Grace and Truth: Toward Christlike Relationships with Muslims: An Affirmation
Jesus calls his followers to experience and live out the love of God. This love is made accessible to all people through Christ, who came to the world “full of grace and truth.” However, because of cultural differences, threats of terrorism and negative stereotypes of Muslims, many of God’s people shrink back from fulfilling Jesus’ command to love all people. Scripture teaches us how followers of Christ can interact with Muslims in a Christ-honoring fashion. We note that the Islamic World contains significant theological and ideological diversity. The spectrum of Muslim perspectives and practice ranges from secularists, modernists and some traditionalists, to extremist Islamists who promote militant jihad. Recognizing this great diversity, we affirm nine biblical guidelines that can enable Jesus’ followers to serve as his representatives in relationship with Muslims of every persuasion.
1. Be Faithful to God’s Truth – the Whole Truth
We seek to relate to Muslims on the basis of the core convictions of Christian faith, not by hiding or diminishing them. Relating to Muslims with respect, understanding and love includes bearing faithful witness to essential truths of the gospel. Jesus is Lord. Forgiveness, salvation and eternal life are free gifts of God’s grace available to any person through repentance and faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection. We seek to obey the whole will of God, with its implications for every part of our lives in this world (Matt 22:37, 39; 28:20; Micah 6:8).
2. Be Jesus-Centered in our Interaction
Our focus is Jesus because he is the essence of the gospel. God has revealed himself to us by taking human form. We say with Paul: “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2 NIV). We affirm a Jesus-centered approach to Muslims because it highlights the treasure of the gospel. It does not confuse the good news with Christendom, patriotism or our civilization. Jesus is our model, and we seek to embody his life in all we say and do.
3. Be Truthful and Gracious in our Words and Witness
We seek to be accurate when we speak about Muslims and their faith. Overstatement, exaggeration and words taken out of context should not be found among followers of Jesus, for he calls us to be careful about the words we speak (Matt 12:36). God commands us not to bear false witness against our neighbor (Ex 20:16) and to do unto others as we would have them do unto us (Matt 7:12). Thus we endeavor to speak truthfully about Muslims, and we seek to be clear and positive in our communication of the gospel to Muslims.
As much as it depends on us, we seek to live at peace with all people, while acknowledging that speaking the truth, even graciously, will offend some. We acknowledge that respectful and gracious witness does not imply naiveté or silence about troublesome issues. We are called to speak the truth in love. At the same time we refuse to project onto all Muslims a violent agenda espoused by only a minority. We choose to relate to Muslims as unique individuals rather than assuming they fit our stereotype of a “Muslim.” Moreover, we refuse to prioritize concerns of political power and self-protection above the commands of Scripture, such as love for neighbor (Matt 22:39). We affirm that proclaiming the Good News of Christ’s love is a higher priority than defending our culture.
4. Be Wise in our Words and Witness
God’s Word calls us to share our faith wisely. “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity” (Col 4:5). What does wisdom look like in practice? According to James, “the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peaceloving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:17-18 NIV). In our interaction with articles, books and commentators, we need to discern between those reflecting the wisdom from above and those whose approach is “earthly”. We need to embrace that which is impartial and sincere, neither glossing over vital truths nor telling only one side of a story.
This is an Affirmation from a Global Network of Christians who love Muslims and many who live and serve among them. We affirm nine biblical guidelines that can enable Jesus’ followers to serve as his representatives in relationship with Muslims of every persuasion.
- Be Faithful to God’s Truth: Pray for Christians, when they relate to Muslims to do it on the basis of the core convictions of Christian faith, not by hiding or diminishing them. (Mt. 22:37, 39; 28:20, Micah 6:8)
- Christ-Centered in Interaction: Ask that they will unashamedly present Jesus, the Essence of the gospel (1 Cor.2:2) and that they do not confuse the good news with Christianity, patriotism, culture or our civilisation.
- Our Words and Witness: Pray that their words and witness will be in line with Scripture, containing no overstatement, exaggeration or words taken out of context (Matt.12:36, Ex.20:16, Matt.7:12, Matt.22:39).
- Wisdom in our Words and Witness: Above all, ask that Christians will share their faith wisely, but not hesitate in making the best of every opportunity (Col.4:5, James 3:17-18).