By Dr. Jim Garlow*
March 2002 – Without a doubt, this season is an unprecedented opportunity for Christians to impact their Muslim neighbors in meaningful and loving ways. At the same time, I have several questions regarding the Christian-Muslim interaction that I have observed.
Since the infamous September 11 attack, some Christian pastors, in a misguided attempt at Christian-Muslim relations, have been inviting Muslims to Christian worship services to be honored – and in some cases brought to the platform before the congregation. Some Muslims have even been asked to talk to church congregations and in some cases offer Islamic prayers.
West End Methodist Church of Nashville invited Ilyas Muhammad from the Muslim American Community Center to teach Sunday School class and lead the group in prayer. In some United Churches of Christ, the Koran is read alongside the Bible.
Muslim cleric Fisal Hammouda, in one of America’s largest evangelical churches, announced from the platform that “We (Muslims) believe in Jesus, more than you (Christians) do, in fact.” According to the news reports, the pastor “ventured to disagree.”
Ventured to disagree? Did the people in the audience know enough about Islam to know that Muslims do not believe that Jesus died and resurrected, the capstone of Christian belief and faith. And yet, invited to speak in a Sunday morning worship service, a Muslim who does not believe in Jesus’ resurrection is given the microphone to say that Muslims believe in Jesus more than Christians!
No one would dispute that there are appropriate times and places for Christian-Muslim dialogue, but a worship service is not one of them.
Robert Schuller had a Muslim cleric in his church, The Crystal Cathedral, on Sunday, September 16 – on the platform. (The program aired on September 23.) The Muslim addressed the crowd as “my brothers and sisters.”
As I understand the Bible, it teaches that my brothers and sisters are those who are in Christ. Is the Muslim my brother or sister? Certainly he/she can be my friend; he/she can be my neighbor; I can reach out to him/her in love – and I should. But should he/she be honored (as a Muslim – and simply because he is a Muslim) in the house that is set aside for Jesus-worship? No!
That congregation gave the visiting Muslim cleric a standing ovation. Frankly, it was offensive. In my opinion, the applause was based on a platitudinal love – a gentle “let’s all get together now and just be nice to everybody” kind of love. True biblical love says the following: “Jehovah God created you; He loves you passionately; we love you; but without Jesus, you will go to a Christ-less eternity – and we love you way too much not to tell you about Him.”
But they (the applauding people) are not to blame. They were set up for it. They did not know. They had no grasp of the dimension of their actions.
Now I would have stood and applauded too if those 3000 or more attendees would have been urged by their pastor to do individual acts of kindness, compassion and Christian witness to their Muslim neighbors. I would have been excited if their leader would have admonished them to “seize this moment” to love Muslims in action and word. By action I mean such things as buying groceries for the Muslims if they themselves were afraid to go out in public to a store. By word, I mean saying such things as “may I, during these difficult days, tell you why I care for you so much? May I speak with you about Jesus – who He is – and His love for you?” For that, I would have stood and applauded. Why? Because it is good and right, and Jesus-honoring! And it is Jesus’ strategy.
It is important to understand that Islam is not just a religion. Rather, it is a legal system, a form of government, a coercive tyranny (in virtually every Muslim nation). And we as Americans are ignorant, thinking that they are just like us – just a “religion” – and that we all worship side by side – together – worshipping the same God. Not so!
Should we love the Muslim “in Christ?” Absolutely, yes! Applaud them in our Christian churches? Absolutely, no!
I was recently asked to do a one-hour video of the history of Christianity to be used by Chinese Christians (about 100,000, ages 15-25). These people are willing to buy one-way tickets to go all over the world to be “invisible” missionaries, supporting themselves as drivers [or] cleaning persons with the knowledge that they may never see their homeland again – but determined to take Jesus to countries where no Westerner could ever go.
These amazing young believers will live on $1 per day, just $30 a month – which they will earn themselves – just so they can share Jesus. They are young, single and radically sold out for Jesus.
These are the ones I want on my platform. In fact, I am not worthy to introduce them. I need to learn from them, rather than me teaching them! If I could, I would put them all on my platform – and applaud endlessly.
Many of them may be imprisoned (and they know it). Some of them will die. Yes, they will die! Why? In some countries, the killings will be done in the name of Allah, and will be justified by verses from the Koran.
If someone is going to be applauded in the place where I worship, I choose to applaud the Jesus followers.
* Dr. Jim Garlow is Senior Pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in La Mesa, California. This article is excerpted from Dr. Garlow's book A Christian's Response to Islam after September 11. River Oaks Publishers.