This week and last week see us facing yet another Muslim-related firestorm. First, we have the professor from Wheaton, Lyricia Hawkins, being put on leave for her remarks about the Muslims worshipping the same god as the Christians. Then, this week, we get news that the Muslim Council of Hong Kong is going to have a missionary campaign by wearing shirts that says, “I love Jesus because I’m a Muslim.” These two events have everyone talking about what kind of God the Christians and Muslim worship. I’m not here to discuss the deep theological issues involved. What I’m here to talk about is one particular reaction by some of the Hong Kong pastors. Some, rightly or wrongly, became quite alarmed. A Christian group sent out a text to all the churches and pastors that there needs to be a response, quite possibly a negative one, towards this campaign. Who are these Muslims to say that they can use the name of Jesus in this way? Many were outraged. Without any doubt, this will deepen the already existing Islamaphobia that exists in many churches. As it happens, one of my students know one of the Muslim guys who started this campaign and lucky for us, this Muslim isn’t from ISIS. Most of the Muslims from Hong Kong many of us meet aren’t from ISIS. In fact, quite a number of them are genuinely nice.
While the issue can be theological regarding the t-shirt, the rhetoric is definitely and mostly cultural jihad. In a free society, where Christians are allowed to share their belief (accurately or inaccurately), Muslims are also allowed to share their belief (accurately or inaccurately). Christians MAY want to make statements to clarify or they can take other strategies. Many conservative Christians just want to launch their cultural jihad while preserving their own free speech. That just simply won’t work in any free and civilized society. EVERYONE gets the right to free speech.
I suggest a different path for HK Christians, both at the leadership and lay level. Why not take the path of peace? I’m not suggesting silence. Far from it! I suggest active relationship building with those who wear those t-shirts and find out from them WHY Muslims would love Jesus and what they believe about Jesus. This is a great opportunity to both build meaningful relationships with Muslims and to share our view about Jesus with them. Why not take the peaceful and missional route? After all, they aren’t the enemy. Why treat them like heretics who deserve to be burnt? In fact, many of them hold more similar values than the secular humanist.They also aren’t some leper. Why avoid them like they carry some foreign plague? They’re real human beings just like you and me (oh yeah, I know this comes as a real shock to so many of us Christians). For this Christmas, I wish for western Christians and all Christians in free societies to wage peace because God cares so much about relationships that He sent Jesus to build that peace with humanity. That really is a core message from Christmas.
So, Christmas isn’t about pageants in church programs or singingly biblically inaccurate carols. It isn’t just about hanging about with our own holy huddle or even our families (biological families or spiritual family). Christmas is about living out the kind of peace Jesus brought even in the midst of our chaotic and terror-filled world. If our mission is impede by hatred, paranoia and misunderstanding, we have a very weak faith. Of course, we should also pray for Christians who had to live under extremist regimes and vouch for them or work for political solutions that eliminate senseless religious extremism, but we’d better not forget our duty at home or every shadow will look like an enemy and every Bible verse will look like a bullet ready to be fired into our enemy’s head.