Thursday, November 7, 2013

The work of Christ

I found this essay on the internet, but I couldn't discover its author, other than that it appeared in a Lutheran publication. It seems to me to be a good analysis of the difference between Christian discipleship and Islam.

The work of Muhammad is based on being honored, and the work of Christ is based on being insulted. This produces two very different reactions to mockery. If Christ had not been insulted, there would be no salvation: This was His saving work: to be insulted and to die to rescue sinners.

Already in the Psalms the path of mockery was promised. ‘All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads’ (Psalm, 22:7). ‘He was despised and rejected by men ... as one from whom men hide their faces . . . and we esteemed him not’ (Isaiah 53:3).

When it actually happened it was worse than expected. ‘They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head.... And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him’ (Matthew 27:28-30).

His response to all this was patient endurance. This was the work He came to do. ‘Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth’ (Isaiah 53:7). For Christ, enduring the mockery of the cross was the essence of His mission. And for a true follower of Christ enduring suffering patiently for the glory of Christ is the essence of obedience. ‘Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account’ (Matthew 5:11).

This was not true of Muhammad, and Muslims do not believe it is true of Jesus. Most Muslims have been taught that Jesus was not crucified. One Sunni Muslim writes, ‘Muslims believe that Allah saved the Messiah from the ignominy of crucifixion.’

Another adds, ‘We honor [Jesus] more than you [Christians] do...We refuse to believe that God would permit him to suffer death on the cross.’

An essential Muslim impulse is to avoid the ‘ignominy’ of the cross. That's the most basic difference between Christ and Muhammad and between a Muslim and a follower of Christ.

During His life on earth Jesus was called a bastard (John 8:41), a drunkard (Matthew 11:19), a blasphemer (Matthew 26:65), a devil (Matthew 10:25); and He promised His followers the same: ‘If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they malign those of his household’ (Matthew 10:25).

The caricature and mockery of Christ has continued to this day. Martin Scorsese portrayed Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ as wracked with doubt and beset with sexual lust. Andres Serrano was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts to portray Jesus on a cross sunk in a bottle of urine. The Da Vinci Code portrays Jesus as a mere mortal who married and fathered children. How should His followers respond?

On the one hand, we are grieved and angered: On the other hand, we identify with Christ, and embrace His suffering, and rejoice in our afflictions, and say with the apostle Paul that vengeance belongs to the Lord, let us love our enemies and win them with the gospel. If Christ did His work by being insulted, we must do ours likewise.

Jesus Christ is still the only hope of reconciliation. And it means that His followers must be willing to ‘share His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death’ (Philippians 3:10).

The above is not a testimony inciting Christians to hate Muslims or even to disparage the faith of Islam. It is not meant to provoke confrontation. Despite the political and social thrust of Islam which makes it a worldly force to be reckoned with, even Islam harbors souls who truly do seek God and love Him. As Christians in the West, our response to Islam will necessarily be different from the response of Christians living in predominantly Islamic countries.

Wherever Christians live, we must be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice when challenged by the world system, because we follow a crucified Lord. But like His, our response must consist primarily of love, even if this love leads to our own death. A world under Islamic domination will always look different from a world inhabited by those whom Christ has freed, but we have seen neither world in history yet, only partial glimpses. Not Islam, but Christ. Not slavery, but sonship.

So, if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
John 8:36 Jerusalem Bible

No comments: