posted by Carl Medearis
Categories: All Articles, Carl's Thoughts, Featured, Videos Tags: Christianity, Committed, Crowds, Curious, Followers of Jesus, Jesus, Judgment, Muslims, Sharing faith
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Theological Purity vs. Sociological Inclusivity
How Do We Know Jesus? (Week 3)
Nicely said. I like the crowds, curious and committed explanation. In particular, how delicate the relationship can be between them all. I am guilty, as one who considers himself committed, of not always honoring those who are beginning to follow. Thanks for the repriman… I mean encouragement!
Hi, I am not sure I know anyone who condemns those simply interested in finding out more about Jesus – we pray for them, help them, encourage them, and hope they draw closer. Clearly also, there are certain lines to be crossed – Jesus says you must be born again, and that if anyone would follow him, he must take up his cross daily. Being vaguely curious does not save you. We need to prayerfully encourage people to take that final step, or all is in vain.
It’s true that Jesus often didn’t condemn the crowds, and spoke graciously to them, but you’re forgetting a large part of Jesus’ biography.
He often said hard, objectionable things, to thin out the crowd, like the story at the end of John 6, where many desert him because he asks them to eat his flesh and drink his blood.
He did the same thing to many curious people, whom we would wish him to be more gracious to, like the rich young ruler, Nicodemus, the Syrophoenician woman, the Samaritan woman, and many others.
And I don’t see how you can say he never condemned the crowds. Much of his teaching was pointing out the sin in people’s hearts and warning them about hell. You think he wasn’t condemning anyone when he basically called the crowds adulterers just because they had sexual thoughts about a woman?
Jesus was more loving than any human that ever walked the earth, but that doesn’t mean he always made it easy for the crowds to follow him. He required repentance, saying things like “I did not come for the righteous, but for sinners”. That drove unrepentant people away.
He didn’t tell people to go away, but he did make it hard to follow him.
THanks for the thoughts. You are right that at times he was hard on people. But your examples are not quite right on.
1. It was his disciples in John 6 who left him because of the hard teaching – not the crowds.
2. The rich young ruler – maybe. Depends on how we view him and what it was Jesus was asking of him….and what HE was asking of Jesus. It’s an interesting one for sure!
3. He was not hard at all on the Phoenician or Samaritan woman – quite the opposite.
Finally you ask “how can you say Jesus never condemned the crowds…” Well, he actually never “condemned” anyone. He was full of grace and truth, but NO condemnation.
Pierre, he always loved people. Period. Preaching “against” people was not the way of Jesus. Never. I hope you can see this in his life and follow….
1. In John 6, it was clearly a public teaching, and yes, it was to “the crowd” that followed him across the sea of Galilee to Capernaum. “The crowd” is his audience for all the hard teaching from verse 22-59. It caused a huge controversy among them, and Jesus told the crowd of Jews to “Stop grumbling among yourselves” (vs 43)
3. He called the Syrophoenician woman a dog, and told the Samaritan woman, “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.” You think that was easy to accept?
You say that Jesus “actually never “condemned” anyone.”
According to the Oxford dictionary, “Condemn” means to “express complete disapproval of, typically in public”
So Jesus never did that to anyone? So when he called people “brood of vipers”, “white-washed tombs”, and “children of the devil”, he wasn’t condemning anyone?
He wasn’t “preaching “against” people”?
Carl, you say that you don’t “own Jesus”, but you’re acting like you can tame him. And you’re ignoring huge parts of scripture to package him as post-modern PC. Well the full, real Jesus has never been politically correct.
I invite you to gain a bigger perspective on him, and on his love.
His love did not always make people feel good- it often made people feel guilty, or angry, or confused, but it was EXACTLY what they needed.
Yes, Jesus “always loved people”, but I think we often have far too narrow a definition of “love.”
He did not condemn the crowds. I repeat. Your examples are of his own religious leaders. Not the crowds.
And…why are you so insistent that Jesus was hard on people? I always wonder what motivates that sort of heart.
First of all, I didn’t say he condemned the crowds. I said that he ” often said hard, objectionable things, to thin out the crowd…”
I gave the examples of Christ condemning the pharisees only because you said that Jesus “never actually “condemned” anyone”, and that “Preaching “against” people was not the way of Jesus. Never.”
