Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Quran burning and the Gospel

Is it Christian to burn another religion's holy book all in the name of claiming to show that the other religion is false? That's the question we must ask ourselves as we look at the example of Terry Jones, that "pastor" in Florida that deemed it fit to burn a Qur'an while serving as the "pastor" of a local church called the World "Outreach" Center. Would Jesus or Paul have burned a Qur'an? Muslims are clearly outraged, but the only place we've seen this outrage is Afghanistan. The deaths are not justifiable, but I can understand their outrage. As well, Jones apparently thinks it's okay to protest a mosque in the name of Jesus Christ as well. Of course, the government did deny him his free speech rights, which is equally as wrong, but where is Jones' Christlikness in all of this?

Let's look at Jesus' response to someone of a different race than him first of all.
[7] A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” [8] (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) [9] The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) [10] Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” [11] The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? [12] Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” [13] Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, [14] but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” [15] The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
[16] Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” [17] The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; [18] for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” [19] The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. [20] Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” [21] Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. [22] You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. [23] But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. [24] God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” [25] The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” [26] Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
[27] Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” [28] So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, [29] “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” [30] They went out of the town and were coming to him.
[31] Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” [32] But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” [33] So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” [34] Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. [35] Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. [36] Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. [37] For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ [38] I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
[39] Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” [40] So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. [41] And many more believed because of his word. [42] They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
(John 4:7-42 ESV)
What we have here is Jesus visiting the area/town known as Samaria. History shows that the Samaritans were outcasts from main Israel. The Samaritans held that Mount Gerazim (referenced in this passage as the mountain on which to worship) was the true place of worship, whereas the Jews held that the temple mount was the place of worship. There is a myth that I could not find any evidence for (and I myself have perpetuated) that the Samaritans were a mixed race and were hated for that. It appears that this may not be true. (Wikipedia article)

Regardless, Jesus speaks to this woman of a different sect from mainstream Judaism with respect and honor while also speaking to her sins. He confronts her about her immorality and offers her salvation. Then, what we see, is many in the village believing that Jesus is the Messiah, partly because of the woman's testimony, but mostly because of Jesus' word itself. They held to a different Torah than the Jews did. Did Jesus demand to see their book and burn it? No. He showed respect and honor, while also proclaiming the Gospel, namely Himself.

Another famous example from the apostle Paul is found in Acts 17:22-34:
[22] So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. [23] For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. [24] The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, [25] nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. [26] And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, [27] that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, [28] for
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
[29] Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. [30] The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, [31] because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
[32] Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” [33] So Paul went out from their midst. [34] But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.
(Acts 17:22-34 ESV)
What we see here is Paul using something that the people worship to point them to the Gospel. The people had added an idol to whatever other god may be out there that they might need to appease. Paul brings it around to the one true God, proclaiming that God has sent his Son to die so that they might have life and that all these idols were essentially worthless. He didn't go in to tear down their idols, but he showed respect to the people, not demeaning their religion, but proclaiming the one true religion, that is, the Gospel of Jesus Messiah.

We do have an example of book burning in the book of Acts that might be worthwhile to look at in context:
[11] And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, [12] so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. [13] Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” [14] Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. [15] But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” [16] And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. [17] And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. [18] Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. [19] And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. [20] So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.
(Acts 19:11-20 ESV)
Basically, we have the Gospel proclaimed to some magicians who convert and then turn around and burn their magic books. They came under the conviction of the Holy Spirit to get rid of that which held them in bondage. Does the Qur'an hold Christians in bondage? Did it hold Terry Jones in bondage? I highly doubt it, yet, it is holding him in bondage as he is making it a focal point of whatever ministry he hopes to have. I would ask Jones why he would pick on just Islam. Hindus have been systematically murdering Christians for years in a number of provinces in India. There, Christians and Muslims have bonded together in unity over this issue. Bhuddists are none too kind to Christians either. Look at what's happening in China right now. The Chinese government is arresting and rounding up Christians publicly left and right. Islam has Christian blood on it's hands, yes. But isn't that expected and predicted by Jesus in Matthew 24? We need to pray for our persecuted brethren, that their faith would persevere. We also need to pray for those of other religions who are blinded by dogma, that their eyes would be open to the Gospel of Jesus Messiah and they would believe and have faith in Christ. With a name like Dove World Outreach Center, you would think there would be peace and outreach being preached. Instead there is only hate. Terry Jones needs our prayers just as much as the radical Muslim. Have you prayed for Osama bin Laden's salvation today?