Missions or Missiles, Bibles or Bombs Christian Missionaries are Key to True Peace and Reconciliation Response to “Should Christians Convert Muslims” Time Magazine, June 22, 2003
Written: August, 2003 Revised: November, 2010
The June 22, 2003 Time magazine article, “Should Christians Convert Muslims?” asks a very important question. Rather than launching directly into the material, social, and spiritual benefits that missionaries can bring to the Muslim world it is important to carefully consider our most basic assumptions. The Time article appears to be written from a secular postmodern worldview in which Christianity and Islam are both equally true (or more likely untrue, but Time wouldn’t want to be impolite). There are some basic questions that we must be able to answer. 1. Did God create everything? 2. Is the Bible truly God’s Word? 3. Is Jesus Christ God? If we answer “No” to any of these three questions, then converting Muslims to Christianity (especially when this conversion can cost them their lives, not to mention the risk to the missionaries) is not only foolish but unethical and cruel. The objective truth of the resurrection of Christ is so vital to Christianity that if it is not true all churches should close and all Christian leaders should publicly apologize and be punished for profiting from fraud (I Cor. 15:12-22).
Fortunately, these three questions can be answered in the affirmative. There is convincing evidence that indicates that God exists and created the universe. There is also strong evidence for the Bible and Jesus Christ. In fact, the truth claims of Christianity are supported by evidence from archaeology, astronomy, biology, geology, history, mathematics and prophecy, if one wishes to examine the evidence with an open mind. Therefore, if Christianity is true, then we must accept what the Bible says. The Bible makes some very specific claims about having “no other gods (Exodus 20:3-5)” and about Jesus Christ being the only way to heaven instead of hell (John 3:16, 14:6 Matt. 10:27 23:33). It is the same for Christians to tell to our Muslim friends (or any unbeliever) that without Christ, they are on the path to hell unless they turn around as for a doctor to tell their patients with cancer that withoutsurgery they will die. In fact, the most unloving thing Christians can do is to know the truth about the only way to salvation and refuse to tell the world. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (I Peter 3:15).”
Asking the question, “Should Christians convert Muslims,” today is the same as asking the Apostle Paul, “Should Christians convert Gentiles?” I am thankful that he answered that question with an emphatic “Yes!” For this answer he was beaten, stoned, and imprisoned. When Christianity was in its early stages it was much different from western style Christianity in which pastors have nice cars, expensive suits, nice offices, the protection of the law, and the respect of the community. The first Christians lived and evangelized in a hostile environment which was similar to Afghanistan under the Taliban. They were rejected by their families, beaten, imprisoned and killed. Why? Unlike, Christians today who put everything from gardening to golf ahead of Christ, these early Christians had rock solid faith. They knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Christ was really God and that he had really come back to life. They had experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in their midst in the form of answers to prayer, releases from prison, healings, and more. They also had a close-knit community who was united around Christ who would take care of people who were persecuted. This is the faith that we as Christians must possess if we are to reach the world for Christ. Not just Muslims and Buddhists but everyone. Not just the 10-40 window but all the windows in the world. Therefore, Christian missionaries must be prepared and willing to suffer imprisonment, torture, and even death to share the Gospel in Muslim lands. Jesus said, “Follow me.”
In addition to salvation there are secondary benefits that Christianity has historically brought to the lands that have accepted it. Women have gained equality; polygamy, slavery, and cannibalism have vanished as a direct result of Christianity even though credit is not given. Quoting D. James Kennedy in What if Jesus Had Never Been Born? “Had Jesus never come, Gloria Steinem had she survived childhood, might very well be wearing a veil today!” Dr. Kennedy further outlines how that Christians applying their Christian beliefs of compassion, service, and excellence started such organizations as the Red Cross, the YMCA, the Salvation Army, charities in general, hospitals, universities, free public education for all, literacy programs, the concept of limited government, basic freedoms, antiseptic surgery, bacteriology, calculus, chemistry, computer science, electronics, genetics, non-Euclidian geometry, gynecology, and more. Would conditions improve in Afghanistan if they all converted to Christianity? Based on the evidence of history, I would have to say “Yes!”
Beyond evangelism, missionaries are more than ambassadors for Christ. They represent their home countries, churches, families, and cultures. One of the reasons that Muslims view westerners with contempt is that they only thing they know about the west is what they see in western media. Imagine if the only thing you knew about America was what you saw in Hollywood movies. You would think that all Americans are wealthy, arrogant, disrespectful, violent, and immoral. I am an American and yet my lifestyle in no way resembles Hollywood. At best, movies represent the worst aspects of our society.
You certainly do no not see movies entitled “Johnny Goes to Church,” “Sally Gives Blood,” or “Susan Helps the Homeless.,” even though there are many people who do many good things. Just as all Muslims are not terrorists, all Westerners are not immoral. I had the privilege of having a Muslim roommate in college. Within a short time, we got beyond stereotypes and began to see each other as people and friends, even though we did not agree about spiritual matters. Likewise, during the three years that I spent as an English teacher in Cambodia, my students had the opportunity see me as a person instead of the “ugly-American.” It is impossible for me to hate Muslims as a group because have a Muslim friend. My students will never hate Americans, as a group, because they grew to love me, an American. Similarly, when Christian workers go into a Muslim country to feed the poor, teach English, set up hospitals, and to share their lives and faith, the Muslim people will stop seeing Christians as the “great Satan.” One Afghan man told my friend, a Christian worker, “Our Muslim brothers never came to help us, but the Christians came to help us.” I doubt very seriously that this man, who has experienced the love of Christ in my Christian friend will ever become a terrorist. To send a Christian aide worker or a missionary to a Muslim land to love the people, serve them, and be a positive ambassador for Christ and country costs a few thousand dollars a year, while cruise missiles cost a million dollars each! Maybe, if Americans had sent more missionaries to Afghanistan and Iraq over the past decades, maybe we would not have to spend millions of dollars each day for military personnel in these very countries. Don’t misunderstand, I am not opposed to defense spending or the use of military force when necessary. I am just saying that the way that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” There is a better way.
There are many examples of the way that Gospel has transformed the lives and cultures of the most violent people groups. The Wadoni people are found in the non-fiction book and movie, The End of the Spear by Steve Saint is a good example. The widows, children, and supporters of the missionaries that were killed, did not hate the Wadoni for their violence. They did not call for airstrikes and an invasion. Instead, they loved them enough to live with them and show them the truth of the Gospel through their lives and witness. Only Christ can make help us to love those that we would naturally hate. Isn’t that the example of Christ?
“They will kill you and think they do God a service, because they have not known the Father or me (John 16:2).”
“Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do (Luke 23:32).”
This kind of forgiveness is only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives and it is the key for reconciling the lost world to Christ. As a result of this reconciliation with Christ, there can be peace between people.