I sat at breakfast this morning with five men. Two of them Western Christian, and the other three were Jordanian, Lebanese, and Saudi. It was an interesting cultural conversation of the differences in business, entertainment, politics, and then we got around to the point that all three of these men of Middle Eastern descent all said they follow Jesus.
My ears perked up, and I was interested in hearing how this worked as all three claim they worship at a Mosque in their own home countries, while still claiming Jesus as the revelation of God to earth.
"If you say I follow Asa (Jesus in the Quran) then Muslims rejoice because you are one of them. But if you say you follow Yeshua (Jesus in the Gospels) then Christians rejoice because you follow their version." one man said.
"So what if you pray 'In the name of Jesus' with a Muslim" a friend asked.
"It's ok, Muslims love Jesus."
So I sat there an listened to the conversation, wondering if we (Western Christians) are missing the whole point here. Could it be that we are really worshiping the same Jesus, or are there tangible differences that have caused conflict between the faiths concerning the Messiah.
I realize the cultural differences, and I'm well aware of the political issues surrounding the debate, but can it be we've simply misunderstood meanings? Is this debate REALLY about semantics?
I spent a bit of time at the Oxford Center for Apologetic Research in England which is sponsored by the Ravi Zacharias team, and it seemed like there is much more at the heart of the faith than merely semantics, but one of my new friends said, "Remember when Jesus asked Peter 'Who do you say that I am?' and Peter replied, 'I believe you are the Son of God, the Messiah.' Jesus answered and said, "Flesh and blood can not reveal this to you, but only by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 17) And I sat there in wonder…
Can someone who is Muslim, say they follow Jesus, and then allow the Holy Spirit to take control of their heart and turn it from all the misconceptions they might have about 'Asa' and really engage in a life of loving the Messiah, the same as Christians?
I quickly see the danger in gathering around a table with friends, and trying so hard to find commonality and peace; that we disregard some important points, and come from a Universalist perspective. But for the moment, I'm interested in listening to more explanation. I certainly don't want to minimize the Jesus who is very clear in defining Himself to the world.
I do know the power of the Holy Spirit to enter one's life can make radical differences in our spiritual following apart from cultural differences. And, I know that God can work on a grander scale than I'm privy to here on earth. So maybe, as we try to find the commonality in Jesus' message, we can watch the Spirit turn the heart of mankind back to God, both on the Muslim side, AND the Christian side. For we know the differences in our understanding of Jesus here in the West as there are over 3500 denominations in the U.S. alone.
All in all, this is a very interesting concept. To understand the apologetics of the Christian faith, and without compromise of the truth of Jesus' declaration (John 14:6), try to understand the cultural implications of following the message of Jesus contextualized for someone's tradition, is a the bridge I believe is worth, at the very least, exploring the question. Is it possible?
Is it possible for Muslims to disengage from their cultural perspective and see Jesus for who He is, rather than some Worldview taught in a Mosque? And likewise, is it possible for Christians to see Jesus as He is revealed in the gospel, apart from our Western contextualized understanding?
I guess the point we're trying to uncover here, can we lay aside our bias of culture to come to the foot of the cross and see Jesus for who He is, the Son of God who came to be resurrected to allow for a reconciliation to happen between God and Man? It's an interesting exercise, and if it's possible, may become the answer to the world's issues concerning religion.
What do you think? I'm interested in getting several perspectives, so feel free to write your thoughts. And remember, we want to make sure we don't deviate from truth in order to feel the 'fuzzy peace God' without remembering God is a God who judges the heart of mankind. There will be a day when all our actions will be held into account, and we mustn't forget the millions of believers who have gone before us to declare the truth with their very lives.
Let's start talking here. After all, discussions and debate can lead to truth in a civil manner, but war with each other will ultimately lead to death; so let's make sure we get this one right. I'm excited about the possibilities of introducing Christian Teenagers with Muslim Teenagers and see what the Holy Spirit might do there. If nothing else, it would be an interesting dialog.