A salesman once asked me what I did. I explained to him that I am a consultant on Christian-Muslim relations. He then said smugly, as if he were making a brilliant point, “All Muslims are not terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.”
This common viewpoint is blatantly false. Timothy McVeigh was not a Muslim. The Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka are not Muslim. The Catholics and Protestants of Ireland are not Muslims. The Basques separatists of Spain are not Muslims. Clearly, not all terrorists are Muslims.
I can imagine the kind of questions that come to mind when you read the title of this blog. “Ok, Rick, how can we love Muslims when we face the evil of terrorists? These people purposely murder innocent people to make a political point! Doesn’t the Bible say a lot about justice and punishing evil people?”
Weighty questions demand worthy answers. Let me give it a shot by making two crucial points:
1) We must differentiate between the vast majority of Muslims and the minuscule number of terrorists.
First, we need a view of Muslims that is as accurate and discerning as possible. The chart below describes the spectrum of Muslims in the world today:
Secularists reject Islam as a guiding force for their lives, whereas Modernists have a “West is best” approach to Islam. They want to change and adapt Islam to the modern world. Traditionalists view Islam as a source and treasure which must be wisely and flexibly applied to the modern world. Fundamentalists are literalists who strive to obey the Qu’ran and the Hadith, while ignoring or rejecting many of the classical traditions of Islam. They seek to model their lives after Muhammad and his earliest disciples. Jihadists are militant Muslims who espouse violence to force all peoples to follow Shariah law.
The vast majority of Muslims are just like you and me. They want to live in peace. They want a good job and a good education for their children. They want to be treated with dignity and respect. (See the Grace and Truth document.)
2) We must differentiate between the role of the church and the role of the state.
Flag waving patriotism and Bible-believing faith often go hand in hand in the United States. This fusion of church and state, however, can be problematic when it comes to relating to Muslims. This is most apparent when we seek to reconcile the challenge of loving Muslims with dealing with terrorists. Fortunately, Paul the apostle gives us wise guidance regarding these issues in Romans 12 (the role of the church) and Romans 13 (the role of the state).
Paul sandwiches this section on church and state with a focus on love (Rom 12:9; 13:8-10). We are called to love with a sincere, genuine love (Rom 12:9). He then concludes the section with an emphasis on the priority of love – which does no harm to one’s neighbor and is the fulfillment of the law (Rom 12:8-10).
Next, there is a strong emphasis on peacemaking. Paul says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18). Note that Paul gives a double qualification: “If it is possible” and “as far as it depends on you.” “If it is possible” indicates that peace is not always possible. We must be peacemakers, but in this fallen world, we are not always peace achievers. “As far as it depends on you” puts the onus of taking initiative on the believer. We are called to proactive peacemaking.
Peacemaking also goes beyond the church to include “everyone.” Beyond our comfort zones and outside the walls of our churches. No borders. No boundaries. Everyone. Including Muslims.
The theme turns a corner in Romans 13:1-7 as Paul describes the role of the state. The contrast is staggering Whereas Jesus’ followers are called to a peacemaking ethic of sacrificial love, the state is called to bring justice. The state bears the sword. Governments have a God-given responsibility to promote the common good, uphold justice, and protect their citizens.
We are called to submit to the governing authorities because they are servants of God for our good. As good citizens, followers of Christ should support their governments’ struggle against the evil menace of terrorism. However, regardless of what our government does or how Muslims respond, the church is always called to share Christ, to love, to overcome evil with good and to pursue peace. (Peace Catalyst International addresses this and similar topics in its seminar, “Peacemaking: Building Communities of Reconciliation” )
We must obey both Romans 12 and Romans 13. We are called to love Muslims and deal with terrorists.