I often struggle with how to wisely bring the good news of reconciliation with God through Christ to those who practice Islam. There seems to be polarization today in this regard, and it grieves me. A friend recently shared this advice about this topic with me, and I found it so enlightening, that instead of my own thoughts for this blog, I would share these.
Christian and Christianity | The term Christian only appears in the Bible three times, and two of these seem to be labels of derision expressed by outsiders. The apostles had a rich vocabulary in how they referred to themselves: believers, disciples, holy ones, followers of the way, etc. These are far more meaningful to Muslims. To Muslims, Christian often means a brutal Crusader or polytheist who believes in three gods: Father, Son, and Mary.
Similarly, the apostles never coined the word Christianity, which to many Muslims means “Western materialism and decadence best displayed by Hollywood.” If the apostles created a golden age of gospel growth without ever uttering that term, we can also.
God vs. Allah | Beware of getting too hung up on the way you refer to our heavenly Father. Remember that God is a name derived from Teutonic Got (which may have come from Zoroastrianism), and Allah is a name for Deity that’s closely related to Elloh (as in the Hebrew Elohim). Millions of Jesus-followers across the Middle East and Asia read Bibles that start, “In the beginning Allah created the heavens and the earth.” Even the New Testament translated Theos as Allah 400 years before the time of Mohammed.
This means that a wise approach is to let them hear the gospel in their own terminology. But as we talk about Allah, we can fill this name with new and more accurate meaning. And that could include a concept like grace, which does not exist in Islam.
Attacking Muhammad | Paul’s team faced a host of false worship in the cities they visited. Yet this is what the unsaved clerk of Ephesus said of them: “These men … are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of our goddess” (Acts 19:37, NASB). At least publicly, Paul’s team didn’t verbally attack the gods of Ephesus; rather they talked up Jesus and impacted the entire province. Perhaps this is an effective principle to emulate as well.
Well, that’s enough for now. May God give us much grace in these times of tension.