What do you believe?
What do you think about Christians?
What do you think about Muslims?
What do you think about Jesus?
What do you think about ISIS and Jihad?
How can we better understand what’s going on in the Middle East?
My dear friend Ra’d Al Khayyat answered a few of these questions at our Summer program called KIVU this year, and it was AMAZING.
We set out to help give students a conversation about what the similarities of Islam are with Christianity AND, we wanted to highlight the real differences. In a world of Social Media, there are often deep disparities between what actually IS versus what is totally misunderstood. So we decided to carve out an afternoon session where students could meet Ra’d and myself tell the story of Jesus through the eyes of leaders who hold our faith deeply in our makeup.
I told the Jesus story through the eyes of a Christian.
I asked Ra’d to tell the story of Jesus through the eyes of a Muslim.
And you know what we found out? There are some incredible similarities.
1. Did you know the Bible and the Qur’an talk extensively about Jesus?
Of course, those of us who know and study the Bible know about Jesus through the Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the primary stories of Jesus’ life told in the Bible. And in the Qur’an, Jesus is mentioned several times. One most notable is in the Chapter Zukhruf 61. “And (Jesus) shall be a sign (for the coming of the Hour of Judgment): Therefore have no doubt about the (Hour), but follow ye me: This is a Straight way.”
2. Did you know the Bible and the Qur’an both speak about Jesus’ Virgin Birth?
Christmas is filled with images of Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem. We talk at length about the importance of the Virgin Birth. Matthew 1:18 says, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.”
And if you look in the Qur’an you’ll find, “Behold the angels said: “O Mary! God giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to God. She said: “O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me? He said ‘Even so: God createth what He wileth: When He hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it, ‘Be’ and it is.” (Al Imran 45-47).
3. Did you know the Bible and the Qur’an both speak about Jesus being the Word of God?
In the Bible it is written in John 1:1, “In the Beginning was the word. The word was with God, and the Word was God.” And then in verse 14 it says, “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us.” An obvious reference to Jesus.
In the Qur’an it says, (Al Imran 45) “O Mary! God giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus …”
4. Did you know the Bible and the Qur’an both speak of Jesus’ miracles?
The Gospels are full of miracles where Jesus healed the Sick (Matthew 9:35, Mark 2:9-12, Luke 17:12-19 just to quote a few.).
Did you know the Qur’an also speaks of Jesus healing people through miracles? I also heal the blind and the leper… and I bring to life the dead, by the permission of God.” (Al Imran 49)
We also found that both books speak of Jesus living a sinless life, speaking life into a lifeless time, and that He is coming back to judge the world.
As we watch the news swirling about the world, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see it seems like everything around the world is “Melting Down” around us and centered in some sort of religious rhetoric. There’s some kind of notion that Muslims are supposed to Kill Christians as infidels through a fundamentalist interpretation of the book. But taken fundamentally, a muslim could read the Bible specifically in Joshua and see where the God of Bible called Israel to commit genocide to the people of Jericho and AI. And of course Christians don’t adhere to that type of talk.
So what are Muslims supposed to do with Christians?
“And nearest among them in love to the believers wilt thou find those who say, ‘We are Christians’, because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant.” (Al Maida 82)
And Christians are called to Love God and Love their Neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40)
But before you think we’re all the same, there are some differences.
My Muslims friends don’t believe in Jesus crucifixion
My Muslim friends don’t understand the Christian version of the Trinity.
My Muslim friends don’t accept the ‘original’ sin concept.
And we were sure to highlight those differences so there wouldn’t be any confusion of making the two groups the same.
My findings: MAINLY in the middle, where Jesus is concerned, many of my Muslim friends come to a place where Jesus is held in the most high regard. A point often missed by the media.
Look, I’m not interested in defending religions. After all, for many; the interpretation of the ancient books can often lead us to places where violence can be justified. But to sit and talk about how we’re similar and how we’re different can help us understand one another. And isn’t that what the world is supposed to be about? Learning to Love God and Love your Neighbor as you Love yourself? (Matthew 22:37-40)
I’m thankful for my friend Ra’d who is interested in finding the most interesting common places where we can be friends. It is possible to come together and talk with Christians and Muslims in an environment of learning. But it will become more and more difficult if we continue to label with long broad brushstrokes for people who commit violence.
Ra’d and I stand in solidarity. The murderous crimes committed in the name of Islam, OR the crimes committed in the name of Christian are abhorrent and unjustifiable. We seek to come together to find places of peace and friendship. And for you out there reading this today…you can do the same. It’s not rocket science. It just takes a little time, a little humility, and a lot of grace.