These statements are simply not true.
But anyway, why am I so insistent that Jesus was hard on people?
Well first of all because it’s true. But I am emphasizing that on these posts only because you are denying it.
Do you think I don’t like the fact that Jesus was loving to sinners, exuding grace, healing, and forgiveness wherever he went? I love these things about my savior- the lover of my soul! That’s why I follow him, because he has blessed me and forgiven me and loved me so much that all I want to do is obey him and give my life to him.
But I cannot just pretend that he’s the easiest guy in the world to follow. I can’t just ignore the fact that he really made (and makes) things difficult for those who are considering him. Everyone who follows him has to make hard choices.
I just feel that your message is unbalanced. Maybe I seem unbalanced because I’m trying to balance you out.
But it’s not my “heart” that says Jesus was often hard on people, it’s the Bible that says that. I’m probably just as tempted to pick and choose the easy things that Jesus said. But I have learned much much more from grappling with the hard things.
Hi Carl. This interchange between you and Pierre is interesting to me. Perhaps you two have a past history that I am not privy to but from his comments here it seems to me that he is making some good points and not just being argumentative.
I would push back against some of his comments though and say that clearly from John 3:17 we know that Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save it. Also we know from John 9 that the judgment that Jesus does bring to the world is upon those who claim to see while those who admit their blindness are given sight.
Carl, I agree with you that Jesus’ harshest words are for the religious folks who are lacking in both humility and generosity of spirit (love, mercy, faithfulness). I also agree that Jesus is surprisingly open and loving towards “sinners”.
Pierre – do you disagree with this? Also, I don’t think your accusation that Carl is packaging Jesus as post-modern pc is fair. I think Carl is trying to remove what he feels is a bunch of religious packaging that is actually preventing people from seeing Jesus, keeping people away from him. Do you see any value in this effort? Do you appreciate anything that Carl is doing or do you feel he is just completely misguided?
Yes, there is a History between Carl & the Houssneys. Pierre is the son of Georges Houssney who is a very important peer of Carl’s. The two are truly “neighbors” of one-another. One of them grew up in the states and then moved to Lebanon with his family, then came back to Colorado, the other grew up in Lebenon, then later moved his family to Colorodo; now they both live in Colorado, & both visit Lebanon to do important work. Both have written important books recently: Houssney wrote,” Engaging Islam”; Carl wrote, ” Muslims, Christians, and Jesus”. I loved both books and actually read both of them within weeks of one-another and did not see a huge difference between the two.
Both Carl and the Houssneys are very succesful at loving Muslims and showing Jesus to Muslims. They are so good at what they do and have refined their techniques so well to work within their own worldviews and their own personalities that I don’t think that they realize that neophytes such as myself can hardly recognize the difference between their two different philosophies of engagement.
However, they do seem to have some passionate differences regarding how Christians should go about engaging non-Christians, specifically Muslims
I hope one day they will work together on a project. I am fascinated with some of their conversations, they are truly, very interesting food for thought. I have found both the Houssneys and Carl to be helpful experts that I can learn from.
Thanks Todd – that is indeed helpful background info. Sometimes I feel that God uses multiple approaches also, like Jesus’ own reference to the differences between his ministry and that of John the Baptist in Matthew 11 and Luke 7. Perhaps Carl is playing the pipe and Houssney is singing the dirge? (Not specifically of course but just for sake of illustration.)
Todd- thanks for your input and the background info.
I understand why you may not see a big difference- we all talk about Jesus and love and loving Muslims.
But on the field it’s very different how it all plays out.
One big difference is that we work with, and through the national evangelical churches in Lebanon.
I fully, fully agree that Jesus mission was to seek and save the lost, not to condemn the world. But, according to Jesus’ life, it takes a lot of tough love to save the world.
I’m really not saying we just need to go out and be hard on people because Jesus was.
But what I’m responding against is the idea that Jesus was always just sugary sweet and trying not to offend anyone. It’s just not a complete picture of Christ. It’s censored and tamed.
