These days there seems to be a great division between two camps of thinkers, particularly in the Western world. Side one argues that Islam is a religion of peace, and we should welcome oppressed foreigners in our midst regardless of religion. The other side claims that many Muslims are terrorists and we need to protect ourselves from their overbearing influence and potential danger to our way of life. I take issue with both of these perspectives for different reasons, but let me take a slightly more personal detour to make a central point:
I love being associated with Christ. Jesus is, to me, the most fascinating, wonderful, brilliant, person to ever walk the earth. Everything in me wants to be as much like him as possible. Unfortunately, all too often, my life does not look like His. In fact, in many ways, the entire religion of Christianity has ventured from His likeness. Some of that is out of willful disobedience and some is due to the simple fact that it’s hard to sustain a movement like the one Jesus started without eventually boxing it into one particular form or size or structure. We often fail to accurately represent Jesus to the world.
.Gandhi said “I like Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”…John Lennon said, “Jesus was alright, but His disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.”.
All this to say, while there are many things about the organization of Christianity that make me proud to be found among its ranks, there are also a lot of things “our people” say and do that make me want to separate myself from the institution. I know there are many people who reach a similar conclusion, although they may journey there in a very different way than I do.What I’m getting at is that I don’t want to be judged by my association with a religion. I want to be judged by my likeness to Jesus. (And I’ll be the first to admit, as I already have, that I have a long way to go in reaching that reality.)Today, all across the world, Islam is on the rise. A couple weeks ago I read an article that said if current trends continue, by 2050 the number of Muslims will equal the number of Christians on the planet. All of us, and particularly those of us who are followers of Jesus, need to determine how we are going to approach the topic. Here is my genius suggestion: stop approaching it like a topic and start treating Muslims like people.
In the same way that I don’t care to be lumped into whatever stereotypes people hold about Christianity, I don’t think it’s fair to talk about Muslims as one complete, uniformed entity. We can evaluate Islam as a religion, just as we can evaluate Christianity as a religion. But in the same way that there are many Christians who do not look like Christ (I’m on the journey myself), there are many Muslims who do not hold to the fundamental tenants of Islam.
Many of the Muslims we currently live amongst are, like all of us, products of their cultural environment, and their ties to Islam are about as close as many American country singers’ ties are to Christianity. My neighbors are peace loving, generous, hospitable people. I feel safer walking the streets of downtown Beirut at night than I did in any of the American cities we have previously lived in. I had never been asked by the owner of a convenience store to come inside and sit down for a cup of coffee until I moved to the Arab world.So how do we respond to Muslims? The same way we respond to any human being made in the image of God: with love. With sincerity. With concern for their physical and spiritual needs. Not just with words to speak, but also with ears to hear. I’d say the Pope did a good job upholding these ideals in his recent exchange with a group of migrants in Europe.
Nabell Qureshi was born in Pakistan to Muslim parents, but as he grew up he explored the claims of Christ and ultimately became His follower. He currently works with author and apologist Ravi Zacharias. In one recent article,he says this:
If we want to know how to respond, if we want to understand what the security risk is, both internal and external in the United States… we need to understand what Islam is versus who Muslims are, otherwise we’ll just get caught up in this rhetoric.
Let’s not get caught up in the rhetoric. Let’s not add to the noise. Let’s love like Jesus.