This was released a while back to those on our mailing list. With changes in the USA political climate it is an even more important word for the Lord’s people. We can easily be deluded and think this is a political battle. It is not. It is spiritual and as Paul says we do not battle against flesh and blood. The enemy of our soul would love to stir up the ‘religious spirit’ and start a battle between Islam and cultural Christianity not rooted in grace but law. We can not allow this!
It is becoming increasingly popular among conservative Christians to militantly oppose Muslims. I know that as citizens of the USA and other non-Muslim nations we must be wise, but the Lord’s wisdom is not like human wisdom. We must consider our response to militant Islam in the light of two much larger battles: one for souls and one with the secular institutions within our own nations who would silence Christian witness.
The battle for souls is the most important. It is not the Lord’s heart to brag about destruction. Scripture is absolutely clear in this regard. Remember 2 Peter 3:9: God does not want anyone to die but everyone to be saved. And Ezekiel 18:23 says He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. When we brag about what we will do with our guns, we are definitely rejoicing in someone’s death, when instead we should be morning that we had to kill a non-believer and end his ability to choose Jesus. Almost as bad, we are playing into the hands of the enemy.
As we discuss the confrontation with Islam, I am not saying that Christians should roll over and play dead. I am not a pacifist. Nor am I saying we should not privately own guns and prepare to use them. There is a time and place for defense and a time and a place for martyrdom. The problem is our heart, and the rhetoric, especially public rhetoric, because that publicly reveals our hearts. Even there, I am not immune to the tough talk and I can easily slip into the talk of what I would do to protect my family. Fortunately the Holy Spirit nails me every time I get started.
The strategy for revealing the Lord’s heart to Islam ought to be very much on our minds and hearts. We should be intensely interested in strategy for interacting with Islam at a societal level.
As believers our main job on this earth is to reveal the heart of the Father. Mathew 5 and John 10:10 show that death and destruction are NOT his first choice. They are His last resort. He even gave the Canaanites 400 years to repent before He allowed the Jews to enter the Holy Land. I have taught intercession and prayer regularly over the last years, and James and John are the best examples of anger distorting that ministry. They really really did want to call down fire from heaven on that village. But Jesus rebuked them. It was not His plan to destroy. If they were to have true power, then they had to have His heart.
It is absolutely vital that Christians communicate the Lord’s heart to the world. God’s heart is captured in Mathew 5, in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This is especially important with the Islam/Christian confrontation for many reasons. Maybe the first and most important is that Muslims expect the anger and threats. It is love and respect that potentially confuses them.
There are two things happening in the Islam/Christian confrontation: culture and religious doctrine. A friend of ours spent a lot of time on mysterious trips to the middle east at Uncle Sam’s expense. He had more direct knowledge of the people and culture of the area than anyone I knew. He said an interesting thing. He was convinced the middle east conflicts had little to do with religion. They were simple straightforward blood feuds between families, something any Tennessee hillbilly knows. In the conflict with the West it is the same. Muslims treat it as a blood feud. This explains why a widow who might have been abused would take up arms against the West when her husband is collateral damage. If Christians talk of retribution and violence, it fits perfectly with their expectations that this IS a blood feud. This is especially true when everything is about the generic Muslim. That is blood feud thinking. You kill my uncle so your cousin is my enemy. The middle east has had a few thousand years of fighting and blood feuds. They may lose or they may win, but they are as ready to fight as any hillbilly. So the culture of feuding is as significant as the religious doctrine.
When we are talking about the religion of Islam it is important to be precise and subtle. The worst thing we can do is judge any group by their most extreme elements. This is true with Christian groups and no less true for Islam. It is also true that if we are to speak into someones heart, we must understand how they see themselves. Even if they are deluded and demonically controlled, we want to bind the demon and speak to their souls.
The best example of what I am talking about is the vision that guided us in Ghana in ’98. I had an open vision before that trip of encountering a shaman at a village shrine. The Lord showed me that the man actually did love his village and was doing the best he knew to protect them. The Lord also showed me that he had realized that the spirits he served actually hated him and the village. Yet, appeasing them through blood sacrifice was the only way he had to protect his village. In the vision the Lord showed me to ignore the bad stuff and speak directly to his desire to protect. The shaman came to the Lord and brought the entire village to hear and receive the gospel of Jesus. (Much to my disappointment, I did not encounter this man, but a team from ORU who went there exactly a year later did, and it played out just as I saw in the vision!) Speaking to the good motivations are the best way to cut through error in practice.
Islam leads people away from Jesus and is oppressive in many ways, but there is enough error in most discussions that Muslims do not recognize themselves in most conservative portrayals of Islam. Counter intuitively, this is worst when we talk about jihad, which they see as a spiritual directive. For a conservative westerner, violent jihad is the most obvious danger, but it is easy for a Muslim to disconnect from that violence or to justify it. Think here about trying to take a Texan’s Bible away or hurt his family.
Violent jihad is probably the easiest aspect to deal with, since ISIS has few backers even in Islamic countries. Far worse, the most effective tools for Islam are the hash consequences for leaving the faith and the insistence that all children of mixed marriages must be Muslim. Add to that the economic barriers, and the social forces become compelling. That makes a great lobster trap for faith. Easy to get in but impossible to leave. This operates totally separately from the violent jihad, yet over the last few centuries has been Islam’s most effective tool for taking over regions.
