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What are some reasons for the animosity between Christians and Muslims?

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On September 11, 2001, the world entered the age of terror. The terrorists wage cruel atrocities in the name of Islam. Christians wonder how to respond to the threat. To their reproach, some fearfully spurn all Muslims as terrorists. Others compromise truth to show acceptance. Both approaches dishonor God.

Christians must understand their differences with Muslims so they can respond with truth and love. First, let’s prayerfully examine how to overcome some of the initial barriers between Muslims and Christians.

1. Muslims are offended by Western secularism
As global technology shrinks the world, Muslims feel threatened by Western culture: immoral movies, pornography, immodest dress, vile music, and rebellious teens. Western culture threatens the Islamic faith, worldview, and lifestyle. Muslims equate this Western culture with Christianity.

Christian response: Befriend Muslims and explain how Western culture is no longer Christian but secular. Further, not all who claim to be Christians are true followers of Christ. Show by word and action an example of a true Christian: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).

2. Muslims are resentful of Western dominance
Some countries of the West have a history of colonialism and interference, which Muslims resent. While some approve of the war on terror, other Muslims bitterly object. Many also feel betrayed by the West’s “favoritism” of Israel, a nation whose formation displaced thousands of Palestinians.

Christian response: Demonstrate genuine love and humility by prayer and service. Focus on Christ—not political controversies. God will one day restore justice. In the meantime, He provides government leaders to protect the good and punish the wrongdoer (Romans 13:1-7).

“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:16-21).

“Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:23-26).

3. Militant Muslims act on war verses in the Qur’an
While many Muslims are peace-loving, others interpret the Qur’an as giving them divine permission to convert or kill non-Muslims. Verses in the Qur’an that advocate violence include Qur’an 4:76, “Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah…”; Qur’an 25:52, “Therefore listen not to the Unbelievers, but strive against them with the utmost strenuousness...”; and Qur’an 61:4, “Surely Allah loves those who fight in His way.”

Christian response: Sadly, some Christians fearfully despise Muslims. But the Lord gives the perfect neutralizer to fear and hatred: His love.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18a).

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

"But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27).

Jesus didn’t promise His followers a life free of suffering. Instead, He assured, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me” (John 15:18-21).

While some misunderstandings can be cleared with Muslims, the main offense is Jesus Christ (see 1 Peter 2:4-8). The truth about the Lord and Savior must not be compromised. Muslims reject God the Father who sent His Son to die for sinners. Most deny both the necessity and historicity of Christ’s death. While Muslims honor Jesus as a noble prophet, they depend on Islamic faith and works—submission to one Allah, belief in Muhammad’s revelation of Allah, obedience to the Qur’an and the Five Pillars—for entrance to paradise. Many Muslims believe that Christians worship three gods, deify a man, and have corrupted the Bible.

Christians and Muslims should discuss doctrinal misunderstandings. Christians must understand biblical theology so they can . . .
• explain the Trinity: God is one in essence, three in Person
• give evidence of the Bible’s trustworthiness
• show how God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness require Christ’s atoning death
• clarify beliefs about Jesus: “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (1 John 4:14-15)

With love, humility, and patience, Christians must present Jesus as Lord and Savior. “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6).

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This page last updated: January 4, 2022