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Archive for the ‘Peace’ Category

Is Islam a religion of war or peace? I get asked this question a lot. I know that people are asking this question again after all of the attacks on US embassies throughout the Middle East. I’ll give you my answer to this question and then I’ll tell you why I am posting about it.

I don’t know. There you have it, that’s my answer. I don’t claim to be an expert in Islam. Even if I was I am not sure how well I could answer this question. Honestly, I see lots of reasons why people conclude that Islam is a religion of war. There are Muslim scholars who confirm this (though they might not state it this way). There are some really hard verses in the Qur’an. There are plenty of violent acts throughout the history of Islam. And of course, we see the violence perpetrated by Muslims in the name of Islam all around the world.

However, I can also see lots of reasons why people conclude that Islam is a religion of peace. There are Muslims scholars who confirm this. There are good pointers in the Qur’an towards peace. Within the history of Islam there have been times of peace and prosperity. And of course, we see acts of kindness and love perpetrated by Muslims in the name of Islam all around the world.

So which is it? Again, I honestly don’t know. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t really care. That probably doesn’t sound good. Honestly, I am not that concerned about what true Islam is. I am more concerned about what my Muslim friend believes. This is not because I don’t care about the truth or don’t think that objective truth is real. I do. I care very much. It is because I have personally settled the issue of truth. Jesus the Messiah says in the Injil, “I am the truth” (see the Gospel according to John 14:6). He is enough for me. I am not saying Christianity is the truth. I am saying that Jesus is the truth. The truth of God has been embodied in a person.

When I am with my Muslim friend I don’t need to know what true Islam is. I need to know my friend. I want to know what he believes. Does he believe that such acts of violence in the name of Islam are justified? Or does he repudiate them? That’s what matters to me.

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I care deeply for Muslims as a group and for my Muslim friends in particular. I am really grateful to God for the relationships he has given me and the friends I have been blessed by. You also know that I have not been afraid to call anti-Islamic statements evil. I am more than willing to call out the evil from Christians regarding Muslims. I believe this film is offensive and the opposite of love.

However, one thing I really haven’t done is also call out the evil that Muslims have done. I feel angry about the response to this movie. I understand why it is offensive. But I cannot and will not understand the need to destroy property and ultimately kill others because of it, especially those who had absolutely nothing to do with the making of the film. I do not hold the American government responsible for the evil of individual citizens anymore than I hold other governments responsible for the evil of their individual citizens.

I am angry because the destructive and deadly responses are evil. I am angry because these responses make non-Muslims living in the Middle East fearful. I have American friends who live all over the Middle East who are fearful that they may need to flee. I am angry because the radical murderous Muslims are giving all of my Muslim friends a bad name. I am angry because the work that I do in trying to promote understanding and peace between Muslims and Christians can so easily be derailed by the site of angry mobs. I am angry because all people are made in God’s image and we are not treating each other with the respect that this simple truth demands. God made us. And therefore he loves us. How is it that this truth doesn’t change everything about how we live with people different than us?!

I feel for Muslims who are appalled at what is taking place. Surely they bear a greater burden of responsibility over their community than I do, but what can they do? I don’t know. And even if my responsibility is not as great, I still am responsible for my reaction and for the circle of influence I have.

So I will pray. I will pray to the God of peace. I will pray for those who have sinned in making the movie and those who have sinned in their response to the movie. I will continue to show the way of love that Jesus Christ teaches us. His way is the way of the cross. He didn’t kill his enemies. He died for them. He didn’t end their lives. He laid down his own.

The way of the cross is the only way forward because it teaches us to humble ourselves and extend the forgiveness we have received to others. It teaches us to love our enemies and to seek their good. It teaches us to love mercy and not merely insist on justice.

I will pray and I will seek to daily die to myself and my selfish desires so that I can love others, even others who don’t love me.

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I’m Back (I Think)

It has been a very long time since I posted. In fact, I wasn’t sure if I would post again. Getting out of the blogging habit has made it really hard to start up again. I’m not even sure if there are still any readers left!

Many of you know that we live in Syria. I had stopped blogging because there was a period of about 2 months when I had almost no internet connection (it was sporadic and very weak). After the connection got better I was just so busy with things here and trying to figure what we should do that the less important parts of my life (i.e blogging) got overlooked. After about 4 months or so, I had apparently loss my desire to blog. I didn’t even really think about it anymore (which is a serious handicap for generating new posts). Time just kept going and I stayed logged out (so to speak).

