Speaking to a group of Muslims recently, I was received with great courtesy, hospitality and respect. There was genuine curiosity in what I had to say, and a gentle probing of my answers.
Until I described the scene where Jesus took off his coat, wrapped a towel round his waist, and washed his disciples’ feet. I heard the intake of breath, and the word ‘No’ whispered round the room.
As the film of Muhammad continues to cause offence around the world, and with Salman Rushdie publishing his account of The Satanic Verses fatwa, it is worth considering the profound difference at the heart of our relationships with our Muslim friends. It is not just that our two religions make competing truth claims – though that is true: if the leader of one religion was a true prophet, the leader of the other is a false one. And God’s wrath, not God’s peace, is on the false prophet.
No, the deepest difference is the stunning wonder of God’s love, generosity, mercy and willingness to serve us and suffer for us. The deepest offence we cause is not cartoons, movies or novels – it is caused by the scandal (insult) of the cross. In my Muslim friends’ eyes, that we say God allowed such a thing is an unimaginable insult to his honour, and an insult to his prophet’s honour. It would be impossible to imagine Muhammad doing such a thing. Allah, never.
And yet, if Jesus is the true prophet, the cross alone is the gospel, and it makes us willing to carry our cross in turn. It’s why we don’t riot when people insult Jesus – because we know that we have insulted him far more, and yet he’s forgiven us. And we don’t riot when people insult us.
Here are six truths from the Bible that you will not find in the Qur’an:
For I endure scorn for your sake,
and shame covers my face.
I am a foreigner to my own family,
a stranger to my own mother’s children;
for zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.
When I weep and fast,
I must endure scorn;
when I put on sackcloth,
people make sport of me.
Those who sit at the gate mock me,
and I am the song of the drunkards.
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross.
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
1 Peter 4
Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?
Would you be willing to read a Bible without those truths?
Will you tell them to your Muslim friends?
Will you pray for conversion?