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Islam--Submission vs. Grace

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Romans 5:1-5:9Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”

Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus MA

Having participated in Desert Storm, I received training from the Dept of Defense in Arab culture and Muslim thought. I've read the Koran and have spoken with Muslims serving in the military, to include the US Army's first Muslim Chaplain.

From the start, I want to contrast Islam with the Christian concept of grace. The word Islam means "submission", which means keeping the rules. Our Judaic-Christian heritage includes rules as well, the most well-known being the Ten Commandments from the Old Testament and the Golden Rule from the New. But here's the difference: Getting to heaven under Judaism and Christianity involve redemption, through an atoning sacrifice for sin. We believe God's promise and accept His gift of forgiveness. Under Islam, salvation comes through strict adherence and obedience to the directives given in the Koran.

I don't know about you, but I prefer grace. Under grace, God gives us what we don't deserve—Heaven; and He doesn't give us what we do deserve—Hell. God's grace forgives what it cannot excuse. The Bible is clear that we can't save ourselves. We're sinners, and we're far from perfect, so we clearly need God's mercy. We are not saved by good works but by God's work. Thanks to the Cross, we are declared "not guilty." The Gospel message declares that we can know for certain we are citizens of Heaven; and so we enjoy assurance of salvation. God is a relational being Who has chosen to reach out to us in love. Under Islam, it's a whole different matter. According to the Koran, God is characterized primarily as a Judge, whose primary attribute is justice. Not surprisingly, the Koran harshly condemns all who reject the teachings of Islam. Under Islam, God is not seen at all as a loving Father; in fact such a concept is considered blasphemous by Muslims.

In speaking with Chaplain Mohammed at Fort Bliss, I posed a hypothetical question: What if a soldier breaks the required fast during Ramadan? This is a monthly period in which Muslims are to abstain from food from daybreak to sunset. I asked, "Can such a violation be forgiven?" The firm answer was No—that soldier has broken Islamic law, and his action will be a black mark against him for all eternity.

Christian ministers are sometimes labeled as "fire & brimstone" preachers. The OT mentions Hell 31 times, the NT 74 times…but the Koran warns of hell 783 times, and anyone who questions the divine inspiration of the Koran can expect to go there.

By now we all know that Islam is a strict religion. It divides people into two categories: "those who have submitted/the house of Islam", and "those who are resisting/the house of war." Non-Muslims are regarded as infidels, under God's curse. The Koran states, "Those that deny our revelations will burn in fire" (Al-Nisa). The Koran repeatedly dictates aggression against non-Muslims, e.g. "Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell among you" (9:123). Islam claims to be a religion of peace…but only for those who convert.

In the aftermath of 9/11 we've learned that America is regarded by the militant Muslim world as the "Great Satan". According to this thinking, there are no innocent Americans. Osama bin Laden has repeatedly directed his followers that it is their duty to kill Americans and their allies. The Koran, filled with declarations of war, states: "Let those who would exchange the life of this world for the hereafter, fight for the cause of God", and offers rewards for those who die as martyrs in the cause of Jihad/holy war. Muslim heaven is filled with concubines to satisfy those who die in its cause.

Followers of Christ point to verses that state believers should be willing to give up their lives rather than deny their faith…but nowhere does our Bible instruct disciples to kill nonbelievers. While many Christians believe warfare can be justified for a nation's defense, war may not be used to coerce religion. Have so-called Christians used force to promulgate their faith? Yes, indeed. The Crusades and the Inquisition are prime examples. But here's the difference: No one can find or quote any words of Jesus to justify the slaughter of others. Such action is in violation of Scripture. The atrocities of the Crusades and Inquisition contradicted the teachings of Jesus. Yet Muslim suicide bombers are acting in full accord with their holy book. In addition, Muslim teaching demands Islamic control over all civil authority--no separation of church and state, no freedom of religion. Christians who live in Muslim countries are being imprisoned for holding prayer meetings and Bible studies in their homes. Most non-Muslim nations, and most world religions condemn violence today, and are tolerant of other faiths. The intolerance of Islam is very troubling.

Muslim faith is summarized by 5 basic "pillars": The declaration that Allah is the only God and Mohammed is his messenger; daily prayers five times a day, facing the city of Mecca; almsgiving to the poor (1/40th of one's income), fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and making a pilgrimage at least once in one's lifetime to the Muslim holy cities.

The Koran, the Muslim holy book, is said to supercede all previous writings. Its title means "recite". It was allegedly given to Mohammed over a period of 23 years. Although Moslems regard the Old & New Testaments as historic documents, they consider them corrupted and unreliable. While translations of the Koran exist, Muslims regard only the original Arabic to be authoritative. Christians are more lenient when it comes to translation, and while we regard the original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic as our primary text, we value making the Scriptures available to people in their native languages. The Koran claims to be divine revelation given to Mohammed, and is supplemented by the haddith, a collection of additional sayings attributed to the prophet and teachings by his early followers.

Mohammed was born in 570 AD. He claimed that the angel Gabriel commissioned him to be a prophet. Moslems believe that when Jesus promised that God would send another Counselor (John 14), He was referring to Mohammed, not the Holy Spirit. In the city of Medina (modern-day Saudi Arabia ), Mohammed set up the first Islamic state. The Jews of the area rejected his prophetic claim. Those who weren't slaughtered were sold as slaves. Though Islam is often described as a peaceful religion, Mohammed engaged in numerous battles and the Koran is filled with 109 verses on warfare and damnation. He united Arabic tribes into a vast army to carry the faith to other lands by force.

According to Islam, the six greatest prophets are: Mohammed, Jesus, Adam, Noah, and Moses. Jesus is regarded by Muslims as a sinless prophet who will return in the last days to command everyone to embrace Islam. Muslims reject His divinity and deny that Jesus died on the cross and shed His blood as a sacrifice for sin. Since there is no atonement, no payment for sin, people must earn their way to Heaven. Islam strongly denies that Jesus is God the Son. The Koran states, "God is but one God. God forbid that He should have a son!" (4:171). We affirm that God is One, yet revealed as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and this sets us apart from Islam.

The non-Muslim world is justly concerned over Muslim practices of terrorism, slavery, polygamy, oppression of non-Muslims, and the oppressive treatment of women. Apostates, those who leave the faith, are charged with a capital offense.

Although marriage is a requirement for every Muslim, and men may have as many as four wives, a Muslim man may divorce a wife at any time and for any reason. The Koran makes it clear that women are inferior, and counsels husbands to beat disobedient wives (4:31). I even read such advice in an Arab newspaper, encouraging husbands to beat their wives on a daily basis. Women are often isolated, forced to cover themselves from head to toe, and denied basic human rights.

Under Islam, there can be no firm guarantee regarding one's eternal destiny; in fact, there's no assurance that, once admitted, one will be allowed to remain in Heaven. Mohammed stated, "As for the blessed, they shall abide in Paradise as long as the heavens and earth endure, unless your Lord ordain otherwise" (11:107). I call that "eternal insecurity". Christianity operates under grace; under Islam, people earn their salvation through strict adherence to the rules.

Islam does not speak with one voice. There are several divisions within Islam, to include extreme, militant factions. While some Muslims regard jihad as an inner struggle, many see it as a holy war against all infidels, especially Israel and the US .

How are we to treat Muslims? Regardless of our emotional response to Arab terrorism, we are commanded by Jesus to love everyone, even those who have declared that they are our sworn enemies. May their respect for Jesus lead them to discover Who He really is.

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