A few have commented or wrote to me wondering why I stopped and encouraged me to write again. That got me thinking again about the worth of a blog like mine. I still think it can have a valuable role in the whole issue of peace between Muslims and Christians and that it can bring honor to God by pointing towards his path of peace, namely, the Prince of Peace. I still want to help Christians and Muslims better understand one another and grow in being good neighbors to each other.

So, I’ve begun again. Things are still pretty unsettled here so I can’t make any promises about how frequently I’ll post, but perhaps this initial re-entry will spur me on for future posts.

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Lack Peace of Mind? Pray!

From The Works of God:

D.A. Carson, on God and prayer in the midst of suffering:

The degree of our peace of mind is tied to our prayer life (Phil. 4:6-7). This is not because prayer is psychologically soothing, but because we address a prayer-answering God, a personal God, a responding God, a sovereign God whom we can trust with the outcomes of life’s confusions. And we learn, with time, that if God in this or that instance does not choose to take away the suffering, or utterly remove the evil, he does send grace and power. The result is praise; and that, of course, is itself enjoyable, in exactly the same way that lovers enjoy giving each other compliments.

I cannot tell you how many times I have visited some senior saint who is going through serious suffering, perhaps terminal illness, only to come away feeling that it was I who benefited from exposure to a believer who was already living in the felt presence of God.

D.A. Carson, How Long, Oh Lord? p. 217-218.

 

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Perfect Peace

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. – Isaiah 26:3

Beautiful truth.
Comforting promise.
Challenging charge.
Steadfast hope.

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There are many similarities between Muslims and Christians. In fact, as a follower of Jesus the Messiah, when I am with Muslims I often feel more comfortable than when I am with Americans or other Westerners. My values are much closer to an average Muslim than to a secular Westerner. We especially noticed this several years ago while studying Arabic in Syria. There was a big difference between us and some of our European classmates (I only remember one other American, though, interestingly, we did meet a Somali who lived about a mile away from us in America).

As similar as many of our values are, there are differences in our theology, especially regarding our beliefs about Jesus Christ. Who is Jesus Christ? What did he do? It is the answers to these questions that separate us (the separation is theological – it doesn’t have to be relational).

This morning as I read my Bible I came across a passage that defines the differences between us. When I read this text my heart fills with praise to God and gratefulness for his mercy and compassion. I am really happy that I am reconciled to God, that I have peace with the Lord of the worlds. Here are the verses:

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. – Colossians 1:19-20

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From Unity:

Bismillah. Received today from rom Imtiaz Wajih:

I am a 49 year old Muslim living in London. I thought it might be a good idea to set up a Meetup group to focus on the shared ground between Christians and Muslims.

We would be delighted if you could join us (even if you are too busy to attend our meetings). Please see the link below:http://www.meetup.com/christianmuslims/

Also, please see our website: http://www.christianmuslims.co.uk

Your comments and feedback would be most welcome. It’s all about peace …

Warm regards,
Imtiaz

This looks interesting and I am glad for Christians and Muslims to gather together in order to better know one another. However, this particular group seems to be of the kind that glosses over all differences between the religions. That is one of the mistakes of modern day dialogues between religions. (The other side of the mistake is to see ourselves in a battle that must be won against those we view as enemies). I still think we can be genuine peacemakers while at the same time standing for truth. We don’t have to pretend we all agree in order to be at peace with one another.

 

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Day of Discovery has a very interesting program with a discussion between Nizar Touma, a born again Christian Arab (this is how he described himself), and Avner Boskey, a Jewish Messianic follower of Jesus. Both of them are Israeli citizens.

While I don’t fully agree with all of what they say the Bible teaches regarding the nation of Israel, I really appreciated the grace and love they showed to each other.

Both of them saw that the main problem in the region starts within.

Conflict is something that starts in me. – Nizar

The question in peace treaties and peace movements is how much is really going on in the human heart? – Avner

You can watch it in four parts:

Part 1, Taking Sides
Part 2, Seeking Peace
Part 3, Chosen People
Part 4, Israel’s Future

 

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My 214th Post

It may seem a bit arbitrary to highlight my 214th post, but it isn’t. Since I missed my own year anniversary I thought I would use a milestone to look back on my blog a bit and the number 214 stood out to me because of Ephesians 2:14. Speaking of Jesus Christ it says, “For he himself is our peace . . .” That is what this blog is all about. I wouldn’t be writing this blog if I didn’t think true peace was possible through the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. He does bring peace between people and between us and God. He is alive and active doing his peacemaking work. I simply want to follow him in this.

