Monday, October 28, 2013

Flashback: Muslim Relations

"How should we act towards Muslims?  Should we feel sorry for them or should we feel anger towards them?"

Oh if this question were that easy to answer. 

We as Christians should feel no hatred, animosity, or any such emotion towards any people group.  We are to be the servants of all ... ministers to all.  Our early fathers all willingly walked to their violent deaths in order to carry our message ... yet suddenly we feel the justification to be the administer of judgment.

The conflict with the Muslim militants that we find ourselves in is due (in large part) to a general belief that we have meddled into the purity of their affairs ... as hostile as we see them.

It is extremely important to remind ourselves that the Muslims, in large part, do not live with hatred towards us ... many Muslims, like those who call themselves Christians, are at most agnostic ... they acknowledge being Islamic but do not truly follow the religion in detail.  For a large part, it would be more accurate to say "Arab" than Islamic.  We see Muslim and we apply religion ... then being Italian should make me Catholic right?  It's prejudice through and through ... what cures this ... education.

In my opinion, which is being asked, I feel that we should do all to reach all.  I am encouraged that there are people of Muslim/Arabic/Islamic heritage and beliefs in my world ... should a light be kept in the sun?  In light of this, please keep in mind as you read my thoughts that I am specifically answering a question about Christian - Muslim relationships ... in no way am I denouncing the Jews.  However, if historical fact sheds darkness ... it is what it is. 

The conflict we find ourselves in is that of the third leg ... the conflict between Jews and Arabs goes back millenia to Abraham's two sons: Ishmael and Isaac (later named Israel).  According to the Bible, Abraham was given a promise by God to have a nation of decendants.  Instead of waiting for his wife, Sarah, to become pregnant, he (at the advice of his wife) had a child through his wife's servant, Hagar.  This was an acceptable tradition of the time (and still is around the world) in order to keep the family lineage alive.  Hagar conceived and gave birth to Ishmael.  Soon after Hagar's conception, Sarah and Hagar had contention that was never eased.  Hagar is run off and God (The Angel of the Lord) finds her.  Then a very important dialogue happens:

Gen 16:7 Now the Angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. 8 And He said, "Hagar, Sarai's maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?" She said, "I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai." 9 The Angel of the LORD said to her, "Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand." 10 Then the Angel of the LORD said to her, "I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude."

Gen 16:11 And the Angel of the LORD said to her: "Behold, you are with child, And you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, Because the LORD has heard your affliction. 12 He shall be a wild man; His hand shall be against every man, And every man's hand against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren."

This was spoken over his descendants (Arabic Nations) by God ... how do we think we can change this through policies and oppressions?

The Bible does not clarify who started this problem but shortly after Isaac's birth, Hagar is caught scoffing at Isaac by Sarah and she demands that Hanah and Ishmael be kicked out of the home.  After much stress, God visits Abraham and tells him to do as she asked.  The two are sent away into the desert ... to ultimately perish.  That would have been their destiny.  God however intervenes and saves the two, promising again to Hagar that they will also be a great nation:

Gen 21:10 Therefore she said to Abraham, "Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, namely with Isaac." 11 And the matter was very displeasing in Abraham's sight because of his son.

Gen 21:12 But God said to Abraham, "Do not let it be displeasing in your sight because of the lad or because of your bondwoman. Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac your seed shall be called. 13 Yet I will also make a nation of the son of the bondwoman, because he is your seed."

Gen 21:14 So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water; and putting it on her shoulder, he gave it and the boy to Hagar, and sent her away. Then she departed and wandered in the Wilderness of Beersheba. 15 And the water in the skin was used up, and she placed the boy under one of the shrubs. 16 Then she went and sat down across from him at a distance of about a bowshot; for she said to herself, "Let me not see the death of the boy." So she sat opposite him, and lifted her voice and wept.

Gen 21:17 And God heard the voice of the lad. Then the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said to her, "What ails you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. 18 Arise, lift up the lad and hold him with your hand, for I will make him a great nation." 19 Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water, and gave the lad a drink. 20 So God was with the lad; and he grew and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer. 21 He dwelt in the Wilderness of Paran; and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

It is extremely important to note that Abraham and God both loved this child and that God, Himself, looked after him.  When Islamic people claim to follow the God of Abraham (the call Alah) they do not lie.  Many Christians have a hard time with this ... but it is true!  Jews, Muslims, and Christians all claim to follow and serve the same God.  Uneducated people will say that Alah is too harsh ... but take an objective look at both Old Testament Jewish and Islamic "foreign policy" concerning the tolerance of oppression and foreign influence (especially religious): kill them all. 
The descendants of Ishmael are later joined by the descendants of Esau ... which caused futhur conflict within their ranks.  Jacob had stolen Esau's blessing as the oldest son, and in return was told this when he demanded a blessing from his father, Isaac:
Gen 27:37 Then Isaac answered and said to Esau, "Indeed I have made him your master, and all his brethren I have given to him as servants; with grain and wine I have sustained him. What shall I do now for you, my son?" 38 And Esau said to his father, "Have you only one blessing, my father? Bless me—me also, O my father!" And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.

Gen 27:39 Then Isaac his father answered and said to him: "Behold, your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth, And of the dew of heaven from above. 40 By your sword you shall live, And you shall serve your brother; And it shall come to pass, when you become restless, That you shall break his yoke from your neck."

Gen 27:41 So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his heart, "The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob."

