It needs to be said, … and to be said as plainly and dogmatically as possible, … that God’s reconciling love for the world includes his love for the Islamic people, and for them to know his reconciling love in Christ. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” does not exclude those whose only experience has been that of their Islamic culture. More than that, it is universally understood by those who are the Christian church’s missional strategists, that the major priority of the church’s missionary focus in the 21st century is the Islamic people.

This becomes the more focal for us in recent days when radical Islamist (ISIS, etc.) have visited horrendous assaults on those who are not of their Shia branch of Islam, and as they behead Christian people in Syria and elsewhere. But we who are followers of Christ have our own embarrassing episodes of inhumane cruelty against Islam for centuries. Otherwise pious saints, such as Bernard of Clairvaux, blessed the crusades in which ostensible Christian armies went to reclaim the Holy Land from its Islamic conquerors, and the cruelty they imposed is one of the very dark chapters of Christian history This was also obvious in recent years in the Balkans when the animosity between Muslims and Christians produced horrible and inhumane crimes against one another.

Those ostensibly Christian public and political figures who have been engaged in diatribes in recent days against Middle Easterners and against Islamic people have somehow never even begun to internalize the teachings of Jesus themselves. His word is that when his gospel of the kingdom shall have been preached to every national/ethnic group in the world, then the shall this age come to an end. Jesus also was most unmistakable when he taught: “Blessed are the peacemakers, … blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, … blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:9-12).

So also we who profess faith in Jesus we must never forget that “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Romans 5:8-11). Jesus came to reconcile the (whole) world unto God by the death of his Son. That make us debtors to those who still don’t know his love and forgiveness. This is the message that Islamic people need to hear from us.

What is interesting is that even in countries where the Christian faith is outlawed, or severely restricted, there are reports of movements of Islamic people to Christ. This will never make it into the New York Times because the Christian community in these nations has to stay underground for the most part. But what many Islamic people are discovering is that the Quran often says more positive things about the Prophet Isa (Jesus) than it does about Muhammad. Islamic people who are revolted by the cruelty of the radical fringes of Islam are looking with fresh eyes at Isa/Jesus. There are reports of Imams in Mosques who are engaging in study of the place of Isa/Jesus in the teachings of Muhammad, and often coming to faith. In an era of social media and the internet, it is also true that the communication of the teachings of Jesus into the Islamic world does not depend upon missionaries. There is evidently emerging an underground church in the most unlikely places as Jesus builds his church against which the gates of hell shall not prevail. Islam is a religion of law and strict obedience. It has little place for grace, forgiveness, and love, … and because of this many Islamic people are looking with fresh eyes at the gospel of God’s reconciling love in Christ. May we all become messengers of such

Those public figures in this country who profess to be Christians, but who are engaged in hate language against Islam are contradictions of the very faith they profess, and are a detriment to the mission of God in this strategic moment when they should be incarnations of God’s love.

About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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