Fighting Fire with Fire?

All heat but no light. Or, as the apostle Paul put it, “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” (Romans 10:2, ESV) That, I think, is a fitting description of Pastor Terry Jones’ infamous threat to publicly burn about 200 copies of Qur’an to commemorate the 9th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and to protest the plan to build a mosque two blocks away from Ground Zero. It was a relief that Pastor Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida backed down from doing so. He could have foolishly risked not only his own life and that of his church members but also the lives of Christians all over the world. In Afghanistan for example, other than burning a U.S. flag, protesters chanted,“Death to the Christians!”

Thus, in an interview with Christianity Today magazine, Warren Larson, director of the Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies at Columbia International University, expressed fears that the threat has damaged our witness to Muslims.
“I think most Bible-believing, mission-minded, evangelical Christians are fixated on political problems. They are obsessed with Islam but often for the wrong reasons.Christians feel threatened and are focusing on their rights and liberties, but not seeing their responsibility for witness with the hopes that Muslims come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.The Muslims (even the extremists) are not our enemies. Burning religious books won’t lead them to put their faith on the Lord Jesus as Savior. It would just reduce our witness to ashes. Such an act stems from hate, not love.

The problem with hate is that we end up becoming like those we hate. Yes, what the terrorists have done in 9/11 was despicable. But burning their sacred book would just bring us down to the level of those fanatics. Gerald McDermott, Jordan-Trexler Professor of Religion at Roanoke College, reminds us, “Paul said our real battle is not against ‘flesh and blood, but against the cosmic powers of this present darkness’ …This means our witness as Christians to members of other religions should involve patient conversation, not hostile argument. Plenty of listening and befriending before any attempt to persuade… It means loving witness to others who sincerely believe they have the truth.(Ibid)

Brethren, let us speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).


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