There is no need to make Islam look bad in order for Christianity to look good. When Christians and Muslims talk about their faith with each other, comparisons are inevitable, but that does not mean it should be a strategy. We will hear each other’s beliefs and naturally consider points of similarity and difference with our own beliefs. This is to be expected. Understanding something new often comes through comparing it with what we already know. We might be tempted to accelerate this process by making comparisons for Muslims, but this is an unhelpful approach. This style of evangelism is popular with media ministries, and there is more than enough content online, making such an approach unnecessary. When we talk with Muslims, we want to ensure our focus is on…
Recognize that evil is real. No need to whitewash that reality. Some have given themselves over to evil. But Muslims are not the enemy. Muslims are people whom God loves and for whom Jesus died. Be extremely careful how we talk about our dear fellow Americans and citizens of our earth who come from a Muslim background. 95 percent of all Muslims want what we want: a good job, education, a future for their kids, and to just hang out on a Friday night, watching a movie and eating pizza with friends.
Use the “terrorist” label sparingly. ISIS and Al Qaeda are terrorists. But so are groups in Latin America, Africa and throughout Asia, all non-Muslim. Be suspicious of anyone who is quick to call a Muslim a terrorist for killing and not apply the same label to someone else. Are drug cartels in Mexico Catholic terrorists? The million people who murdered in Rwanda were seldom referred to as terrorist—and most of them were from a Christian background. Are the KKK terrorists? Was this man who murdered the Muslims in Chapel Hill a terrorist? And if so, was he an atheist terrorist?
The real enemy is fear. Fear is the devil’s workshop. Perfect fear drives out love. Did you catch that? Fear drives out love. It’s supposed to be the other way around, but it works both ways. Only one remains: Fear or love. The devil roams around like a roaring lion—not a biting lion—a roaring lion.
The gospel is God’s good news for human beings mired in sin and its consequences. Often, this good news is presented as Jesus’ sacrificial payment of the just penalty for sin. This message is thoroughly biblical, and for many, it is good news indeed. However, for many Muslims, it is an answer to a legal question they are not asking. Rather, Muslims often demonstrate a felt need for cleansing. Jesus’ provision of complete cleansing from sin and a new spiritual nature can speak directly to these felt needs for purity, which are repeatedly affirmed in the biblical record.
5 Reasons The “Draw Muhammad” Contest is Unbiblical
Let me turn to what the Bible has to say about speech to see if it supports absolute freedom of speech, limited free speech, or something else. Here are five passages that help us understand how God wants us to speak:
1. Ephesians 4:29—Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Interpretation: While we are free to speak, we should consider the effect on others. We need to ask if it will be experienced as grace by those who hear it.
Application to Garland, TX: Would Muslims–or anyone, for that matter–hear Pamela Geller’s exercise of free speech as giving grace? Did her speech build up or tear down? How people hear speech is surely relevant in deciding whether it promotes grace and avoids a corrupting influence.
2. Colossians 4:6—Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Interpretation: Again, God offers the “gracious test.” The salt image suggests that speech should be pleasing to the one who hears it.
Application to Garland, TX: Does Geller’s speech pass this test and did hearers experience it this way? Is there a way to speak truth so as to increase the likelihood that it be taken graciously?
3. James 3:10—Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
Interpretation: It seems that part of what we say can be praising and part can be cursing, but God doesn’t want us to mix them.
Application to Garland, TX: Is it possible that Geller rightfully praises freedom of speech and at the same time uses the kind of speech that incites violence? Is it possible that mixing the two pollutes praise? Does her way to praising freedom of speech end in death and dilute the beauty of her love for freedom of speech?
4. Proverbs 15:1—A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Interpretation: This is quite clear. Gentle speech increases the likelihood of dissipating anger, whereas harsh words tend to stir up anger.
Application to Garland, TX: Isn’t this exactly what happened? The harsh exercise of free speech stirred up violent anger. In other verses, God acknowledges that we will get angry, but wants us to control it, and not to hang on to it. Geller’s free speech was hateful and angry and this resulted in an even angrier response.
5. 1 Peter 3:9—Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
Interpretation: These are difficult words. As much as we may want to respond to anger with anger, evil with evil and insult with insult, we are told not to do so. Holding our tongue and controlling our actions lead to blessing. The words and actions of radical Muslims are evil, and while we are tempted to respond with anger and insult, that is not in keeping with God’s will. When that happens we fail to be the people God would have us be. We must not use the evil of others to justify our own anger and insulting speech.
Application to Garland, TX: A better exercise of free speech might have been to get people together, pray for radicals, and offer loving words. At the same time we should renounce the evil to which we are all prone. Why? Because fire added to fire will surely burn the house down, and too many houses have already been destroyed by fire.
Pamela Geller, and those who drew insulting pictures of Muhammad, are guaranteed the right to do so by the U.S. Constitution. But those who love God and desire to follow his word prefer a different response. We desire to draw a loving picture of Jesus and offer it to radical Muslims regardless of their response. It isn’t easy, but we are take up our cross and follow him. “Easy” is not the word I would use to describe the picture of Jesus on the cross.