I’m also responding against the direction Carl is going with all this talk about “not judging others’ paths”. I mean, it sounds right, loving, and beautiful at face value, but at the end of the day, Carl uses it to mean that we should let people (and actually encourage people) to remain within false religions while somehow following Christ.
I understand that he is “trying to remove what he feels is a bunch of religious packaging that is actually preventing people from seeing Jesus”, but I only see him doing that with Christianity.
I don’t see him saying that Islam has a bunch of religious packaging that keeps people from seeing the true Jesus. It’s a double-standard. If you’re gonna say stuff like “God hates religion”, then why not call people out of all religions, not just out of “Christianity”???
I think that there are redeemable aspects of many “worldviews” whether those worldviews are “Christian Fundamentalist”; Islamic; or Postmodern.
If we take the Islamic Worldview as an example: (I’m not speaking of their religious theology or their “Christology” of “Isa”; I’m speaking more of their culture) The Islamic culture has many aspects that we can use to begin some wonderful conversations that will direct Muslims towards Jesus. Islamic culture can clearly be seen in the Bible. Some of that culture is found within: Jesus’ teachings; his living example; and his parables. Why not encourage Muslims that their culture is a great heritage that they can be proud of. Some of the things that I am thinking of are: the communal aspect of their culture; their amazing hospitality; the shame/honor dynamic; their individual modesty; general piousness; their “Zig-Zag vs. Adab” values; etc.
I don’t think that a lot of what Carl is saying is controversial or particularly, even, very new. I imagine that you probably agree with a great majority of his statements. (Carl just doesn’t talk a lot about doctrine; but there are plenty of other people that can do that). My take is that Carl is simply saying things in a way that will help people to really stand back; to look at them-selves; and then re-assess the way that they are talking to others.
I have never been a good evangelist. I’m hoping that by following some of Carl’s Ideas, I can perhaps, start to become good at speaking of Jesus, which is something that I do love to do.
I agree that there are good aspects of every culture, worldview, and person. One strength of postmodernism is that it’s gotten past the modernist idea that we can figure God out using the scientific method. But it also comes with a whole lot of other junk, like the classicly ironic post-modern dogmatic anti-dogmatism, or absolutist non-absolutism.
That’s part of the reason I prefer to call myself pre-modern- because I recognize and revel in the mysteries of life and God, but I also am not afraid to hold strong beliefs, even if they contradict the beliefs of others.
Aaaanyway, about your “Islamic Worldview” example. A lot of Westerners have trouble understanding how Islam interacts with the culture/s of Muslims. It’s become pretty well-known that Islam is super wrapped up with the culture of Muslim societies, and because of that, a lot of people buy into the (Islamic) idea of an integrated, unified Islamic culture. But that idea is a false ideal- a pipe dream that simply doesn’t exist.
Yet Islam seems to get all the flak and the credit for the faults and accomplishments of those who call themselves Muslim. But “Muslim” people groups and cultures are far from monolithic, and have many more factors in play than just “Islam”.
The confusion is because Islam is such a strong identity label. But that shouldn’t make us think that all the diverse cultural factors of Muslims come from Islam itself- that’s actually quite far from the truth.
Furthermore, historically it’s clear that Islam is actually a product of pre-Islamic Arab culture, not its genesis. As it spread throughout the world, it became a vehicle for Arab culture, as well as Islamic doctrine. As it mixed with hundreds of receptor cultures, it influenced them both with Arab culture and Islamic doctrine, but took on distinct new flavors.
So, fast-forward several centuries. (Sorry for the history lecture) Does that mean that every “redeemable aspect” of these cultures is really “Muslim”? Absolutely not. Actually, most of the art in Muslim cultures (besides architecture and Qur’anic calligraphy) has survived despite Islam’s presence, yet is often carried on by “Muslims”. I’ll wind-down before this get’s even more confusing.
Essentially I’m leading toward this: Muslims can be proud of their culture without being proud of “Islam”, and we can encourage their heritage without accepting every element of it. We don’t have to agree with their doctrine, or acknowledge the legitimacy of their prophet in order to love and respect them.
Does that make sense?
That was a great reply
One thing that I have heard, is that “Islam is a complete way of life” as opposed to Christianity. Christianity offers a lot of freedom in many aspects of life, and it can transcend many different cultures; Christianity is not as much of a “complete way of life”.
