Several times recently I have been asked by concerned Christians questions along the lines of “will Muslims take over in the UK/the West?” or “how should we respond to the violence of Jihadists/ Islamic State etc?”. My precise answer depends upon the circumstances but is usually along the lines of “keep calm and think biblically”!
What do I mean? There is a danger that we allow our thinking to be manipulated by the secular media or the agenda of people who want to scare us into supporting their particular cause. So here are five suggestions for a calm and biblical approach to Islam and current world events:
- There is no God-given reason why the UK or any other country should not become Muslim. Most of the countries of the Middle East and North Africa now considered to be Muslim were once considered Christian. Why should our fate be any different? Do we really believe that somehow we deserve God’s favour more than other nations? Not only is this unbiblical, it is also racist! Already our so-called Christian countries are in practice aggressively secular. Political leaders, even some Church leaders, deny key Christian truths and society generally is often anti-Christian. Simply because our culture is familiar does not make it any less dangerous to us;
- The statistical analyses used to “prove” that Muslims will take over at some future date are usually flawed. For example they often assume that immigration rates will continue at high levels, birth rates of future generations will remain high for Muslims but low for others and that western Muslims will not become secularised and effectively leave their faith. These are huge assumptions that are really just guesses. As I write we cannot accurately predict the results of the May 2015 general election never mind events decades into the future. Interestingly, most big world events are not predicted by the “experts” (think of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the 2008 economic crisis, 9/11 etc – who saw them coming?). On the other hand confident predictions are usually useless – think of WMDs in Iraq!
- While anti-western violence and rhetoric makes the headlines, it is often a mask for internal political strife. We need to realise that there is a battle for the future of Islam – in brief, there are alternatives which range from outward-looking modernising reforms (such as Turkey under Ataturk and the ideals of some reformers in the “Arab Spring”) to backward-looking ideas from the 7thC (e.g. the Taliban). This internal strife explains why Muslim militants kill more Muslims than Christians. We need to understand that most Muslims are not the perpetrators of violence and oppression but victims;
- In Matthew 24 Jesus teaches us to expect false religions, wars and persecution. He tells us this precisely so that we don’t get blown off course. We need to see the recent history of the west when serious persecution was rare as abnormal, not typical. Terrible though contemporary Islamic violence is can we really say that it is worse than the horrors of the 20thC (Hitler or Stalin or MaoTse Tung or Pol Pot for example)? We need to keep a sense of perspective and hear what Jesus says – expect these things and don’t panic;
- We also need to remember that our God is sovereign over the nations (eg Psalm 47:8) and when they plot against him he laughs at them (Psalm 2:4). We must therefore trust in him and not give way to fear. Perhaps the Muslims will take over, after all while only a minority are violent it is a missionary religion, but on the other hand who can say that God in his infinite wisdom will not bring extraordinary blessing and save many Muslims? We really should trust in Almighty God and not assume that he is impotent. Already we do see that some Muslims are very disillusioned by current events and this has led to some coming to know the Saviour.
So if we are to expect false religions and wars and persecutions and to trust in the Almighty God, what then should be our response to Islam and current events? Here are some ideas:
- Pray for and support practically if possible all who are oppressed and persecuted, especially Christians;
- Prayerfully develop a way of thinking that isn’t a knee jerk reaction to the things we hear. Instead find comfort in the knowledge that God knows what he is doing;
- Learn to love Muslims. Here in the UK the vast majority of Muslims are ordinary people trying to get by like everyone else and elsewhere many are poor and oppressed. They all need the Gospel;
- Seize the opportunity of Muslims in the UK to reach out to them. Instead of worrying about them, share the Gospel with them. The Great Commission applies to Muslims and not just Muslims overseas. For advice or training on this subject please contact me through the Swindon or Edinburgh or Belfast offices.
Finally, I am reminded of that great hymn by Arthur Campbell Aigner:
God is working his purpose out
as year succeeds to year:
God is working his purpose out,
and the time is drawing near;
nearer and nearer draws the time,
the time that shall surely be,
when the earth shall be filled
with the glory of God
as the waters cover the sea.
So don’t be frightened by current events, we have a great God who knows what he is doing – keep calm and think biblically.
Peter (a UFM worker with Muslims in the UK). This article was first Published in Four Corners the in-house magazine of UFM.