I have a Muslim friend I dialogue with about Christianity and Islam. He told me he believes in Islam because in the Koran it says, “Islam is the only religion.” He also told me that the Bible does not make this sort of statement: “Christianity is the true religion.” He said, “If you could show me this sort of statement, then I would become a Christian. However, the Bible does not say this sort of statement.”
If you were a Christian, how would you respond to this? What would you say to him?
First of all, let me say how glad I am – thrilled really – that you have a Muslim friend and that you guys are talking life and faith. Fantastic! Would that more of this would happen (a huge part of the purpose of this blog by the way).
Second, I am going to answer in a way that is controversial – but I believe to be Biblical – regarding your Muslim friend’s thoughtful question. Here we go.
If I am speaking to someone who self-identifies with being a Christian, I am not afraid or ashamed to be known as a Christian. But in my friendships with Muslims, I do not promote “Christianity.” I do not promote being or even becoming a “Christian.” Let me explain before you think me a heretic! I realize that “Christian” is a Biblical word and thus an important word but. . .it is only used 3 times in the entire New Testament (Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28, and I Peter 4:16). Because it is a word used in the Bible, maybe we need to simply define it or redefine it. However. . .
It is my firm opinion that redefining the word “Christian” is a very, very daunting task. Why? Because so many Muslims in the world equate the word “Christian” with a lot of things that would shock and dismay us. Some Muslims still equate current “Christianity” with the atrocities of the Crusades. Some equate “Christian” with “America.” They think America is a “Christian” nation (we run into that all the time in the Middle East). They see Hollywood movies and even link “Christianity” to what they see there – violence, immorality, divorce, lack of care or honor for the elderly, etc. Some link “Christianity” to the U.S. military incursions into Iraq and Afghanistan.
Just from these few examples of real misunderstanding (and there are more), can you see how the word “Christianity” is not a positive word for Muslims?
Because of these misunderstandings, I prefer not to use or promote the word “Christian” with my dear Muslim friends.
So, what do I promote?
I promote Jesus. I promote following Jesus. I promote being his “disciple.” This is what I believe he wanted.
Depending upon which translation you use, the word “disciple” is used in the New Testament between 230 and 260 times – obviously far more than the word “Christian”!
I would share with your Muslim friend that Jesus is calling all of us to be his “disciples” – followers who will do anything for him, say anything for him, go anywhere for him. Completely, unreservedly, devoted, dedicated followers. People who give him undivided allegiance.
Your Muslim friend is absolutely right: the Bible does not say that “Christianity is the true religion.” What is does say over and over and over is that “Jesus is the path – the bridge – to God.” He himself said he was the way, the truth, and the life. That no one could come to God except through him (The Gospel of John 14:6). That is what we should promote. Better yet, that is who we should promote!
So I promote being a disciple – a follower – of Jesus.
Most of all, I just want to promote. . .Jesus.
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