So the cultural aspects of what I had observed as a component of “Islam’s complete way of life” is actually a remnant of Arabic culture generally. That is pretty interesting, Thanks.
Do you think that there is anything at all that is redeemable from Muhammad or the Hadiths, & the Quran. I remember one story, I think I read it from Reza Aslan, but I am not positive of the source. The story is that when Muhammad destroyed the Idols in the Kabaa, that he did not allow the Umma to destroy the images of Mary & Jesus. I’m not sure if that moment in history really means all that much other than that it indicates that Muhammad did have some affection for Jesus.
Your comments have been very helpful to me; I did not find them confusing.
Thanks so much for responding. I have also enjoyed your back-and-forth with Todd G. Let me start by admitting that I have little experience with muslims or arabic people, almost none when it comes to actual relationships and meaningful interactions. So I won’t bother commenting on anything relating directly to such things.
You said “But, according to Jesus’ life, it takes a lot of tough love to save the world.” Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that it takes a lot of self-sacrificial love to save the world? Jesus laid down his life for us, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. Did he save us by his “tough love” or by laying down his life?
Jesus does have harsh words for people, Carl doesn’t deny this, but merely points out that it is mostly the religious leaders and his own disciples who get that sort of talk from him. To the sinners, the sick who need a doctor, he offers surprising mercy, tender compassion, and sincere kindness. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory.”
I understand your point about it being unfair that Carl picks on “Christianity” and not on other religions. But perhaps he feels that this right because a) its ok to pick on your own culture and b) “christianity” has laid claim to Jesus in a way that others have not and so to erroneously represent him is a big deal, one worth focusing on.
I do agree with you that Carl may over-emphasize Jesus’ mercy and grace and love and downplay other harsher elements. But I think he does this on purpose to counter-balance for the harmful affects of perhaps a long history of not focusing enough on how amazing, merciful, gracious, and loving Jesus actually is.
I don’t think you’d ever hear Carl tell someone that sin is no big deal to God, or that all beliefs of Islam are true or compatible with the truth, etc. I think he just takes a bridge-building and relational approach to pointing people to Jesus, whereas others take a more institutional and/or confrontational approach.
Personally, I could think that perhaps both approaches are helpful if God is really leading, and maybe even both are necessary. What if you are more like John the Baptist, calling people to repent from the desert, and Carl is like Jesus, eating and drinking with the people, bringing them a degree of acceptance before they even deserve it. “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” Man I love Jesus!
I agree fully that Jesus’ love was fully self-sacrificial, and that is exactly why he took the risks involved with telling people the truth. And while you (and Carl) are right that his harshest words were for the self-righteous religious types, my main point was just that he often made it difficult for even the crowds to follow him, because he was challenging them with repentance and commitment to him.
I just don’t see Jesus lining up with what Carl is talking about on the video above, as if he was just so excited that people were anywhere near him, and soooo careful not to “judge their path” or drive people away. He actually said a lot of stuff that he knew would drive the crowds away, because he didn’t want lukewarm followers. He sowed the seed far and wide, but it didn’t always fall on good soil. Many people, even the crowds, didn’t like his message.
If everyone likes your message, that’s one sign that you’re much nicer that Jesus was.
So I think I’ve probably overdone that point, so much that you seem to think that I must go around condemning people. I actually eat and drink with Muslims, usually several times a week. I have a lot of Muslim friends, and I do accept them for who they are. My approach is not institutional or confrontational, and when I share Christ with them, I usually focus on his sacrificial love and revolutionary teaching. But in order for them to even understand Christ’s love, they have to know about the seriousness of sin, not just the warm, fuzzy stuff.
And you said that maybe Carl thinks that:
“b) “christianity” has laid claim to Jesus in a way that others have not and so to erroneously represent him is a big deal, one worth focusing on.”
I must point out that Islam has also laid claim to Jesus, and has, more than any form of Christianity, erroneously represented him, and every important attribute of him (like his sonship, divinity, crucifixion, resurrection, and atonement for sins).
