount struggles of the 21st century. It’s not a new battle, but it is new to us.
We have entered the era of the third jihad.
Gary Randall has written an excellent article on the triumphalism aspect of the Islamic holy wars. You can read that article by clicking here.
But now back to the brief history.
The first jihad started with Mohammad when his armies conquered all of Arabia. In the hundred years after his death, they subjugated most of the Middle East, North Africa and Spain. The first jihad lasted from 622 AD until 750 AD.
The second major jihad started in 1071 AD. Islamic armies toppled Constantinople and spread into Europe, India, and further into Africa. The second jihad began to decline when the Muslim army was stopped on September 11th, 1683 at the gates of Vienna, Austria. (Notice the interesting date of 9-11-1683.) Its remnants lived on until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I.
After that there was a sixty year lull in Islamic expansion. The Builder and Boomer generations grew up during this season of “Muslim quiet.” That’s why Islam was not on our radar screens. To us, the Muslim faith was a distant foreign religion of primarily poverty-stricken states scattered across the Middle East and Africa.
Then oil was found in Saudi Arabia. This launched the Wahhabiism era of the third jihad. Funded by petro dollars, militant Islamicists flexed their muscles once again, trying to remove Israel from Palestine and igniting a barrage of terrorism which continues to this day.
2740 Americans lost their lives on 9-11-2001 at the hands of the third jihad. The fight continues in America over building mosques and burning Korans.
What should be our Christian response? How should we react to increasing Muslim presence in our lives and world?
Let’s focus the question further. How does God want us to respond to Islam?
I believe there are three distinct categories of response.
First, there is our personal response to Muslim people. We are to love all people, including our enemies. This is the famous teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:43:48:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
The Sermon on the Mount was written for individual behavior, not the role of governments. As individual people, we are to love all people, including our enemies. We are never to take vengeance in our own hands or act as vigilantes. On the a personal level, we must love and forgive.
Why? Because on a personal level, God does the same thing. Our “Father in heaven” does not harbor selfish rage or bitterness. He does not stoop to the level of his race of rebels on earth. He is personally gracious toward the unworthy. On the Cross, Jesus even expressed forgiveness to those who were violently killing him.
We must be like him–and personally do the same.
As hard as it is, all the victims of 9-11 or any other even atrocity must personally choose to love their enemies. This keeps us from becoming like them and also provides motives for them to individually change. God wants all Muslim people to also come to repentance and faith. He wants to deliver them and set them free. Our personal loving acts toward them can be used by God to touch their hearts and bring them into the arms of the Savior.
As a follower of Christ, I must love all Muslims–including jihadists–when in personal contact with them. It is not my job as an individual to execute vengeance or justice. It is my job to try and win them for Christ through self-sacrificing love. He died for them as much as he died for me.
That’s why I agree with the cover story of a recent US Center for World Missions magazine that was entitled “Loving Bin Laden.” It was filled with numerous articles on how we must love Muslim people into the Kingdom of God. On a personal basis, it truly asked the question: How would Jesus personally treat Osama bin Laden?
The answer is that he loves him and died for him. As individual human beings, we must do the same to all Muslims that we meet.
But secondly, there is also a necessary governmental response to the third jihad. The government’s job is to protect its people by punishing evil-doers.This is the role of civil authority in a fallen world–to represent the justice of God on earth by bearing the sword on behalf of innocent people (Romans 13:1-8) . This is what makes the War on Terror so right and important. It is the responsibility of civil governments to bring criminals to justice and to defeat enemy armies. That is their God-given duty.
The same Jesus who tells us to personally love our enemies also instructs government to punish evil. He inspired both Matthew 5 and Romans 13. But his teachings apply to different domains.
Individuals are to love and forgive. Governments are to punish and protect.
Let’s stop confusing the two. President Obama, for one, is completely baffled on this issue. As a political leader that many consider very “intelligent,” he wrongly believes that the Sermon on the Mount cannot be squared with having a national military. That’s ridiculous. it doesn’t even meet the common sense test. We all know that as individuals, it is not our role to punish crime. That is the role of the governmental domain. Civil governments lock up criminals for the public good. National armies win wars to protect their people from evil.
The Bible doesn’t contradict itself. It just needs to be read in context and with common sense. The real Jesus who personally loves all people will also return one day in the role of a conquering King to exact governmental vengeance and justice against every form of evil (see Revelation 19).
Jesus knows he wears two different hats. One is his personal response toward sinners. The other is his governmental responsibility. Maybe Jeremiah Wright didn’t teach the difference at the Chicago church.
Thirdly, there is our philosophical response to Islam. The Muslim faith is a false religion. Even in its benign sense, it does not teach the truth about God or how human beings can be reconciled to him. In its moderate form it discriminates against women, and in its militant forms it rewards those who callously kill innocent people.
Islam is a false, deceptive ideology. We must firmly and politely expose and reject its false teachings on life and religion. We do not believe in relativity. There is truth and there is error.
This exposure of error includes the Quran. A few months ago I purchased a copy of the Quran because I hadn’t read it for over thirty years. I took the time to do so. I was again amazed at its poor writing style, bad grammar, historical errors, harsh attitude toward Jews and Christians, numerous ramblings, and open support of jihad (one hundred different verses).
Let’s stop apologizing for the “sacred writings” of Islam. There’s nothing sacred about them. In fact, probably one of the best things we could do in America is to encourage every person to read the Quran. If they did, they would purposefully reject the “recitations” (that’s the meaning of “Quran”).
Let’s not burn it. Let’s read it–and remind ourselves why we reject it. It doesn’t pass the muster of good literature, let alone Scripture.
To summarize, let’s be wise in our responses to Islam. On a personal level, let’s love all Muslims, including those who want to kill us. As citizens, let’s support our government and troops in winning the war against terror. And in the realm of literature and critical thinking, let’s civilly expose the falsehoods of an ideology that enslaves over one billion people.
If we respond rightly to Islam in these various ways, God’s love and power will be released to bring many Muslims into true “submission” (Islam” means submission) and his protection and blessings to our nation.
That will be wisdom for us and salvation for them.