Sharia is another target of Western conservatives. We revile Muslims because of sharia law and we want to keep it out of our nation at all costs. But think what this looks like from the other side. The freedom we speak about in the West is associated with immorality, homosexuality, chaos in our inner cities and general lawlessness. If that is what Christian grace and forgiveness is about, many people want none of it. Remember, sharia itself is mostly Old Testament law. Because the OT moral law was good, many of the benefits of doing things God’s way flow for those who follow sharia.
Of course, no one can actually follow the OT moral law, and so Islam is full of excuse making and lots of surface righteousness with dead men’s bones inside. But, compared to chaos and lawlessness, sharia can look pretty good. (Watch, over the next years as the US inner cities become more lawless; Islam will move in to provide protection and stability.) Many Muslims look at the chaos and immorality of the West and legitimately ask, do they really want that? When we revile them because of sharia and this society wants freedoms of all sorts, you can almost forgive them for thinking we are the crazy ones.
If you look at the moral underpinnings of sharia and exclude the laws directly related to religious practice, I think you could read through the requirements of sharia out of context and most conservative Christians would agree with enacting those moral laws. The point here is that ‘good’ men can actually see Islam as a stabilizing force. Faced with chaos, people will willingly give up their freedom for stability.
There are problems with Islam and with sharia. But, if we treat them globally, we cut ourselves off from the motivation for safety, security and righteousness. I know from personal experience that many Muslims are very aware of the gap between the law and their hearts. That’s the same gap Paul saw. Many are also aware of the excuses made by Imams for obvious violations. It is sharia that creates that awareness of sin. In the West everything is lining up to destroy that ‘awareness’ so that there can be freedom of any lifestyle choice. If we are to build any kind of common society, then we must use a much more precise scalpel in regard to Islam and sharia. As we share the heart of God, we certainly cannot dismiss the very tool God has left to reach Islam.
Sharing the heart of God requires linking his heart with a person’s deepest desires. We cannot do that if we use an ax rather than a scalpel in our criticisms. God will give us grace to refuse to make this a blood feud, and He will give us wisdom to communicate what parts of Islam lead to Him and which lead away from Him. We just have to listen to the Spirit of God.
There is one more aspect of the Islam-Western confrontation we must be aware of. There are two traps the enemy Satan plans for Christians in the west, and he would love to see us dig the pits ourselves. There is a second battle in process today. We all know it– we just don’t think about the relationship between the two. The battle between law and lawlessness and the battle between legalism and true Christianity. Hopefully you see that Islam is the most prominent representative of legalism in the world today. Christian legalism will make another appearance before things end, but for now it’s Islam. Now the enemy’s oldest game is to bounce us between these two extremes.
Here are the traps. The first has to do with terrorism and its definition. As conservatives attack Islam with the ax, the world sees this more and more as a dangerous battle between those with strong faith. I will absolutely guarantee that everything said about Islam will be applied to conservative Christians. This is already starting. Sometimes it is mind-blindingly-blatant, like when a liberal equates a lawsuit to block public funding for a disgusting picture of Christ with the slaughter of 12 people at a magazine office in France. At other times it is more rational, like wanting to put a security watch on the more radical anti abortion groups. We need to be very careful about how we push public opinion and create laws. It’s not ‘they might’ but those very laws will be used against us.
The second trap is related; it is about sharia. Again I will say that the moral basis of sharia is the OT law. The oldest accusation against the Bride of Christ is that she is unfit for rule or authority. The drum beat in the battle between Christians and the libertines is that religion and the Bible has no place in civil life and law. There are excesses in sharia, but the fundamental tenant of sharia is that God has every right to establish civil law and His law is by far the best. I would certainly agree with that statement, as would most conservative Christians. We would disagree about the details and disagree that clerics should interpret, but the principle is sound. On the other hand, the prevailing attitude in the Western societies is to soundly reject this principle. In our efforts to oppose sharia, we must be very careful not to reinforce our libertine opponents.
I think one of the most obvious of these scenarios has to do with the so called ‘no go zones’ where sharia is enforced. I want to be clear: I would never advocate allowing deadly force or even intimidation to be applied to enforce religious laws. I certainly would never advocate allowing such things to force conversion or prevent leaving any faith. However, as we see society and law veer in the direction of things like homosexual marriage and other clearly sinful freedoms, Christians need to protect their right to live by Biblical standards. Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is clear. The world is only convinced that Christ is real by Christians living in unity and love in community. Living by the Biblical standards allows God to release grace to live in Christian community where that love can be demonstrated between members of the group. It allows us to model God’s wisdom and discipline within a community committed to accountability, forgiveness, and restoration. There is a debate underway among Christians as to what this kind of community looks like, and there will undoubtedly be many answers to that question. At some point, I will release my thoughts on this matter. The point here is that it is Christians, not secular authority, who should make that decision. Those who oppose Christianity will use the same laws which are developed to block sharia zones to also block the right of Christian communities to live internally by Biblical standards, unless those laws are carefully constructed.
This is not the time for promoting our cause with sword rattling, sound bites and emotional speeches. The battles we are fighting are much too subtle for such weapons. Even if we manage to stir up the troops and march on the enemies’ camp in this way, we will certainly find ourselves like the crusaders of the fourth crusade. Instead of reconquering the Holy Land, they ended up destroying the last stronghold of Christianity in the East. If we follow the Lord’s heart and seek His wisdom, then the world will see what God can do.