If Carl thinks it’s worth focusing on erroneous representations of Christ, then he would have a much bigger bone to pick with Islam. But all I hear him saying (when combining it with what I know of his actual practices) is that we should just let people believe whatever they want about Jesus, be glad they are anywhere near him, and just “hope” that they will love him more.
If we want to follow the true example of Christ, we must preach a costly gospel, the gospel of Christ, the son of God, and him crucified- a stumbling block for some, and foolishness to others. They are hard teachings, taught with love.
Thanks for this dialogue. I hope that it serves to bring us all closer to who Jesus really is, in all his fullness.
Pierre, thanks for your detailed response, and you seem like a very committed follower of Jesus, and for that I am genuinely happy.
Is it not possible that God is leading you and Carl to operate in different but ultimately complementary ways? Perhaps he is sowing and you are watering? Do you think that what Carl is doing is helping people to get closer to Jesus, to look at him afresh, etc? If so what is so bad about that? Is he not pointing people to read the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life? If so are they not bound to encounter Jesus and what he said and did including crucifixion, resurrection, hard sayings, etc? Is he clipping out the potentially offensive parts of the gospels before he hands them out or points people to read them? I think not. Perhaps his approach is to trust the Holy Spirit to bring up whatever may stumble or challenge a person at the appropriate time and to deal with it at that time, hopefully at a point when someone already has had some positive exposure to Jesus and some trust building in the relationship. Do you really have such a problem with that approach? Is this not similar to what you do in avoiding issues about Muhammad and just focusing of Jesus and the Bible?
You say that “If we want to follow the true example of Christ, we must preach a costly gospel, the gospel of Christ…” To follow Jesus is indeed costly, but who can say what the actual cost is for each person? Can we not trust the Holy Spirit to convict folks of sin and righteousness or must we do it for them? (I’m not saying God will never use us as part of that process.) But isn’t the good news kinda “good”? Must it be such a bad thing if people actually respond to it as such?
You take issue with an approach of “just let people believe whatever they want about Jesus, be glad they are anywhere near him, and just “hope” that they will love him more.” I counter:
a) we cannot control what people believe (we can point to Him who is Truth)
b) should we not be glad when people get close to Jesus?
c) can we actually force them to love him more? can we really do more than hope?
Thanks for continuing to dialogue with me. Grace…Chip
Hi again Todd,
I’m glad some of that stuff was helpful. You asked if I think “anything at all that is redeemable from Muhammad or the Hadiths, & the Quran.”
Well, I’m not sure if that’s the right question to ask. If you asked me if there are any true parts of the Qur’an or the ahadith, I would tell you, “yes, of course”. There are definitely bits and pieces of the truth throughout Islam, but what would it mean to “redeem” them?
As with a lot of these issues, I think a big key to clarifying things is gaining an understanding of the deep differences between Western and Mid-eastern culture. The concept of “redeeming” content from a religion is essentially Western. The West has come out of millennia of hellenistic thinking, which is built on a “marketplace of ideas” paradigm, in which we can dissect and exchange ideas and propositions. Hegelian synthesis is a big part of the way Westerners think. Also, it’s a very individualistic perspective on thought and opinions.
But Middle-easterners think in terms of authority. It’s much more about WHO is right, rather than WHAT is right. Critical thinking and self-definition are viewed as dishonoring to the authority, and to the community/family. That’s why Muslims are taught that it is a sin to even question the Qur’an. Mid-easterner culture doesn’t provide the option to pick and choose your beliefs. It’s totally different than the “salad bar” view of ideas that is predominant in the West.
So if we are to apply that to ministry in the Middle east, what does that mean? It means that when you are in ministry to Muslims, you will inevitably find yourself in a situation in which you must either acknowledge or deny the authority of Muhammad as a prophet. For Muslims, it’s not as much about what he said as who he is, and whether he is a true prophet from God.
If you tell a Muslim that you agree with some of what Muhammad said, but not all of it, then, to him, you have denied the legitimacy of his prophethood. It’s very all or nothing.
If you only affirm things that Muhammad said, in trying to “redeem” those things, to a Muslim, you are endorsing the legitimacy of his prophethood. There just is no way to be in between.
That’s why in my ministry, in most cases I just don’t bring up Muhammad or the Qur’an. And honestly I don’t have to- I just get to know them and talk about Jesus and the Bible.
