We have all been shocked by the attack on French journalists, and indeed, on all free speech. We stand in solidarity with our friends in France, and also with all peace-loving French Muslims who must be anxious about the consequences for themselves of actions they abhor just as much as the rest of us do. Personally, I want to stand shoulder to shoulder with every French person who stood tonight with a placard saying “NOT AFRAID”, “PAS PEUR”, “Je Suis Charlie”.
But as the responses begin to flood Facebook and Twitter, my heart sinks. Christians on the one hand queueing up to denounce Islam, and on the other hand to beg for the return of Jesus very soon. I have problems with both of these.
I agree that Islam is not the truth, that by its denial of the death and resurrection of God the Son it is leading people away from the hope of salvation. But I cannot condemn it wholesale. Many Muslims have come to Christ through reading the Qur’an. Check out this video. I cannot accept that Muhammad was a prophet, but I respect people’s right to believe something that I disagree with, even while I pray that God will reveal the truth to them. I have Muslim friends and all of them reject the violence which is being carried out apparently in their name.
But I am still more disturbed by this “beam me up Scottie” theology which believes that the only important thing is that Jesus should appear here and now and remove me lest any inconvenience or unpleasantness should come my way. Jesus will come the second time, as He did on the first occasion, “when the time was fully come”. One of the reasons for the delay, Peter tells us, is because God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to salvation.
There can be no greater blasphemy than being merciless in the name of ar-Rahman The Merciful One, and causing conflict in the name of as-Salaam, The Source of Peace. But those who behave like this are precious, albeit corrupted, souls for whom Christ died. What if God is waiting for some of them to find salvation in Jesus? What if my ennui with the world and my wish to be removed from it are less important than God’s plans for the Muslim world? After all, who was the first serial killer of Christians? The Apostle Paul.
And anyway, longing for the second coming in this way is just bad theology. Now don’t misunderstand me; I absolutely affirm that Jesus is going to return in majesty to rule forever over the whole world, and that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. But what this whingeing for the rapture overlooks is that Jesus is already here, all over the world, wherever there is a real believer indwelt by His Spirit. We ask “God! Why don’t you do something about the state of the world?” and He replies, “That’s funny, I was about to ask you the same thing.”
The last command Jesus gave us was to go – into all the world. But most of us (and I hold my hands up here and say mea culpa) have stayed right where we were, not really caring whether Muslims ever got to hear the Gospel or discover the love of Jesus, God’s Son. Not until they started coming over here and bothering us, and then we respond by asking God to wind it all up, take us to heaven and consign them to hell.
Does that really sound like the spirit of the One who laid down His life so that “no one should perish, but all should come to repentance”? This world can be transformed. It’s meant to be transformed. But it isn’t going to happen by us sitting on our hands and whining for a medi-vac to heaven. It’s going to happen by us giving ourselves sacrificially to intercession, loving our enemies till it hurts, declaring the counsel of God until the demons run screaming away with their hands over their ears and giving up our home comforts to take the Gospel to the places where it’s not yet known.
I’m sorry if that sounds more of a rant than my usual writing style. But I feel strongly about it.