I am linking to my most viewed posts, most commented on posts and my personal favorite posts. It has been good for me to write and I hope that this has been helpful for both Christians and Muslims. My desire is that we will learn from one another and better understand each other so that we will grow in our love for each other.

Thanks for reading.

Most Viewed Posts:
The Wonder of the Birth of the Messiah
Thanks for the Religion
Islamic View of the End Times

Most Commented Posts:
Technically, the most comments are on my About page, but I won’t count that.
Switzerland Moving Away from Peace
Islamic View of the End Times
The Wonder of the Birth of the Messiah

My Favorite Posts:
لسلام-عليكم-Why I Love the Islamic Greeting
What Is a Christian?
Sin Destroys Peace
Go in Peace

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Visual Peacemakers

I recently was pointed to The International Guild of Visual Peacemakers. It is a guild of cultural photographers who seek to use their skills to promote greater understanding among different peoples of the world. Here is how they describe their purpose:

We are devoted to peacemaking & breaking down stereotypes by displaying the beauty of cultures around the world.

The International Guild of Visual Peacemakers (IGVP) was created to build bridges of peace across ethnic, cultural, and religious lines through visual communication that is both accountable to an ethical standard and created by those who authentically care about people.

On their site you can read their blog and see their work.

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I’m thankful for the way Justin Taylor points people to good resources. The following post was so helpful with so many resources that I decided to repost it in its entirety. From Justin’s blog:

I would recommend that every church at least be familiar with Peacemaker Ministries and the resources that they offer. I recently had an opportunity to lead a group through their small-group DVD set and study guide, and the feedback was very encouraging, with tangible fruit produced.

They have a church resource set, which contains posters, sermon outlines, a DVD, leader’s guide, and small-group participants’ guides. This is a great way to introduce a “culture of peacemaking” throughout the church. A newer resource is a DVD-based group study designed specifically church leadership teams, called The Leadership Opportunity: Living Out the Gospel Where Conflict and Leadership Intersect.

Here are some free online resources that give you an idea about their approach:

  • Getting to the Heart of Conflict – Conflict starts in the heart. Therefore, if we fail to address the heart in a conflict, then any solution will fall short of true reconciliation.
  • The Four G’s – The biblical system for resolving conflict is captured by “The Four G’s”: Glorify God, Get the log out of your own eye, Gently Restore, and Go and be reconciled.
  • The Slippery Slope – A visual tool for understanding the ways people tend to and ought to respond to conflict.
  • The Seven A’s of Confession – A guide to making a sincere and complete confession.
  • The PAUSE Principle – A biblical approach to negotiation.
  • The Four Promises of Forgiveness – A great way to remember what you are really saying (and committing to) when you say “I forgive you.”
  • The Peacemaker’s Pledge – Complete summary of biblical peacemaking, suitable for churches or organizations to commit to together.
  • Relational Commitments – A way for a church to make a mutual commitment to work together to pursue unity, maintain friendships, preserve marriages, and build relationships that reflect the love of Christ.
  • The Gospel of Peace Mirrored Through Peacemaking – A summary statement of how the gospel of Jesus Christ is at the core of biblical peacemaking.

Let me give you a quick outline of one of these resources (go here for the full version). They talk about The Slippery Slope, a very helpful visual for thinking about the different ways we can and should respond to conflict:

Escape Responses
On the left side are three responses typically used by those who want to avoid or get away from conflict instead of resolving it. Starting with the most extreme, they are:

  1. Suicide
  2. Flight
  3. Denial

Attack Responses

On the other side of the slippery slope spectrum are attack responses, going to the most extreme:

  1. Assault
  2. Litigation
  3. Murder

Peacemaking Responses

In the middle are responses of conciliation, recognizing that the gospel is the key to peace.

The six responses are divided into two categories:

Personal peacemaking:

  1. Overlook an offense
  2. Reconciliation
  3. Negotiation

Assisted responses

  1. Mediation
  2. Arbitration
  3. Accountability

Again, I find these sorts of tools very helpful for providing a grid of responses to conflict.

If you’re looking for helpful books applying peacemaking to various roles and aspects of life, here is what WTS Books carries:

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