As far as the example of Muhammad not destroying images of Mary and Jesus, I would agree with you that it is not that meaningful. In the “satanic verses” incident, he also “revealed” a qur’anic verse approving the worship of three goddesses, before retracting it and saying those verses were from satan. So even if Muhammad showed affection for Jesus, or even said some true and good things about him, that doesn’t indicate that he is a true prophet, or that his version of Jesus is anything like the true person of Jesus.
So if there is anything redeemable about the Muslim conception of Jesus, it will remain intact when we teach about the real, biblical Jesus. But where people run into problems is when they try to use the authority of Muhammad or the Qur’an to promote those “redeemable” tidbits. They might think they are finding “common ground” and using it as a “bridge”, but what it actually communicates to an eastern audience is compromise, and wishy-washy legitimizing of Muhammad as a prophet.
There are so many other things I’d like to say about the subject, but this comment is already too long…
Im trying to take this all in. There is a lot here for me to process, and I am trying to understand it all.
I used the term “redeamable”, perhaps I shouldn’t have done that? What I meant by “redeemable” is: are there any aspects within another’s general perception of— the world; of God; of the nature of people; and their relationship with God; that happen to actually be Good (or redeemable). Perhaps, a non-believer should definitely keep some aspects of their original worldview, after, they commit to following Jesus. Perhaps, there are other aspects of their worldview that are neutral, these perceptions are neither good nor bad, they are simply neutral. Then again there is always a need for repentance.
I have seen some muslims re-act towards one-another using their authority to determine “WHO” is right. I have also seen some Muslims happily refer to the seemingly postmodern appeal of “Islam is good for me, and following Jesus is good for you.” To me, this sounds a lot like “I’m O.K. you’r O.K.” I am not yet completely convinced of the notion of Hellenism and Hegelianism defining me as a Westerner vs. them as the Easterner. I am not a fan of Hegel, I am earnest in my attempts to learn more about eastern culture.
I think what I want help with is the inevitable question, that I may likely recieve from a Muslim, “what do you think of Muhammad”? I of course would try to take that conversation back to Jesus, but why not say– “I don’t know a lot about Muhammad; I did hear a story about him which I like……,” then I try to get back to Jesus again after answering their question honestly and respectfully.
Hopefully I can become good enough in spiritual conversation that I can ask ” what do you think of Jesus”, but I do think I should be prepared if I am asked about Muhammad.
I think I know what you mean by “redeemable”- which is that certain aspects of a Muslim’s culture are not bad, and don’t have to change when they become a believer, or follower of Jesus, or Christian, or whatever you call it.
I agree with that, but that idea has been taken too far by many. I’m fine with the idea as long as it’s in the context of a truthful representation of your identity. In other words, you can use whatever words you want, as long as the person you’re talking to knows that you are part of the global body of Christ. When some people say “follower of Jesus”, especially if they say “Follower of Isa” (the qur’anic term for Jesus), or “Muslim follower of Jesus”, they are really being dishonest about who they are.
I find it’s much more productive (and has more integrity) to help people understand what a TRUE Christian is, rather than trying to dodge Christianity as a whole, yet keep Jesus.
This morning I recorded a podcast for biblicalmissiology.org in which I interviewed two CMBs (Christians from a Muslim Background) on this very subject. One of the guys is from Iraq, and the other is from Saudi Arabia. It should be posted within the next couple days. I think you may find it interesting.
Anyway- I don’t mean that all Westerners are hegelian or something, but that kind of thinking has been incredibly influential in Western culture. And I don’t think that Hegel was the first to think that way. He is just as much a product of the “marketplace of ideas” ideal of the West.
As you’ve studied Middle Eastern culture, does some of what you have learned resonate with what I’m saying about how mideasterners tend to view truth in terms of authority and *who is right*, rather than *what is right*?
