SOLVING THE MID EAST CRISIS
This is the 5th and final question of the Christian/Muslim Dialogue prior to the Question/Answer session from the audience; this one dealing with how we can best be right in the sight of God
Okay, very good. And, our final question: What, in your religion, does God expect of us as human beings?
Let me begin here by asking the audience to please not boo me before you have heard me out. Give me my 8 minutes and then, if you still feel like doing so, you can boo me off the platform. But, please hear me out, first. Now to begin with, as an Evangelical Christian, I do not believe that anyone ever enters Heaven except through Jesus Christ. (applause) That’s not me talking; He said it Himself.
Now, does this mean that everyone here who does not believe exactly as I do, then automatically goes to Hell? No, I don’t think so. No two individuals agree on everything and, of course, only God has all the answers. So, I’d be the only one up there and I’d get lonely.
Instead, if you will read Jesus’ two famous parables about salvation, the parable of the Prodigal Son and the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, I think you will find two common links that are vital to being accepted into the Kingdom of God – humility on the part of the believer and grace (underserved forgiveness) on the part of God.
In the parable of the Prodigal Son, a young man takes his share of the family inheritance and goes out into the world, living a very vile existence. He has plenty of money and plenty of friends. But, when the money runs out, his friends disappear. Anybody ever have friends like that? The boy takes a job feeding pigs and realizes that they are eating better than he is. He realizes that he has made a shambles of his life and doesn’t deserve anyone’s help. However, he decided to humble himself and go back to his father, asking to be taken on as a slave. But the father, who in this parable represents God, sees him coming and won’t even think of making him a slave. He is welcomed back with love because of the grace, or underserved forgiveness of the father. That is how God responds to each of us. All of us have sinned and gone our separate ways. But, if we humble ourselves and ask forgiveness, God responds with grace.
In the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, a haughty religious leader and a lowly publican, who likely hadn’t lived a very honest life, both enter the temple to pray. The religious leader prays a very boastful prayer exalting his own righteousness. The publican, instead, humbles himself and prays a very humble, but sincere, prayer: “Oh God, forgive me a sinner.” Jesus says that the publican, who humbled himself, went away forgiven, while the religious leader’s prayer only got as far as the ceiling. So here again, humility on the part of the believer – we must acknowledge ourselves as having fallen short of God’s love, followed by underserved forgiveness or grace on the part of God.
As to the actual penalty for the sin itself, we believe that Jesus Himself bore the penalty on the cross and in effect became our sacrificial lamb. This is what we call the atonement.
As I have said, with all the Psalms and the Qu’ran have to say about the mercy of God, I think there is room for mutual agreement here.
Maybe the best way to answer this is to consider the name of our religion. Islam is not named after a particular person. Islam means submission. The Qu’ran refers to these people as Muslims. Some would ask, “How can you refer to Jesus or His followers as Muslims when Islam didn’t even exist at the time? The answer is that Islam means submission to the will of God. It is a description. Since we believe in the Christian Scriptures as the Word of God, a Muslim is one who submits to the will of God. God’s Word tells us how to act. We believe that God introduced His Word in stages through the various prophets from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Ishmael, and all the way to Muhammad. And, whatever these people told us, whether it is to not steal, not to lie, to be loving or compassionate, etc., this is what a true Muslim is. It is very hard to find consensus on this.
Now, I believe this is the last question and I told them when I first came to be free to ask whatever you want. Even questions like “Why do you all love terrorism? I’m cool with that. I am not here to impress you. I genuinely feel comfortable around you. If I had a kid, I would want him to be raised up among you. Why wouldn’t I? I felt comfortable from the first second I walked into this place. At the end of the day, if both people share the same values, what does it matter if they call themselves by a different religion? If you have a value of compassion or of loving others, or not stealing or lying, these are values I believe in, so why wouldn’t I want to hang out with you if we share these same values?
You know, in a way, we are all part of a minority. When I came into this Church and I started talking to some of these people, I realized that we all have so much in common. The values that we are trying to hold up, we are swimming against the stream. We really are. The things that we believe in, the majority does not believe in. They laugh at us. But, I want you to know that I enjoyed you tonight. I enjoyed being with you. And, I genuinely have love for you. And, when I have kids, I would want people like you to be my neighbor to help me raise the kids. And, I agree with Rev. Gardner that you certainly need good parenting and the love of God to raise a child. I am thankful the values system that my parents gave to me. So you know what? Thank you very much. I really don’t see that much of a difference between us. It’s not about what we call our religions; it’s about how we implement it. And, we choose to implement our religions in a way that’s not really that different. And, I truly hope that other Muslims and Christians will see the similarities more than the differences between us. Thank you very much. God bless you.