I was a senior in High School when 9/11 happened, so all of my adult life has been largely surrounded by this global tension between Islam and the Western world. Recently this conflict reared it’s face in Texas where some believed it was a good idea to hold a public contest on who can draw the “best” (translation: most inflammatory) cartoon of Mohammed, the most revered prophet of Islam.
I imagine that this contest was a response to the horrendous attacks on the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris last year. And like Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons, these cartoons brought forth violence. Some of the organizers of the contest are claiming that this attack was by Muslims on their freedoms, and they are right—it was an attack by at least one confirmed radical Muslim on the freedom of speech as granted by the US government. But my fear is that many Christians might not realize that our freedom in Christ actually solicits a very different response to such attacks, and to Muslims in general.
As Christians we are not to flaunt our freedom by offending almost 25% of the world’s population with offensive cartoons. We are not free to demean the lives of 1.6 billion people by trampling on the image of their most revered prophet. Our freedom in Christ calls us to turn from the ways of this world and instead follow the ways of the Kingdom of Heaven. This means that for those who may feel oppressed and offended by the way of Islam that you are called to endure such offense, for that is the way of Christ: “When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly” (1 Pt 3:23).
Now, it is easy for me to write these things as a privileged US citizen while thousands of Christians suffer daily at the hands of radical Muslims on the other side of this world. But the biblical principal remains the same. So you feel offended, or attacked by another group of people? Don’t respond in trying to be as offensive as possible to them; instead act in loving kindness to them. Do not attempt to display your superior worldly freedoms over them, but rather act as the true servant of Christ you claim to be.
It is only as servants of the Lord do we experience freedom. True freedom does not come from any government constitution, but rather from God. And this freedom does not allow us to blatantly offend others, but instead calls us to radically love God and every other person in the world, including 1.6 billion Muslims.
When we love God and love others in such a radical way we not only live out our true freedom, but we also witness to God’s amazing love and grace. If we want to make a difference in this continual conflict between Muslims and Christians, then we must love Muslims! We must start acting like Christians, humble ourselves, and love our neighbors as ourselves. In his sermon, “The General Spread of the Gospel,” John Wesley had this to say when it comes to ministering to Muslims: “The grand stumbling-block being thus happily removed out of the way, namely, the lives of Christians, the Mohametans [Muslims] will look upon them [Christians] with other eyes, and begin to give attention to their words.” He knew that if the Church had any hope in ministering to Muslims, then Christians must stop living according to the ways of the world, like participating in Mohammed cartoon contests, and instead live Kingdom lives of holy love.
Yes, this contest in Texas was a way of demonstrating the civil freedoms granted us by the government, but as Christians such a contest does not represent the freedom we have in Christ. Our freedom in Christ frees us from the ways of the world and calls us to act with foolish humility at the feet of God by sharing his unconditional love with the world.
May the Holy Spirit empower us all to Love God and love others—this is true freedom!