I’m reading The Koran. Admittedly I can’t read it in Arabic, but then I would imagine many Muslims can’t read it in Arabic either, so I’m working my way through an English version. Right now I’m saying to myself, “Will the very fact that I’ve stated here in this public forum that I’m reading The Koran make some people want to harm me?” It’s a frightening thought. But a religion that encourages terrorism is a frightening reality, which I guess means that the terrorists have achieved their goal, we feel terrified. I’m still totally at a loss to understand how anyone can think the God who created the universe would want this sort of violent behaviour to be carried out in His name. But then I read passages in The Koran like:
Make ready then against them what force ye can, and strong squadrons whereby ye may strike terror into the enemy of God and your enemy.
Strike off their heads then, and strike off from them every finger-tip. This, because they have opposed God and his apostle.
“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you. “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! (Luke 6:27-33)
I know many non-Christian people cite Old Testament passages to make the claim that Christianity also promotes violence, but that’s because they don’t understand what The Bible is all about. They don’t understand that there is a New Covenant and a New Commandment. Under the old covenant God was preparing a people and a place into which the Messiah would be born. Now we have a New Covenant and under this covenant we are learning about the power of love. This is a radical idea. I was once told by a Muslim that Jesus was a coward because He didn’t take up arms against His enemies. This man did not understand the power of God’s love. He also did not understand that it is this love that will ultimately be victorious.
Throughout history, some people who claimed to be Christians (see my article What is a Christian) also did not understand this important truth. In the 16th century a godly man called William Tyndale was persecuted and eventually hanged and burned at the stake by the religious leaders of his time. Although these people claimed to be Christians, they appear to have completely missed the teachings of Jesus. Not only did they not follow His teachings, they worked hard to maintain control of the Word of God, while Tyndale was trying to get God’s Word into the hands of the “common” people.
Today there are people who claim to be Christian whose beliefs appear to me to be closer to the teachings of The Koran than to The Bible. They promote the idea of eternal torment. This teaching is found over and over again in The Koran. The gruesome details of the horrific fate awaiting the infidel is related many times, but one sentence in particular grabbed me.
He that feareth God will receive the warning, and the most reprobate only will turn aside from it, who shall be exposed to the terrible fire, in which he shall not die, and shall not live.
This is exactly what many Christians claim is the fate awaiting unbelievers. I can find no scriptural support for this concept in The Bible, yet people who choose to believe this idea do so with strong conviction. If we lived in Tyndale’s time I could understand such ideas being prominent, in those days people did not have access to God’s Word, but today most Christian’s can read God’s Word in their own language. And still they cling to this doctrine.
I believe that people who understand God as an omnipotent being, who is preparing eternal torment for a large portion of the human race, must surely make allowances for themselves when they lack love and compassion. Belief in this sort of violent retribution corrupts the soul. Even for the Christian love becomes a relative term. God is love, but this love must be understood in the light of the understanding that he will allow the torture of people for eternity. This is not the God of The Bible, this is the God of The Koran.
The God of The Bible expects His followers to live as Jesus did. John wrote about this concept and he also talked about people who claim to know God but don’t follow Jesus’ teachings. He wrote:
If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love Him. That is how we know we are living in Him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it. For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining. (1 John 2:4-8)
May the darkness that accompanies this horrific doctrine be overwhelmed by the light and love that shines forth from God’s Word. And may people who believe terrorism is an expression of God’s will discover another way, the Way of love.