Christianity and Islam: What American Christians need to know about Muslims
If you go to church much (and maybe even if you don’t go at all), you probably know that, for Christians, biblical “love” is not a feeling; biblical love is doing. The idea of love as action is a favorite topic for pastors in every denomination. Our world teaches us that love is an emotion; the Bible tells us that love is something we do.
This blog, of course, is about Islam, and about how Christians should interact with Muslims. So the question for today is: what does God want us to “do” in order to “love” Muslims?
A couple of week ago I wrote a post about the “highest form of love.” I explained that the best way that we can love other people is to change ourselves for them. “Change” does not mean that we have to give up our core values (although it’s not a bad idea to look at these from time to time). But love may require us to change the way we go about everyday life. Over time, members of the best marriages, family relationships, and friendships change for each other.
Showing love for Muslims should not be all that difficult because, believe it or not, Christians and Muslims agree about much more than we disagree about. We agree that God created the universe, and that God is perfectly loving, powerful, knowing, and just. We agree that God cares about people, rewarding the faithful and punishing the wicked. Christians and Muslims also agree that we love God by loving (through action, not just feeling) other people. And God wants us to do our best to make our society just and compassionate.
There are really only two major way we disagree about God. First, Christian theology teaches the Jesus was 100% God and 100% man. It’s hard to explain, but fundamental to our beliefs. Muslims insist that it is impossible for someone to be both human and God. Jesus was a great prophet, say Muslims, but ultimately Jesus, like Muhammad, was only human.
Second, Christians believe that the one God of the universe exists as three “persons,” Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. How these three exist as one is an unexplainable mystery, but we hold to a three-in-one. Muslims insist that there is no Trinity; God’s oneness makes him indivisible.
As I’ve written earlier, Islam actually sides with Judaism on these two points. Judaism like Islam rejects both the idea that a man can be God and the idea that God exists in a trinity. So if we as Christians can work with Jews, we should also be able to work with Muslims.
Islam teaches that the God of Islam is the same as the God of Christianity. Islam holds that Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad all taught more or less the same thing. For Muslims, the main difference between Muhammad and the others is that the revelation which came to Muhammad was more perfect than the revelation which came to his predecessors.
Understanding similarities and differences between Christianity and Islam gives us clues about how we can obey God’s command to love others, including Muslims.
First, since both Christians and Muslims agree that we worship the same God, we should be able to pray together. Most Christians believe that God always listens to Christians, and that God can listen to Muslims if he so desires. Therefore there should be no problem praying side by side: we can agree to let God hear whoever God wants to hear.
Muslims typically address God as “merciful and compassionate.” This way of addressing God might sound a little strange for Christians, but it is a way of talking to God that we can easily adopt for the benefit of praying together. After all, Christianity certainly teaches that God is merciful and compassionate!
Muslims agree with Christians that godly love is action, not emotion. American Christians have long been interested in helping those in need through food banks, tutoring, emergency funds, and so on. Believe it or not, mosques behave the same way – offering help to those in need, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. So Christians and Muslims can and should try to work together to help those in need.
Muslims are often targets of suspicion and distrust. When we hear friends and neighbors saying unkind or uncomplimentary things about Muslims, we need to check the evidence, then speak up! It is very, very easy to spread rumors about people who seem strange and foreign to us. Love calls us to resist that temptation.
I’ve given just a few ideas about how to go about loving Muslims; most of us can think of many, many more things we can do. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Muslims are here in the US to stay. We cannot avoid them, and Jesus commands Christians to love them. So let’s get on with it!
A Christian blog and podcast by Ray Burns.
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