Avoid Comparing Jesus with Anything
We do not have to make Islam, the Qur’an, Muslims, or Muhammad look bad in order to make Jesus look good. Jesus looks good all on his own. We should not compare Christ with anyone or anything. For there is only one eternally begotten Son of God of which all of the scripture bears witness (John 5:39). Comparing “the Son who is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” with any created thing is not a worthwhile endeavor. “For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD? Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings” (Ps. 89:6)?
Remember that Muslims are Image Bearers
All Muslims, including Muhammad, are image-bearers and therefore have inherent value and the potential to reflect God’s character and glory (Gen. 1:26-28). We should consider our interactions with Muslims (or any human) as a divine encounter. Your speech and actions are an opportunity to demonstrate Christ both in and through you. We should avoid the temptation to curse any image-bearer with the same tongue that we praise whose image they bear (James 3:9). Spend more time seeking the image of God and less time seeking where the image might be distorted.
Don't Compare Apples to Oranges
Comparing the best representations of Christianity with the worst representations of Islam is dishonest and not Christlike. We should avoid bearing false witness about Islam and Muslims. Both faith communities have past and present issues that they would like to forget, ignore, or disassociate from. It seems therefore best to approach one another from a position of seeing the plank in our own eye when evaluating specs in the eyes of another (Matthew 7:3-5). It’s good to discuss differences in belief as long as we do it from a position of humility and love. Keep in mind that it has been 1443 years since the advent of Islam. The church was in the middle of the Hundred-Years War at that point in its history.
Avoid Stereotyping Islam and Muslims
There are 1.7 billion Muslims spanning across the entire globe. Essentializing this diverse community or suggesting that the “true nature of Islam” is peaceful or violent is unhelpful and not the job of someone who is outside of the faith community. Consider your own feelings when a non-Christian gives their opinion about the “true nature” of Christianity. A more helpful approach is to see Islam as a community of interpretation that lacks complete agreement on as many issues as Christians. Treating Islam and Muslims as we would like non-Christians to treat Christianity and Christians is an appropriate goal (Luke 6:31).
Proving your Faith is Impossible
Accepting the reality that both Muslims and Christians believe their faith is true and that neither religion can be proven to be the right one. The starting point of both communities is faith followed by reason. Few, if any, will be argued into the kingdom of God with wisdom or eloquent speech. It is appropriate to acknowledge that our faith will likely be considered foolishness to a non-believer despite our deep convictions (1 Cor. 1:17-18). However, we should still be prepared to give testimony to the power of the cross as our hope in the world (1 Pet. 3:15).
Approach Conversations with Humility
Acknowledge that both Muslims and Christians have selective memories that are informed by subjective interpretations of particular historical and religious texts. Both communities have a limited view of reality that informs their faith and practice and their understanding of one another. This ought to give us a deep sense of humility and encourage us to address one another with love, gentleness, and respect. Chances are both you and the Muslim you are talking to have a number of wrong assumptions about each other.
Be Respectful of the Qur'an
Accept the Qur’an as a revealed text for Muslims. This does not mean that Christians have to believe in its authenticity but it should be treated with the same level of respect that you would want non-Christians to give the Bible. When there is truth in the Qur’an we should acknowledge it as true (Acts 17:28). Whether or not Muhammad received revelation from God through the angel Gabriel is not something that Christians have to take a stance on. Critical opinions about the Qur’an may quickly overshadow your opportunity to share the Bible. For more, see our Field Guide on the Qur’an.
Trust the Holy Spirit to Work
Confessing Christ as Lord is not a process of cognitive ascent but rather a spiritual illumination. Only the Holy Spirit can reveal the true identity of Jesus to a person (2 Cor. 4:4). Consider the reality that the Holy Spirit may be working in the lives of Muslims even if they do not believe the Holy Spirit exists. Conversion is God’s work in which we are called to participate. However, without the work of the Holy Spirit, our words will fall upon deaf ears.
Don't Conflate the Kingdoms
We should be careful not to conflate the kingdoms of this world and the Kingdom of God. Throughout history, both Muslims and Christians have wrongly used their faith to justify violence in order to gain power over one another. We must keep in mind, difficult as it may be, that our king rode a donkey into Jerusalem to announce his new Kingdom, one that is not like the kingdoms of the world. Our King is also slow to anger, rich in love, silent before accusers, meek, mild, gentle, and lowly of heart; our primary allegiance ought to be with building Christ’s Kingdom (Philippians 3:20).
Christ Crucified should be the Only Stumbling Block
Christ as crucified and risen Lord is a stumbling block for Muslims and that is okay. We do not need to hedge on our Christian faith in order to love Muslims. Muslim-Christian relations is not about seeking the lowest common denominator and ignoring differences. However, if there are other stumbling blocks in the way of Muslims following Christ, they should be moved aside. Avoid becoming sidetracked with lesser things (al-Qaeda, ISIS, 9/11, wars, nationalism, or political ideologies) that may get in the way of Muslims seeing Jesus as Lord. Be sure that Christ’s death and resurrection stands out above all else (1 Cor. 2:2).
What you think about Islam will never be as important as finding out what the Muslim across from you believes. Ask your Muslim friend to tell you about his or her faith. As Anglican Bishop Kenneth Cragg writes in his book titled House of Islam, “To enter into Islam, it is better to go to the mosque than to reach for the dictionary.”