The Christian response to Islam

Letter to the Editor - APRIL 2016

Like most people familiar with the island I was surprised when I heard that a Mosque had opened on Kosrae. The people of Kosrae are well known for their dedication to the congregational church. Even other groups that claim Christianity are kept at arm’s length and can often be looked at unfavorably. I’ve been blessed with making several trips to Kosrae to teach Bible college classes and start a radio program there and I thought it would be highly improbable, if not impossible, that a mosque could open there. After reading articles in recent issues of the K press and making a trip to Kosrae I have found that I was being rather naïve in my assessment and that a mosque has in fact opened. The response to this opening has been for lack of a better word, unfortunate. I have seen pictures on twitter of vandalism, I have read of an attempt to outlaw Islam, I have heard of services being refused to the mosque and I have, sadly, even heard of death threats against the leadership and members of the mosque (these are rumors that I’ve heard and I pray that they are not true).
Even a cursory glance at the New Testament will show that this response is not in keeping with the words and example of Christ. So, what is the proper Christian response to Islam, or any other non-Christian religion? Let us open our Bibles and see.
First of all, let me say that as a Christian I absolutely do not believe in the religion of Islam. I believe that Christ is the only way to heaven (John 14:6) and the only name by which we may be saved (Acts 4:12). However, this does not mean that we should mistreat those who believe otherwise. The fact of the matter is we live in a world with many religious beliefs. While we do not accept those beliefs, we must treat those who do with love and respect. Jesus tells us that the second most important commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). In the Parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus teaches that our neighbors are not limited to the people who live near us, our religious brethren, or our countrymen, but rather that our neighbors are every person on earth, and yes this includes Muslims.
Love should be the defining characteristic of the Christian life (1st Corinthians 13:1- 3), as it is the defining characteristic of the Christian’s Lord. Jesus was a man who lived love. He demonstrated His love for us by leaving the very throne room of heaven to take on the form of lowly man, and give His life on the cross for all mankind (Philippians 2:5-8; Romans 5:8; 1st John 3:16). God gave His only begotten Son for everyone (John 3:16) and is not willing that any should perish (2nd Peter 3:9) and that includes Muslims.
Threats of violence, actual violence, vandalism, and mistreatment have no place in the religion of the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Jesus taught, “To him who strikes you on your cheek, offer the other also” (Luke 6:29). The night in which He was betrayed His disciple Peter pulled a sword and was ready to fight in His defense, but Jesus admonished him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” Jesus is not naïve enough to think that the Christian will not have enemies. In fact He guarantees that we will, but notice what He says we should do, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly” (Luke 6:27- 28). Think for a moment about the fact that the Muslims in Kosrae, to my knowledge, have done nothing against the people of Kosrae. If we are to do good to those who hate us and pray for those who treat us badly, how are we to treat those with whom we disagree, but are just minding their own business?
It bears repeating that I do not agree with the teachings of Islam, but a violent response and mistreatment is not the answer. The proper response is prayer, and to preach the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) to those that are following Islam. I pray that the people of Kosrae will stay faithful to the Christ, and show Christ living in themselves through loving their Muslim neighbors.
Scott Shanahan