We are simply people who are trying to follow what was revealed to us by Allah through His servant, Jesus, the son of Mary. We want to make this revelation known to others, and in particular to our Muslim friends. We want to do so with respect and love.
It has been said that men usually judge themselves by their intentions but judge others by their actions. We see quite clearly the faults of the other person, but we act as if we ourselves only had good qualities. This same tendency is seen when it comes to religion, isn’t it? Some Christians have trouble admitting that Islam does teach some important truths, such as the existence of one true God, the fact that this God has spoken to men through His prophets and His scriptures, and the certainty of the Day of Judgment. Islam condemns sins such as abortion, homosexual practices, suicide and drunkenness, while also teaching virtues such as charity, prayer and respect for parents. Instead of taking the time to show appreciation for good things in the teachings of Islam, some people only emphasize the bad behavior of some Muslims—the dishonesty of certain merchants, the cruelty of certain extremists who massacre even their own Muslim brothers (contrary to the teachings of their own prophet), or the oppression of women in certain Muslim countries.
Muslims, for their part, are often guilty of the same kind of unfairness in the way they think about Christians. Instead of rejoicing in the good things that some Christians do or the truths that they proclaim, some Muslims only look at the moral weaknesses, the hypocrisy or the immorality of certain Christians or what they consider to be false ideas in their beliefs. They never take the time to make a distinction between true Christian faith and the practices of many so-called Christians, between the true teachings of Jesus and the very imperfect lives of some who claim to follow him.
The Problem of Condemning Without Knowing the Facts
We are not at all trying to excuse the sinful behavior of those who are bad Christians or bad Muslims, but we do encourage everyone to take the trouble to discover what our neighbors’ religion actually teaches. We should not just blindly accept everything that our parents or religious leaders say about the faith of others. Their accusations are not necessarily grounded in truth. As Jesus said in John 7:24, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” To judge a religion on the basis of those who do not properly follow it or who are ignorant of its true principles is not righteous judgment.
In the studies on this website, we want to help our Muslim friends better understand the true Christian faith, so that they can judge it fairly. We will try to answer questions that Muslims ask and the objections they have with regard to what they see among Christians. We do not have to always share the same opinion, but we can certainly seek to understand and show respect for one another.
The Problem of Practices that Offend
Let us begin with certain practices which Muslims often deplore when they consider those who call themselves Christians. The Bible does not, in fact, approve the practices we are going to consider here.
The Use of Images, Statues and Crosses
When Muslims see many people who believe in Christ bowing or kneeling before statues, kissing crucifixes, lighting candles before pictures or images, they are scandalized. Isn’t that idolatry? It is not that these people are not sincere in their expressions of love for God, but what they are doing is actually not pleasing to God. He never recommended using such images in offering worship to Him; to the contrary, the Bible clearly forbids their use.
The second of the Ten Commandments is categorical:
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.” (Exodus 20:4,5)
Those who use these images claim that the coming of Jesus changed everything. They say that what was forbidden under the Law of Moses in this respect is now permitted. But when they tell us, “It’s different now,” we want to ask them, “Says who?”. Did God in His holy Word tell us somewhere that it is now allowable to make images and bow down to them? Did the apostles ever make a statue of the Lord so that the first Christians could use it in their worship? There is in the Bible neither commandment nor teaching nor apostolic example to support this practice. The teaching of the apostles of Jesus on the subject of idols was very simple and very clear: converts from paganism were to totally break away from idolatry in all its forms. They recommended to “write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols” (Acts 15:20). Paul said to the Corinthians, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.”
The early Christians did not pray before crosses and statues, and those who want to follow the Bible today will not do so, either.
Another thing which shocks Muslims is the shameful clothing that they see worn by people they assume to be Christians, and especially by women. Certainly, one should not expect non-Muslim women to wear dresses that cover everything, from the feet to the fingertips, with a veil that hides all except the eyes. There are even many Muslim women who do not dress that way. But there are unfortunately too many Christian women who do not respect the principle of modesty, a principle that is definitely taught in the Bible that Christians claim to believe. The New Testament says in 1 Timothy 2:9,10:
“I desire… in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.”
Another passage speaks along the same lines:
“Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” (1 Peter 3:3,4)
We need to remind our daughters and Christian sisters that they must not dress in such a way as to seduce men or put them in temptation’s way. Yes, some men will have impure thoughts regardless of what a woman wears, but that does not excuse the Christian woman who wears very short skirts or tight pants or blouses that reveal her breasts. Instead of wanting to be, at all costs, in fashion, she should think of the effect her appearance may have on others, not only the possibility of seducing men, but also of causing other people to think badly of Jesus-Christ and the Christian faith.
Let us also remind our Muslim friends not to think that everything related to the West, everything that comes from Europe or the United States, is the product of Christianity or reflects Christian teaching. Millions of Europeans, Americans or Africans who have Christian names make no effort at all to follow the teaching of Jesus. We say that they are of the world; the Church, however, is made up of those whom God calls out of the world to be different from worldly people. Do not think that it is the Bible that encourages Christians to conform to the ways of this world.
What Happens in Certain Worship Services
There are many other things in the Churches that Muslims find strange or wrong: women whom people call “pastor” and who exercise authority over men; worship services that look more like concerts or entertainment than they do times of adoration where men and women humble themselves before God and give honor to Him; and seats of honor reserved for men of influence. The Bible approves of none of these things. It says in 1 Corinthians 14:34,35, “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says… for it is shameful for women to speak in church.” Instead of offering worship that is pleasing to men, the Bible says in Hebrews 12:28 that our worship must be pleasing to God. As for favoritism in the Church, James, the brother of Jesus, spoke severely against Christians who would give a place of honor to someone who wore a gold ring and a magnificent garment, but who would say to the poor man who was poorly dressed to sit somewhere on the floor. He told them, “If you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:9).
Let Us Play Fair
If you see such things in a church or in the lives of certain people who claim to follow Jesus, do not reject the Injeel because of that. Do not say to yourself that the Bible must be a corrupted book, or that no good Christians exist anywhere. Go instead to the source, to the Bible itself. You probably do not want others to reject your prophet because of the actions of Boko Haram or of the hypocrites who call themselves Muslims but drink alcohol, eat pork, swear by the name of Allah as they tell lies, and never say the five daily prayers. So do not base accusations against the Bible on the actions of those who do not follow the Bible. May the Almighty help us all to not judge according to appearance but with righteous judgment.