Day 11: Sharing the Gospel, part 2 — Simply Jesus
By Jordan Rowley
, spiritual coordinator, Climbing For Christ
With Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and its many denominations of Protestantism, the whole of Christendom contains vast variety. The House of Islam (Dar al-Islam
) is no different. Among the world’s Muslims we find various traditions, beliefs and social nuances. Unfortunately, many of these differences result in a house divided even to the point of violence.
In Islam, there are two main sects: Sunni and Shi’a (or Shi’ite). According the Pew Research Center, Sunnis account for 87-to-90 percent, while Shi’as make up the remaining 10-to-13 percent of the world’s 1.57 billion Muslims. There are other Islamic offshoots like the Baha’i, Sufi and Wahhabi as well.
In addition to these differences, followers of Islam may have varying degrees of devotion ranging from those who are Muslim only in name and in regard to their cultural identity, to those who are very devout and sincere in their practice. We could also look to liberal, moderate and fundamental Muslims as another point of distinction.
Finally, reaching from North to Sub-Saharan Africa, to the Middle East, to South and Southeast Asia, there are a variety of nationalities and ethnicities expressed through Islam.
Sharing on a rooftop in a home in North Africa. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
In other words, there is immense variety within the House Islam. There is no broad brush with which we could (or should) paint all Muslims. We need to remind ourselves that they are all uniquely and beautifully made in the image of God with so many intricacies that make them who they are.
That said, there is only one approach we must take to them all, one message – and that is simply Jesus.
No matter the sect, no matter the degree of devotion, no matter how liberal or moderate or fundamental and no matter the nationality or ethnicity; they need Jesus – simply Jesus.
“… I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” – John 14:6
“… Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…” – Acts 16:31
A starting place: Shared beliefs
There is much that Muslims and Christians agree on. Starting with our shared beliefs, while not compromising on our distinctions, can be a great way to build a bridge and begin a dialogue. Here are just a few general points that most followers of Islam and Christians would agree on:
- There is one God
- God created all things
- There is a heaven and a hell
- There will be a judgment for wrongdoings
- Adam and Eve were the first human beings
- Noah, Abraham, Moses and David were men of God
- Jesus was born of a virgin
- Jesus lived a sinless life
Although we would disagree on who exactly this “one God” is; the exact depiction of heaven, hell and the judgment; what Noah and those other men of God said and did; or the true nature of Jesus (being the Son of God and the Son of Man) and His purpose on Earth (simply put: salvation), what a great starting point these similarities could be for many conversations!
The goal: Sharing Jesus
Regardless of the starting point, the end goal should be to share the Gospel of Jesus!
As we have open doors to speak with Muslims, rather than assuming we know what they believe, a better approach would be to ask questions. Then, when the Lord provides an opportunity, take them from a point of shared belief to the truth as revealed in Scripture.
For example, Muslims already have a concept of sin. They believe that they have done evil things that will be judged by Allah. In fact, the Qur’an refers to angels on the right and the left; one records good thoughts, words and deeds while the other records the bad (see Surah 50:16-18 and 82:10-12).
On the day of judgement the good will be weighed against the bad. Ultimately, though, regardless of the tally, Allah may be merciful to whom he wills and damn whom he wills as well.
(“if god wills”), he will be merciful.
As with most religious systems, the difference between this typical Muslim belief and Christianity is the hope that one can essentially do enough good to outweigh their bad. This is in contrast to the core Christian belief that to stand acceptable before God, a person doesn’t simply need their good to outweigh their bad (at least 51 percent good and at most 49 percent bad), but rather a person needs to be sinless (100 percent good). This of course, is impossible for man.
But “the things which are impossible with men are possible with God
,” Jesus said in Luke 18:27
. This impossible task of living a sinless life was in fact accomplished by Jesus – as even Muslims will attest. It’s by putting one’s faith in the sinless life and the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, God with us, that we can have assurance of salvation.
The death and deity of Christ, however, Muslims will not confess. That is, apart from the Holy Spirit working in their heart and mind along with your patient prayers and continued witnessing.
Keeping it simple
Beyond the similarities shared above there are almost innumerable differences between the beliefs of Christianity and Islam. For example: Many of the world’s Muslims assume that Christians believe God and Mary were intimate to create Jesus. They believe that our “Trinity” consists of God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the Mother (Mary) as three separate Gods.
Many also see the Western cultures’ continual export of lust, pride and indulgence to be directly related to Christianity. This is because “the West” and Christianity are often viewed as without distinction.
Many get caught up in debating these and other points. Although I believe there is a time and a place for healthy debate, I think we would do well to keep it simple – to know a little about what Muslims believe, to know a little about what Muslims believe you believe, and most importantly, to know what you yourself believe and why.
Simply share Jesus – His life, His death, His love, His compassion, His heart – and leave the debating to the Holy Spirit.
- Christians to find the balance between being gentle and being assertive in their witness.
- A greater depth of understanding among Christians of Muslim beliefs.
- A multitude of open doors and open hearts within the House of Islam.