Monday, August 9, 2010

The Cordoba House - Islam, Fear, and the Gospel's Demand

There's certainly been a lot of attention paid to the debate surrounding the Cordoba House these days.  It is a proposed Islamic center/mosque that is to be built near Ground Zero in Manhattan.  This attention has led to a larger discussion in the West about the fear that many people have of Islam.  My question for Western Christians then, is this: as followers of Christ, how are we to respond to the new reality of Islam in our neighborhoods?

Ted Esler of Pioneers has this to say:
I have a friend who works in a country where Islamic law governs life. The small house church he had established was in the hands of national leadership, and he was not present when the religious police broke in and arrested the entire church, sentencing all of the men to prison.

One day soon after, an angry mob assembled at the local mosque and marched toward my friend’s home. He gathered his wife and children together, locked the doors, shuttered the windows, and went upstairs. His wife shook in fear as they prayed together, asking for deliverance and praying for those who were marching down the street toward them. The shouts and insults against Christians grew as the mob drew closer to their home.

To his amazement, the crowd passed by and continued down the street. He then came to the realization that they had never intended to visit him that day. They were unaware of his involvement with the small, persecuted house church.

As we consider Islam and its reach into our own country this story helps me understand where many of our hearts might be. The news is filled with angry mobs and it appears that they are headed our way. How should we think about this?

It is easy for us to assume, like my friend did, that they are coming for us. But we are not the reason for their anger.

Paul wrote, "Many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ" (Philippians 3:18). The dangerous anger of Islam does not burn foremost because of our culture, our freedoms, or our "way of life." It is an attack on the cross first and foremost. Our response should be based on this fact.

Watching the news one might be led to conclude that anger is the best response to Islam. Another response might be fear, such as that felt by my friend (an understandable, human response).
Jesus taught another response. "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: love your enemies …" (Matthew 5:43, 44).
For many evangelicals, the threat of Islam—both real and perceived—has sometimes distracted from obedience to the demands of the gospel. While radical Islam certainly has a political agenda that should not be minimized, we should, in obedience, follow Jesus' command to love them.

How best should we love Muslims? We can pray, we can show them tangible acts of love, and we can send emissaries to them. While it is very disconcerting to see Islam grow within the borders of the USA, our hearts should break more over the fact that 1.2 to 1.5 billion people don’t know Jesus and will never experience the joy it is to know him. Most will never meet a disciple of Christ unless some of us go.

That is why Pioneers, the organization I serve with, exists.
Ted, I couldn't agree more!  I should also note that New York City already contains over one hundred mosques.  Thus I believe the issue of the Cordoba House is not so much that a mosque (albeit a very very big mosque) is being built as much as it is about the location of that mosque (two blocks from Ground Zero).  However, I think the larger discussion that it has opened in the West is imperative for Evangelicals to weigh in on.  As I told one close friend when he bemoaned the fact that a mosque was being built in his neighborhood, "As a Christian who is supposed to obey Christ's Great Commission, you should be thankful that Muslims are coming to you, it saves you a lot of money on plane tickets."

HT: Desiring God

2 comments:

Warrick Farah said...

Here is a good article about the problem Islamophobia in America: http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/08/12/iftikhar.islamaphobia/index.html

Jacob S. Wells said...

Thank you for this article with loads of good info. While in theory the offense of the cross should be the main factor stirring Muslim anger against the West, I think most Christians in the West neglect to carry the cross that Christ bids us take up daily. Perhaps Muslims are mad at the grace the cross affords us and upon which we presume we are okay even when acting carnally.