Question: "What are some reasons for the animosity between Christians and Muslims? Can Christians reconcile with Muslims?"
Answer: Since September 11, the world has entered the age of terror. The terrorists, while few, wage cruel atrocities in the name of religion. Christians wonder how to respond to the threat. To our reproach, some fearfully spurn all Muslims as terrorists. Others compromise truth to show acceptance. Both approaches dishonor God.
One thing is clear: we must understand the differences between our faiths before we can respond with Christ’s truth and love. While some misunderstandings can be cleared, the main offense is . . . Jesus Christ! (See 1 Peter 2:4-8.) The truth about our Lord and Savior must not be compromised. First, let’s prayerfully examine how to overcome some of the initial barriers between Muslims and Christians.
Muslims are offended by Western secularism Many Muslims sincerely seek holy lives. As global technology shrinks the world, our Muslim neighbors feel threatened by Western culture: immoral movies, pornography, vile music, alcohol, rebellious teens. Worse, they equate this Western culture with Christianity. “Our” Western culture threatens their faith, their worldview, their lifestyle.
Christian response: Befriend Muslims and explain how Western culture is no longer Christian but secular. Further, not all who claim to be Christians are true followers of Christ. Show by word and action an example of a true Christian: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).
Muslims are resentful of Western dominance The West has a history of colonialism and interference which Muslims resent. While some approve of the war on terror, other Muslims bitterly object. Besides, they often feel betrayed by the West’s “favoritism” of Israel, which displaced thousands of Palestinians.
Christian response: Demonstrate genuine love and humility by prayer and service. Focus on Christ – not political controversies. God will one day restore justice. In the meantime, He provides government and leaders to be His “ministers of righteousness” to protect the good and punish the wrongdoer (Romans 13:1-6).
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:16-21).
“Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:23-26).
Militant Muslims act on war verses in the Qur’an While many Muslims are peace-loving, others interpret the Qur’an to give them divine credence to convert or kill. At the beginning of Muhammad’s rise to power, he sought to gain Christian support of his new religion – even encouraging his followers to read the Bible (Surah 10:94).
However, Christians commit the unpardonable sin of “shirk”, equating Jesus with God. When the two faiths proved irreconcilable, he urged jihad on the infidels (Surah 4:47; 9:29). How did he motivate the holy war? He promised the surviving warriors would receive plunder from the slain (Surah 48:20-21). Those who died in holy battle would have assurance – assurance guaranteed to no other Muslim – of paradise filled with sensual pleasures (Hadith 1:505; 6:402).
Christian response: Sadly, some Christians fearfully despise both radical and moderate Muslims. But the Lord gives the perfect neutralizer to fear and hatred: His love.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18a).
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell”
(Matthew 10:28)."But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27).
Jesus didn’t promise His followers a conflict-free life. Instead, He assured, "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me” (John 15:18-21).
Muslims reject God the Father who sent His Son to die for sinners. While Muslims honor Jesus as a noble prophet, they depend on Islamic works and faith – submission to one Allah, belief in Muhammad, and obedience to the Qur’an – for entrance to paradise. Many Muslims believe that Christians worship three gods, deify a man (Jesus), and tamper with the biblical text. Most of them deny both the necessity and historicity of Christ’s death.
Christians and Muslims should discuss doctrinal misunderstandings. Christians must understand the Islamic worldview and Christian theology so they can. . .
explain the Trinity’s unity yet diversity.
show how God’s holiness and men’s sinfulness require Christ’s atoning death.
give scholarly evidence and personal testimony of the Bible’s trustworthiness.
clarify beliefs of Jesus. Man didn’t become God, but God became man. “Son of God” is a metaphor – not literal marriage between God and Mary. This concept must be carefully and systematically addressed: “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (1 John 4:14-15).
As peacemakers, Christians should seek to ease tension between Islam and Christianity. But certain tensions must not be released from the Christian’s end. The truth must not be masked. With love, humility, and patience, Christians must present Jesus as Lord and Savior: the Way, the Truth, the Life.