I’ve been thinking a lot about this “International Burn a Koran Day” ridiculousness lately… I think many of us have been. Frankly, it makes me angry. I’m an Evangelical Baptist Pastor; I believe the Bible is infallible and authoritative, I believe in the Virgin Birth of Jesus, I believe Jesus never sinned and died on the cross and physically rose from the grave and then ascended into Heaven where He waits until He returns again in glory. I’m as Christian as you can be… and I am angry at what Rev. Terry Jones has been planning on doing.
I’ve seen friends on Facebook writing about “brotherhood” between Christians and Muslims in an attempt to show solidarity and goodwill. I do not consider myself a “brother” to those outside my family, my close friends, and my fellow Christians. Christians may not be brothers with Muslims, but we are neighbors and I agree that Christians ought to speak against what Rev. Jones is hoping to do. Sure, there are reports going around now that he’s called it off, or at the very least, is reconsidering it… but even if he doesn’t go through with it others will and the damage has already been done. I’d like to lay out a number of reasons why I am opposed to “International Burn a Koran Day.”
First: On a very basic human level we should have respect for one another. That means I should treat you with the same respect and dignity I would want you to give me. This “golden rule” is actually from the Bible in Luke 6:31, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Second: Christians ought to be described as men and women who are filled with love, not with hate. In Matthew 5:45-47 Jesus tells his disciples, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven…. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collecters doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” Elsewhere, the Apostle Paul says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). We were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26, and other places), and we are told that “God is love” (1 John 4:8).
Third: All Christians are called to carry the “Good News” of salvation and redemption to all people. The word “Gospel” literally means “good news.” Our message must be one of Good News for all people (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8). Sure, there’s “Good News” because there’s bad news: we’re sinners by nature and are opposed to God’s will, therefore we stand under the judgment and condemnation our sins deserve. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). I like to refer to the “but” in Rom. 6:23 as the biggest “but” in the Bible! Jesus Christ is our message. When we focus on burned other peoples’ holy books we have turned our focus away from proclaiming Christ Jesus and towards tearing down idols. The Apostle Paul did not rip down the altars on Mars Hill in Athens (Acts 17), he saw the “Altar to an Unknown God,” and he took the opportunity to respect the Athenians while proclaiming Jesus Christ. We would be wise to show similar respect and cultural relevance while keeping Jesus at the center of our message.
Fourth: Burning Korans (and other similarly insensitive actions) only incite hate and persecution. I read an email sent by a missionary my church supports who lives with his family in a Muslim country. He wrote asking us to pray for safety and protection in the midst of such potential backlash. Not only has General Petraeus warned that Terry Jones’ actions have put our military in graver danger, this minister has put millions of Christians (not only missionaries, but local Christians too!) in serious danger. Churches will be burned and Christians will be killed.
I am convinced that the American Church needs to be reminded that, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). I’m not one to frequently give credit to the Devil for anti-Christian events, but I have come to believe that the Devil really is behind this.
God has a way of turning tragedies into opportunities for His grace to shine even brighter, and I trust that will be the case again… but that doesn’t make the tragedy any less ugly.
What it all comes down to is the title given this blog post: “Which Should we be Known for: Burning the Koran or Proclaiming Christ?” My answer is obvious by now.
Michael Horton of “The White Horse Inn” has written a wonderfully thought-through response, I’d encourage you to take the time and read through what he’s posted. (FYI: I just realized the similarities between his post’s title and my own, and I’d like to assure you that I came up with this post independently from his own and did not intentionally copy or plagiarize anything from his post. I quickly skimmed his post yesterday, wrote my own today, and just finished editing it while linking to it here.)