As far as the “what do you think of Muhammad” question, it’s a tough one, and a timeless one. I’ve never heard a canned answer to this question that will work in all situations, but I think the important thing is this- you have to find a way to show respect and love for the person you are talking to, while making sure not to endorse Muhammad as a legitimate prophet. Often the way you say it is the most important part. With Arabs (and to a large degree, most Muslims), if you say directly “I believe that Muhammad is a false prophet”, they will be very offended, but if you say the same thing indirectly, it would not offend them. I have done this many, many times. I usually will just say that I believe in the Bible, and that I cannot believe in any other book that says something different from the Bible. Sometimes I will turn to the last page of the Bible and show them Revelation 22:18, or if I sense they are open, I will show them Galatians 1:8.
I have done this in public places in front of dozens of Muslims and have never had anyone get mad and start shouting “allahu akbar”. I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, but I just want to encourage you that you don’t have to accept Muhammad in order to have a peaceful and respectful conversation and build a close relationship with a Muslim.
I think you need to find your own way of answering that question. Pray about it- find a way to be respectful without endorsing a false prophet. I promise that you can do it, with God’s help.
Good thoughts, Carl. I generally agree with your points.
At times, I do feel that minor points like these can lose their legitimate meaningfulness and be used merely as points of separation by ‘progressive’ types. That’s the danger, of course. At the end of the day, these things need to be said, but in a spirit of humility that doesn’t isolate those who are truly following Jesus and radiating his light—regardless of what they label themselves. You seem to have shifted in your ministry, from reaching outward, to shaking up the complacent in Jesus’ kingdom. May Jesus’ example of both boldness and grace continue to be your guide.
I would add, on the topic of important semantic differences, that I am troubled by how our definition of ‘The Word of God’ has slipped into meaning ‘The Bible’ rather than ‘Jesus.’ We make some interesting assumptions from that mindset that I’m just not sure about…
I am enjoying the dialogue that is taking place concerning the issue of “Christians”.
The one issue that I like to comment on has to do with the claim that Jesus never condemned the crowd.
In John 8:31, we read that Jesus was directing his talk to those Jews who believed in Him. These Jews, although included Jewish authority, without a doubt they included the crowd at large as well, for the context does not speak of a private encounter. The believers as well addressed in v.31 would include the crowd as well.
John after pointing out that the dialogue is taking place between Jesus and those who believed in Him, moves to the end of the dialogue by pointing out that the same believing crowd was being rebuked and condemned by Jesus (v.44 below)
31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
This incident alone serves as a strong argument against the claim that Jesus never condemned the crowd, for here we read not only of any crowd, rather; of a crowd that believed in Him.
Furthermore, even if we label this group as “curious” or “committed” this even makes it stronger that Jesus rebuke was directed towards those who actually were followers of Him.
Jesus rebuked and condemned all groups without any prejudice when it came to sharing the TRUTH. He never sugar coated His arguments.
In the same manner, Paul, whom many insiders like to use to justify their water-down version of the Gospel, did the same towards whose who were believers (see Gala. 3 as a strong example).
However, the issue not condemnation only, the issue is whether the term “Christians” is worthy of mention or not.
If brother Carl does not like it, that’s his own prerogative. One must not make a mistake about this; we follow the word of God and not Carl.
The word of God stated clearly that God is glorified in using the name “Christians”, so who are we to dare to take it out. Just read what the Apostle Peter wrote below in 1 Peter 4:15-16
15But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
I think the issue at hand is the muddling of the word of God rather than sharing the truth of what the Word of God teaches.
As stated in these comments, there are multiple approaches without a doubt, and God uses them all, however, God will not be glorified when we manipulate His truth, and others will be deceived if we do not share it.
I pray that this comment be taken in the spirit of love and not of timidity.
It seems an odd thing that so many want to defend or convince me that “being hard on people” was REALLY what Jesus was all about. I wonder what motivates such thinking?
I’ve said it several times – but let me try another way… The examples being given above are of Jesus “being hard” on HIS OWN PEOPLE. The Jews. Fair enough. Sort of like these conversations. We can be hard on each other and hopefully we’re not offended – and if we are, maybe it will produce change.
But let’s make sure we’re comparing apples to apples. The examples shared above do not equate to us “being hard on” or “preaching against” people outside the community – like Muslims. To Samaritans, pagans, women, prostitutes, lepers and the like – Jesus was incredibly inclusive and kind.
Is there EVER a time to be “hard” with these folks? Of course. But at the right time, not up front, and in the right way.
