President Trump’s first foreign trip includes Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Vatican, an itinerary no other President has endeavored. Trump addressed the leaders of about 50 Muslim nations while in Saudi Arabia. While in the Holy Land, he met with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Now trump is in Vatican City meeting with Pope Francis. Clearly Trump is hoping to facilitate what would be the biggest deal of his life—a peace deal. While Trump’s desire to facilitate peace talks are certainly admirable, I cannot help but wonder how successful he can be if forgiveness is not at the forefront of the discussion. Trump mentioned the need for concessions but there was no mention of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a powerful force for both those who extend it and receive it.
There are typically two responses to ISIS. ‘ISIS has nothing to do with Islam’ or ‘ISIS are the real Muslims’. It’s easy to understand why so many Muslims—especially in western contexts—dissociate themselves from ISIS. They are thoroughly embarrassed to think that non-Muslims around them might assume that because they are Muslims, they must have some sympathy with ISIS and all that it is doing. They therefore argue that many of the practices of ISIS are completely un-Islamic, even anti-Islamic and cannot be justified by the legal traditions that have been developed over many centuries.
At the other extreme there are many Christians—and, dare I say, especially evangelical Christians—who believe that ISIS is much nearer to the spirit and practice of early Islam than moderate Muslims of today. They point to particular verses in the Qur’an (e.g. about beheading, crucifixion and slavery) and passages in Hadith literature, the biographies of Muhammad and legal texts to show the connections between the brutalities of ISIS and early Islamic texts.
Both of these approaches are thoroughly unhelpful and need to be challenged.
The promises given to Abraham and all the prophecies in the OT have to be interpreted in the light of the coming of the kingdom of God in Jesus. The OT must therefore be read through the spectacles, the glasses, of the NT. Because OT promises and prophecies (including those about the land and about biblical Israel) have been fulfilled in the coming of the kingdom in Jesus, the return of Jews to the land and the establishment of the state of Israel have taken place under the sovereignty of God, but have no special theological significance. They are not to be seen as signs pointing forward to the Second Coming. All believers in Jesus inherit all the promises made the Abraham. They are ‘a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation’ (1 Peter 2:9; Gal 3:26-29) and enjoy their spiritual inheritance which is ‘kept in heaven’ (1 Peter 1:4; Heb 4; 12:18-24).
If this is the starting point, let me try to elaborate on this approach in the following ten stages…
What Americans Don’t Understand About Charlie Hebdo
It seems that many in the West still haven’t caught on. Eastern thinking people will defend their honor. One of the worst things you can do to them is to bring dishonor or ridicule on them. In the case of Muslims, they uphold the belief that “with blood I can wash my shame away” (Abu Tammam). As such, when they are ridiculed in the western press, especially through cartoons that stereotype and ridicule them, they feel justified in their violent reaction. No amount of clamoring about freedom of speech will change this. It only makes Muslims more determined to bring Islam to Europe, so that the ridiculing and bullying will stop.
If I published a cartoon that criticizes a well-known person, perhaps making him out to be a pedophile, without any truth behind it, I should expect to be sued for liable. So if a Muslim feels his honor, and the honor of his religion, and the honor of his prophet have been robbed of him by someone’s libelous actions, how does he get the shame removed and honor restored? We do not think of this in our western society. Winning a court case may make some feel somewhat justified, but their reputation will have been forever damaged. Islam’s answer is: this is so important, that it is worthy of a death sentence. So when the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo published their cartoons, they committed an error worthy of the death penalty in some parts of the world. Unfortunately for them, people of that persuasion lived in their own country, and in their own city. Many Muslims just shrug and say: “They brought it on themselves.”