In nearly every edition of major American newspapers are stories of Muslims somewhere, east or west, engaged in acts of violence—in the name of Allah. Suicide bombing, kidnapping, killing Christians, Jews, and Hindus, burning churches and temples, destroying ancient religious relics, protesting free expressions of religion and the press—such terrorist reports are routine. What does this indicate about the very fabric of Islam?
I say it demonstrates a core weakness.
By weakness, I mean Islam is not able to compete in the spiritual marketplace of ideas. It must instead resort to repression, intimidation, and violence. Perhaps there is a sense of inferiority in that Muslims are gripped by the fear that Islam is not able to stand alongside Christianity, which does not seek to gain influence and converts by dependence on questionable, cultic methods.
I am reminded of Paul who, prior to his conversion, vigorously persecuted the Church. Many Bible scholars think he was motivated by a fear that his religious beliefs were inadequate or even erroneous. Paul was a terrorist while he was still known as Saul, according to the Biblical account in Acts. Yet after Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus, Paul no longer threw men, women, and children in prison merely because they believed in Jesus. Rather, he himself became a simple preacher of the gospel armed only with the message of a crucified and risen Savior.
Paul learned from Jesus, who taught His disciples to turn the other cheek, to pray for their enemies, and to do good to those who treated them shamefully. Jesus taught that His followers were to love their neighbors as themselves and to do to others as they would have done to them. Jesus said nothing of killing infidels or repressing religious teachings. He did warn of false prophets whose aim would be to deceive and corrupt. Clearly, however, He did not advocate imprisoning or killing them. In one instance, Jesus taught His disciples to simply go on to the next town when opposition arose. Jesus Himself practiced this, as did Paul throughout his missionary journeys.
Consider a society like Saudi Arabia where even the simple recounting of the Christian message to a Muslim is a capital offense. That is weakness in the extreme.
Islamic evangelistic strategy, known as da’wa, is so very often fueled by intimidation and violence. “Convert or die” has too often been the Muslim message. Am I exaggerating here? I don’t think so, since sufficient historical data supports my claim, both ancient and modern. In fact, I think that the Islamic means of spreading the faith are held in check only by fear of retaliation from target peoples.
Biblical Christianity has entirely different weapons of warfare. Paul wrote, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). Such is the power of the message of Jesus.
Evangelical Christians proclaim the message of the Cross of Jesus and His resurrection. The Holy Spirit of God then convicts individuals of their rebellion against God and draws them to the Savior, Jesus Christ, who has completely provided for their salvation. No one can be forced to become a Christian; no one can even “join” Christianity or apply for membership. It is a work of God and not of man. One of the great weaknesses of Islam is that it arose and continues to exist as the work of man. Few voluntarily choose to join Islam, especially in recent years now that the religion was been partially unmasked. It is usually by birth and community attachments that one becomes a Muslim. And especially in Muslim-dominated countries it is nearly impossible to leave it. This again is a great weakness. There is no religious freedom for Muslims to come and go, to be faithful or not; there is only fear of the community, of hellfire, and peer pressure. To be an apostate Muslim, that is one who has declared faith in Jesus rather than Muhammad, is to be classified worse than an infidel. The result is often death.
Paul trusted in the work of the Holy Spirit and did not revert to his old ways of violence and imprisonment—fleshly warfare. In Ephesians, Chapter 6, he describes the “armor of God”— which is the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, for the feet the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (see Ephesians 6: 10-20).
This is strength. This is confidence. This is peace. This is actual dependence on and submission to God.