The Bible and Culture

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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

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