In addition to being a church planter and pastor, I’m also an editor and an online community facilitator for a global ministry to pastors and church leaders. So I often have to deal with hateful comments on the Facebook pages I help to manage.

It’s sad, really. The comments don’t come from Muslims or atheists. They come from Christians who consider themselves to be a little superior to others in their commitment to biblical Christianity. They are the watchdogs and witch-hunters who spread rumors that have been refuted boldly and frankly by the accused. Ironically, they often claim that God has given them a ministry of “discernment.”

BBC reports that in July, over 7,000 anti-Muslim tweets were posted every day. When commenters get hateful, I ban them, without regret. It’s better for both of us, really, that they never be bothered with seeing our content. Today, I dealt with this little gem of a comment, directed at someone I deeply respect:

Muslim Lover

I suppose they deserve a few points for the creative use of emoji’s? First of all, to accuse someone of being a “Muslim lover” actually reflects well on the accused’s representation of Jesus and his message. But that aside, it took me back to moments in my youth when, surrounded by prejudice, I would often hear similar phrases thrown at those who associated too closely (especially romantically) with people of another ethnicity. It’s horrible. It reflects fear and hatred and demonstrates the ugliness of the sinful human heart.

So I want to say something, loud and clear, for history’s record books. Write this down. Take it to the bank and nail it to the floor… I have no idea what that actually means but I want to go on record right now as being unequivocally and unapologetically a Muslim lover.

I love Muslims. I wish I knew more Muslims. I studied Islam as a Religious Studies major at Western Kentucky University under a professor who had lived in a Muslim country for over a decade. I memorized a chapter of the Quran, which I can still sing in Arabic to this day, and I’m fascinated with their culture. And I love them. Every last one of them. When I wrote last week about little Omran Daqneesh, I realized I was writing about a boy growing up in a Muslim family. When I heard Omran’s older brother had died in the bombing, my heart broke for his Dad – his probably Muslim Dad – who bears the pain of losing a son.

So, label me too, if you will, a “Muslim lover.” I’ll take it. And I think Jesus would, too. And as an side, I think he’d balk at banning all Muslims from entering our country and he’d probably even let them wear burkinis to the beach. As for those to carry out jihad and commit acts of terrorism, there must be justice for there to be peace, so they must be dealt with justly and as much as is possible, prevented from carrying out their evil acts. Their organizations must be dismantled. But I sometimes still stop to reflect on the fact that a huge number of them are broken and brainwashed and, if they really knew how much Jesus loved them and what the cross means for them, they might just repent and believe in him.

Christianity and Islam are diametrically opposed to each other in theology, philosophy, and ideology. They share a few common characteristics and a few common threads of historical roots, but otherwise are quite different. People like to argue about the finer points of whether we worship the “same God” or not. I choose to put it this way: While I believe that Muslims believe they are worshipping the God of Abraham, you don’t actually read about Abraham’s God in the Quran. You read about him in the Bible, exclusively. Jehovah is unique to the Judeo-Christian canon of Scripture. That’s not something Muslims would agree with me about, but it’s what I believe.

At the core of Christianity is a redemptive narrative in which a righteous God required an atoning sacrifice for mankind’s sin, and that sacrifice was provided by the death and the blood of Jesus, his one and only Son, who died on the cross and rose again, ascended back to heaven to empower his ever-spreading kingdom on earth, and will return again someday to fully consummate it. All of that would be rejected by Muslims, who see Jesus as a prophet, but not as the Jewish Messiah and certainly not as the dead and resurrected Lord God.

Islam is a religion of works and rules and rituals, which must be obeyed if we are to remain in the good favor of Allah. Christianity, on the other hand, offers salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus alone. We can’t earn God’s favor, but he grants it to us because he loves us and wants to save us from our utterly helpless, sinful estate.

So, our religions are quite different. I don’t affirm what Muslims believe about Allah. They wouldn’t affirm what I believe about Jehovah. But… and this is big… they’re human. They’re fellow humans. Every person on the face of this planet who follows Islam (and there are billions of them) was uniquely crafted and created by God in his own image. They possess inherent dignity, worth, and value as creations of God.

And, they’re lost, like I was. They need Jesus, like I did. And he’s on a mission to rescue as many of them as possible into a right relationship with himself, using Jesus-followers who are willing to be Muslim-lovers enough to serve them, value them, befriend them, and share as much about Jesus as they’d like to hear.

We don’t win our enemies to Jesus. We win our friends to Jesus. You can’t be on some anti-all-muslims crusade and the mission of Jesus at the same time. Let me write that again: You cannot hate Muslims, or speak hatefully toward Muslims, and be on mission with Jesus at the same time. If you’re a Christian, you’re called to be a Muslim lover too.

That doesn’t mean you surrender your theology. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with their theology. It means you realize that all of us, like sheep, have gone astray and that all of us need a Savior. You realize that Jesus died as much for any Muslim on the planet as he did for you who may have grown up attending church in America’s Bible belt. Humanness means something. Life means something.

Remember that song The Old-Time Religion? It was sung mostly in southern, evangelical, predominantly white Christians who may not have realized at the time the ramifications of that one verse…

’Tis the old time religion,
’Tis the old time religion,
’Tis the old time religion,
And it’s good enough for me.

Makes me love everybody.
Makes me love everybody.
Makes me love everybody.
And it’s good enough for me.

If you take following Jesus seriously, you’ll be a Muslim lover too.

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