But the overarching principle of the life of Christ is generous compassion on outsiders and direct confrontation towards those who think they know the truth!
On the use of the word “Christian,” I am unmoved. the example that “Elijah” uses above I can say this – he takes the ONE time in all of scripture that the word “Christian” is sort of used positively (and I would actually argue that it’s still not used in a positive sense), and he makes that look as if this is God’s Word for all of us for all time.
Again, it seems odd, when the clear command of Jesus himself was for his disciples (and us) to “follow him” that anyone would shirk that title or description, and instead choose a word that is 100% misunderstood by most of the world (and NOT mandated by Jesus in any sense). But there is freedom.
If anyone likes to redeem the word “Christian” and feels passionate about being part of the Christian Religion – they should do so with Joy and Confidence.
Thank you brother Carl for the quick reply and for the comments as well on my post.
Your argument against the word “Christians” seems to be of personal nature and your belief that it is the right approach to take. However, I am not convinced that I should ignore the word of God as well when it allowed the word “Christians” to be used, whether in a positive or negative sense.
Even if someone called me “Christian” to humiliate me, what is wrong with that. Does that take away the truth I follow Christ and I am named after Him.
Muslims do not have any problem using the pronoun “Muslims” in reference to Islam. They do not even like to be called followers of Muhammad, simply because they follow a religion not a person.
We on the other hand follow “Christ” who is both the way and the model.
I am not so sure why we have to be hung up on using one way only and discredit the other. The bible uses both “Followers of Christ” and “Christians” as refernce to believers in Christ, and both were used positively and negatively.
Although I respect what you are trying to accomplish with your approach, assuming that yoou are being completely transparent about the WHOLE approach, I am still objecting to you labeling “Christianity” as a negative term that we must avoid.
I speak for my sefl when I say that as a former Muslim who used to despise the term “Christians” now feel so proud to be labeled as such.
The point I am making brother is that you should not promote yourview as if it is the right and correct one. Remeber, your view is not a 2,000 year old view. Historically, the term “Christian” is what has survived the most as the label for teh followers of Christ.
Finally brother, I am not redeeming the word “Christian” I am stating what the word of God says about it, regardless of how you might view it.
Hello Elijah the Saudi, The Lord Bless you, I have tears in my Eyes.I LOVE that you love to be called a Christian. I do too.
I love Muslims, and want them to become children of God through the Blood of Christ. Personally I think the walk away from the terminology and name of CHRISTIAN has greater implications than simply being a way to distance ourselves from all those historical so -called bad christians and hypocrites. Im gonna get crazy here:) I think its demonic, and intelligent! What a great way to start confusing the BODY themselves as to Who they are, WHOSE they are, and how to soft peddle to the world who they are.Slippery slope, frog in the kettle… There it is , plain talk. I hope, not mean. The Lord Bless all who dialogue here!
I would like be clear though , that I am aware that many people including Mr. Madearis doubtlessly are seeking to find new ways of presenting Christ and His followers and themselves, that do not kick up old instant barriers. I really do believe in their great intentions. it seems to me that the best way to give Christians, Christ follower, Jesus Follower a good name is by being the best example of one personally that you can, for the Lord Jesus’ sake. Sorry if I spoke directly and unpleasantly above, I think about this often in terms of thew world wide Body, and the plans of the enemy against us , Christs Body,often, but want to be respectful here, and loving.
Elijah and Ida
Thanks for your posts. I don’t usually respond so much, but you’ve taken a lot of time and they’re thoughtful replies, so I think I “owe” it to you.
Actually, I agree with you. Of course there are many ways to refer to ourselves. All “biblical.” We could use words like family, brothers and sisters, kingdom residents, Christians, Christ followers, followers of Jesus. followers of the way, servants, friends, etc.
All have value and all are “biblical.” The word “Christian” is used two or three times (depending how you count) and is never a mandate or something we are told to use. And Jesus never used it. But if someone wants to – feel free.
Terms like “the way” and “followers” are much more often used and we should feel free to use those as well.
So the point is not really what’s “biblical” – or that’s not the point I’m making.
It’s simply that the word “Christian” has lost most of its intended meaning and often means exactly the opposite of what we intend. So…why insist on using it?
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