By Prof. Paul Johnson
Before our nation paused to remember the terrorist’s attacks of 9/11, in northern Florida, Rev. Terry Jones, threatened to lead his congregation and the community in the burning of a pile of Islam’s holy book, the Qur’an. Jones also opposed a planned mosque and community center near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. Jones stated that he would burn the Qur’ans “to expose that there is an element of Islam that is very dangerous and very radical” according to the Associated Press.
American generals in Afganistan and Iraq warned of severe repercussions against our troops and other American targets if Jones went through with his threats. F.B.I. officials met with Jones and even President Barack Obama criticized what he called a stunt that would be a “recruitment bonanza for Al Qaeda,” and would be an act that “completely contrary to our values as Americans” according to the New York Times.
Since Muslims worldwide consider the Qur’an to be their sacred text, and any show of disrespect to the book is deeply offensive. Throughout much of the Muslim world, thousands of people demonstrated against American and Israel because of Jones’ threats. Many influential evangelical and political leaders throughout the country and the world called on Jones not to follow through with this act of provocation. Many also felt that it was about time to stand-up and demonstrate opposition to radical Islam.
Eventually, Jones claimed his point about the radical nature of Islam had been demonstrated and he dropped his plan to burn the Qur’an a few days before the ninth anniversary of the attacks, amidst pressure from many.
How are Christians to respond to this? Should we be for or against such a demonstration? It is important for us to realize that world religions like Islam are culturally based. The vast majority of Muslims around the world are born as Muslims, to Muslim parents, and in Muslim national, cultural and political contexts. Anything that is considered to harm the acceptance and progress of Islam is often viewed as more than an affront to the Muslim religion; it cuts to the very core of who Muslims are, since their religious convictions are inseparably tied to their cultural and national heritage. Religion, family heritage, culture, national identity, and ethnicity are unified under the umbrellas of their Islamic faith.
Muslims also see the rest of the world based upon their worldview. Therefore, it is natural for many Muslims to equate the activity of Americans, the U.S. government, Hollywood or others in the United States with Christianity. The idea of biblical Christianity, where a person responds to Christ’s offer of salvation and trusts Him in faith, not by works or through cultural and family heritage, is hard for many Muslims to understand.
It is crucial that we think and respond biblically concerning the lost, whether they are characterized as radical Muslims or as a secularly-minded neighbor or family member. In 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, the Apostle Paul wrote, 3“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” This passage reveals a key spiritual truth – the god of this world (Satan) had blinded the minds of unbelievers (in Christ) to keep them from understanding the Person and work of Christ in salvation. It is essential that we understand that unbelievers, whether they are part of a cultural religion like Islam, part of a recognized church in our society or part of those who consider themselves to be agnostic or atheistic, are not the enemy. Rather, Satan has blinded their minds with religion and they are therefore victims of the enemy.
As victims of Satan’s worldwide strategy to keep the lost from hearing and understanding the gospel of Christ, he blinded the mind of the lost from responding to His offer of salvation. Satan uses culturally-based religion, materialism, self-absorption and the worship of thousands of different things to keep people from hearing of and responding to the gospel.
So, when we think of the billons of Muslims, even radical Muslims, in the world today – how should we respond? We should respond by understanding that all unbelievers are victims of the enemy and therefore not themselves the enemy. Victims need to be rescued and revived through faith in Christ. From a biblical point of view, we must respond not with resentment and thoughts of revenge but with a commitment to pray for and share Christ with those who are held captive through religion by Satan. Instead of burning Qur’ans, our God desires that we pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out more gospel messengers into His fields because they are white and ready for harvest.
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