The Bible and Culture

The Bible and Culture

Leighton Ford on a Christian Approach to Muslims

Bble Lands 2010 198.jpg

Leighton Ford is an old Charlotte friend of mine, and was formerly Billy Graham’s right hand man in the Billy Graham Association.  I find what he says in this post both sensible, sane, and well worth reflection.  BW3

Jesus and the Mosque


On a shelf at
home I have a copy of Pilgrims of Christ on the Muslim Road, the
story of the Syrian-born writer Mazhar Mallouhi. As a young man who grew up in
a Muslim family he had a profound spiritual hunger, read widely, learned of
Jesus in the Bible, and became a follower of Christ while remaining loyal to
his Muslim culture.

His novels are
read by millions in the Middle East. Through them he has sought to bridge
misunderstandings between Muslims and Christians.


In the book is a
photo of him in the famous Al Azhar Mosque in Cairo, sitting with a group of
Muslims as they read the Gospels together. It is his custom to say, “I am a
follower of Christ. Here is what Jesus said. Tell me honestly, do you think I
am living as Jesus said I should?”

I thought of
Mallouhi’s question during the heated dispute over the location of a Muslim
mosque and community center near Ground Zero in New York. Among the voices
being raised – some harsh with anger, some deep with indignation about
“rights”- I wonder if the missing voice is that of Jesus?


If I were a
Muslim I might want to claim rights, but also want my leaders to consider
whether another location would work and help to heal some deep hurts. But I am
not a Muslim. Those issues are for the Muslim community to decide.

What I need to
ask is: what does Jesus say to us who say we follow him?

Suppose we, like
Mallouhi, sat down with some Muslims in the new community center, and read with
them some of the words of Jesus, words like “Do good to those who hate you.”
That could apply to radical terrorists who want to blow us up. So how can it
not apply to Muslim neighbors who are living among us?


Many years ago my
late friend J. Christy Wilson was pastor of the first ever Christian church in
Kabul, Afghanistan. Through the good offices of President Eisenhower permission
was granted to build the church, attended by Christian expatriates.

The time came
when the Afghan authorities revoked permission and announced they would knock
the church down. When the bulldozers arrived what did the Christ followers
there do? They served tea to the workers who were destroying their church


They were living
out a central tenet of our Christian faith – that we are “saved by grace”
-God’s grace freely given in Jesus Christ – and they showed grace.

How can we do
that?  I hope the churches and the Christ followers in New York can figure it
out. Perhaps delivering a cool drink to the workers who will build the center?
After all Paul went so far as to write (and this was about enemies, not
neighbors) “If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.”


Does this mean we
naively accept real evil? Not at all. I understand the rage that 9/11 stirred.
Force is often needed to protect the innocent. But ultimately I have to follow
Jesus and his follower Paul in the baffling reality of Paul’s admonition to
“Overcome evil with good.”

What does the
love of Christ compel me to do? Perhaps whether in New York or Charlotte to extend
a little more grace – actually a whole lot more. Wouldn’t that be the best
witness we could make?

Leighton Ford

Comments read comments(10)
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Warren Lamb

posted August 28, 2010 at 4:17 pm

This is timely and poignant. The heart of grace described here is all but missing from the church-at-large and why our message is considered irrelevant and hypocritical by so many. We would do well to recall that it was the kindness of God that led us to repentance.
Thank you Leighton Ford, and thank you Ben Worthington for getting this in front of us.

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posted August 28, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Muslims believe Abraham to be the
father of the faithful. Muslims
believe Moses was a great prophet.
Muslims even believe Christ was a
wise teacher, spoke the truth of
gospel, and worked signs and wonders.
But they don’t accept that HIS
offering and sacrifice upon the
cross was for them!! But we must
look past the offense of the cross
to realize the resurrection !!

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posted August 29, 2010 at 8:58 am

Thank you Leighton Ford for speaking the truth. Grace and the expression of it seems all but lost today. God has shown me time and time again when I forgive others and extend grace to them, it is the power of the gospel. Truly it is what we need to get back to.

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posted August 30, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Great challenging thoughts by Leighton. I do think it is a mistake for muslims to build this mosque and accept another location, however this is a good heart check for me. To easily I want to disregard the hard Scriptures and offer a cup of cold water. Thanks for posting this Ben.
I never looked fully at the perspective that Muslims don’t have a Scripture filled with the grace of a personal God who died for their sins.

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posted August 30, 2010 at 2:10 pm

btw…do you know what the headstone (and inscription) represents in the graphic you posted? just wondering?

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Jeff Livingston

posted August 30, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Thank you for posting this Ben.

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posted January 26, 2012 at 11:38 pm

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posted January 26, 2012 at 11:58 pm

I am glad I found such an useful blog. Great information here, thanks.

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Jere White

posted October 14, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Though I agree that Brother Ford’s message of grace is sorely needed in today’s church, I believe that his comments regarding our attitude toward the NYC mosque to be misguided and wrong-headed. To allow subversive elements free reign to run roughshod over our heritage in the name of Christian tolerance and under the cover of religious freedom is neither Biblical nor safe. If you were to follow his line of reasoning then Jesus would have never over turned the money changer’s tables in the temple but instead proposed a cordial discussion over matzos and wine! Jesus is full of grace AND truth. Wake up Christian!

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