When the Crusades began, the Arabic people were still, in large part, in constant conflict within themselves ... as they still are today (Iran vs Iraq, Iraq vs Saudia Arabia, Jordan Vs Syria, etc).  Their initial alliances, and the immeasurable power that they have united, began in response to the initial victories the Crusaders delivered with almost no remorse or retaliation (read any history book).  In response to those massacres, the Islamic Nation was born ... and the Crusaders were ultimately humiliated in overwhelming and absolute defeat.  More importantly, however, was the beginning of what we see today.
By this time in history, Jews had long been scattered across the face of the earth and dared not organize.  The tension between Jews and their Muslim brothers became severe when, in the aftermath of WWII, the Jewish nation was given it's former land back and the current (at the time) occupants were simply and forcibly removed.  That action deemed the Islamic people as less than human (in their opinion) since their right to land and property was just taken.  Some of those families had lived there for centuries ... the decision was made ... and the Islamic people, with all of their might, could not stop the Allied powers.  
Israel was returned to who they felt was their rightful owners ... and the war continues ...
So what should our response be? 
First, remember that we are the adopted sons.  Many Arabic people are the descendants of Esau ... legitimate sons of Abraham ... when we say they are all of Ishmael we do so in ignorance and it is wrong and we cause unecessary harm on ourselves and others.  Even for the sons of Ishmael, they have just as much right to call Abraham their father ... he was and Abraham loved Ishmael ... the Bible makes it clear.
Second, we have no sides to take.  The Bible teaches us to support the Jews (Romans 11) but not to come between the two nations ... not to shun the Arabs ... but to not retaliate against them.  The Jewish nation fell in 70AD.  The Jewish people in Paul's time were running for their lives.  Now the same Christians who had been so vehemently persecuted by the Jews were in positions to return the favor ... Paul told them not to.  He instructed us to let them be and to show them love because God had let them harden their hearts so that we would find grace ... and that was the point.  How much so should we also extend the same hand to the other sons of Abraham and Isaac (their cousins).
Third, take every opportunity to listen.  One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is your absolute attention.  If an Arabic person is speaking to you and uses hostility concerning Jewish people, don't jump to their defense ... just listen.  Many of them have every right to feel hostility towards them ... they have had their children, and other family members, brutally and senselessly killed right before their eyes in the countless battles ... the same for the Jews.
We are not the perpetrators here and have no chance to witness to any sides involved in our family if we put ourselves in the seat of judgment.  That seat is reserved for God alone ... and He said "Blessed are the peacemakers."
I think in closing, a scripture that rings true ... and is one of my favorites rings true here:
1Pe 2:15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
That's my take anyways.

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  1. I am presently witnessing to an Iraqi refugee, a 52 year old investigative reporter who wrote the truth and was subsequently shot, arrested, imprisoned and beaten. She is also a dear friend who now sees the Bible is God's written words and that Jesus Christ is God 'somehow'. I follow the advice of Ken Temple, a missionary in Atlanta to Iranians. I agree with you completely and am encouraged by your post.

  2. Please forgive me. I wrote the previous post and am now correcting a typing error. I meant to say 'and now sees the Bible AS God's written words (instead of Christians' written words)....' I am in the process of teaching her English so a language barrier exists between us; I am not sure of what she means by God's written words, that is, where the Qur'an fits into her present take on everything...

  3. It was not an easy write ... so many Christians seems so quick to point their guns at the Muslim people and will no doubtedly accuse me of choosing sides here ... God says it well that we, His people, suffer for a lack of knowledge.

    The worst type of suffering is that which we could have easily avoided...

  4. I believe the answer is contained in Luke 10:25-37. If we were to just remove all of our religious labels, and take to heart the parable of the "Good Samaritan" we would know the answer to how we are to treat PEOPLE aka, Our "NEIGHBORS". In Luke10:27, notice that Jesus is not saying "worship me" - He is saying the first commandment for all people is to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. " Are not many people of differing faiths truly seeking God with their heart? Who can be a judge to their hearts call? No one- and if we were to truly look deeply at ourselves, we would find as the scripture says , in Jeremiah 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Only the Lord can know who we are- every single one of us through to our core. As Hagar came to understand God as "El Roi- the God who sees me- the God who opens eyes"- The only One who sees each of us and our hearts' position has that place to make the call and, WE - are to love one another.

  5. Oh! And let's not forget Matthew 5:43-48! "Love for Enemies" :
    43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

  6. Thanks EOS for your comments ... they are always appreciated.

    Just to clarify for the readers ...
    Luke 10:25-37: And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tempted Him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26: He said to him, What is written in the law? How do you read it? 27: And answering, he said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. 28: And He said to him, You have answered right, do this and you shall live. 29: But he, willing to justify himself, said to Jesus, And who is my neighbor?

    30: And answering, Jesus said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among robbers, who stripped him of his clothing and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31: And by coincidence a certain priest came down that way and seeing him, he passed by on the opposite side. 32: And in the same way a Levite, also being at the place, coming and seeing him, he passed on the opposite side. 33: But a certain traveling Samaritan came upon him, and seeing him, he was filled with pity. 34: And coming near, he bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine, and set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35: And going on the next day, he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, Take care of him. And whatever more you spend, when I come again I will repay you. 36: Then which of these three, do you think, was neighbor to him who fell among the robbers? 37: And he said, The one doing the deed of mercy to him. And Jesus said to him, Go and do likewise.

    John, the apostle, was well known for his teaching on love ... in all of his letters that is an overpowering theme. "Love one another."

    I feel that the church needs to take a hard look at their stance on love and how it is employed throughout the community. I find it to be seriously lacking.

    Jesus, when speaking to the man had not yet been glorified, as He said was coming (and now is), so He would not allow Himself to be equalled with God. He did not come into the world to pass judgment but that through Him the world would be saved.

    God loves all of His creation and desires that we share His love with those who may be most repulsive towards it. The simplicity of the Gospel is perfect:

    "He paid a debt He did not owe, I owed a debt I could not pay.
    I needed someone to wash my sins away.
    And now I sing a brand new song: Amazing Grace
    Christ Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay."

    Thank you for your comments.