LOVE REQUIRES SUFFERING AND SACRIFICE Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. — Jude 3-4 I wish I could be writing a positive, non-controversial, uplifting, and encouraging letter. But like Jude, I have sadly found it necessary instead to let you know about our fight to contend for the the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. Of course, there will be sin in all of us and deception all around until the day of glorification and judgment, but when ongoing trends in the Christian community are moving along a trajectory from bad to worse, someone must speak out. Such is the case with certain things happening under the banner of "evangelical Christianity" in Muslim nations around the world. Consider first this representative story of totally unacceptable treatment by the Christian community of a girl in Malaysia who left Islam to follow Christ: Maria became a Christian over a decade ago when she was 18. She says no-one forced her to convert, that she made the decision after studying different religious texts. Conversion is deemed so sensitive in Malaysia that even the priest who baptised her refused to give her a baptismal certificate. And, even now, the church she attends asked her to sign a declaration stating the church is not responsible for her conversion. "My church says if the authorities come, they are not going to stand up for me. I have to stand up for myself," she said. … "I feel that I am all alone in this struggle," she says, "and I am frightened because I am alone against the odds." — "Life as a secret Christian convert", by Linda Pressly of BBC News, 15 November 2006 Conversion from Islam is deemed so "sensitive" that her church tells this sister in Christ, "When the going gets tough, you're on your own," --- WHAT!?! That is not how the body of Christ works! We don't abandon one of our own to fend for themselves in a world where the devil prowls around seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8)! "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:12-13). Maria should be embraced, not shunned! Another major battle front is that of upholding the authority of Scripture. Following my college summer mission trip to Mongolia in 1996, I was horrified to learn several years later that the Bibles we passed out that summer use the word “Burhan” (Buddha) to translate “God”! Likewise, across the Muslim world today Bible translation projects are currently underway or are already in publication which modify Jesus' title as “Son of God” into other phrases that will not be offensive to Islamic presuppositions! Worse yet, some Christians have actually joined sides with Satan's words in the Quran (Sura 9:30) by calling down a curse upon those who “stubbornly insist” on upholding Christ's Sonship: Most Muslims recoil from the phrases ‘Son of God’ and ‘children of God’. This is the case whether the term is in reference to Jesus, prophets, angels, kings, or the saints. The phrase presents a linguistic stumbling block to them, and most of them stumble over it. It is not our fault, of course, if people stumble over the truth, but if they stumble because of our stubbornness, because we insist on using a phrase ["Son of God"] that evokes the wrong meaning and is deemed insulting to God, then it might be better if a millstone were hung around our necks and we were thrown into the depths of the sea (Luke 17:2)! — Explaining the Biblical term 'Son(s) of God' in Muslim Contexts, by Rick Brown in International Journal of Frontier Missions, Volume 22, Number 3, Fall 2005 Please, Rick Brown, stop abusing Luke 17:2 out of context. Here is the passage itself: Jesus said to his disciples: "Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves." Jesus is warning us to not cause people to sin. Upholding the value of the title that God's voice from heaven bestowed on His Beloved Son at His baptism (Matthew 3:17) is not “causing people to sin”! On the contrary, Jesus' warning to “watch yourselves” applies much more urgently to those who would dare modify the word of God to remove the spiritual stumbling blocks of truth that go much deeper than mere linguistics (1 Peter 2:6-8). Moreover, some of the most popular training programs for missionaries going to Muslim countries today seem to be so enchanted with the spell of (a cleansed version of) Islam on the one hand and with distinctively American views of “tolerance” and “understanding” on the other hand, that they actually support affirming the Islamic beliefs that Muhammad and his Quran were sent by God! One training book for Christian missionaries ends on the supposedly triumphant note of one so-called “Christ-following Muslim” leading a fellow Muslim to pray to become a “Christ-following Muslim” like this: I want to thank you so much, Allah, for the prophet Muhammad who came as a warner, to warn me about how terrible the punishment would be for a sinner like me.... — The Belief of Isma'il, by Adan Ibn Isma'il (pseudonym) Granted, the above prayer does go on to also thank Allah for sending Jesus. But what foundation for faith is there if God sent both Muhammad and Jesus? Muhammad said that Jesus did not die on a cross, that we must desist from saying God is a Trinity, and that the one unforgivable sin is to attribute deity to a mere man such as Jesus! If Muhammad and Jesus are both prophets of God then the Bible we have today must be in need of serious revision! The mixing of other beliefs into Christian thinking has always been a reality, but whereas a healthy church fights and struggles against it, nowadays syncretism is embraced and promoted as an effective strategy for church growth! Where do such markedly unchristian practices as all the above arise from? One underlying root is an imaginary form of Christianity in which worldly comfort, safety, and security are to be expected. The most popular book on evangelism to Muslims, which unfortunately gives greater centrality to the Quran than to the Bible, is built on the following premise: The irony in all this is that following Christ should not - and need not - bring on persecution and blame from other Muslims. — Fouad Elias Accad, Building Bridges, 1997. You are completely wrong, Mr. Accad! Persecution and blame are to be absolutely expected by anyone who seeks to genuinely follow Christ, whether they be from a Muslim background or otherwise. “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12). When you start with the unbiblical assumption of suffering-free Christianity you then develop techniques, methods, and models of conversion and Christian life which maximize safety at the expense of faithfulness. It is those sort of unbiblical assumptions and subsequent conclusions which sadly pervade so many of the resources that are out there for training Western missionaries headed to Muslim countries. It is easy enough to criticize, it is another matter to do something constructive. Indeed we do have something constructive to offer. Our training programs at Horizons International are built on different assumptions from those above, for example we assume that the cross of Christ proves once for all that to love people in this world is inseparable from experiencing great suffering and sacrifice, including suffering which comes right from the hands and lips of those you seek to love. Our teaching and training materials follow accordingly. We embrace people like Maria and exhort others to do the same, standing and suffering together with her as a sister in Christ (Philippians 3:10)! We support missionaries and indigenous churches that want to keep the Bible as it is. Sure, some Muslims won't like the phrase “Son of God”, but at least there is hope that with the unadulterated word of God in their hands that the Holy Spirit might open their eyes to the only Truth that can set them free! My goal with Horizons is to expand the reach of our already existing resources in order that God may be glorified as the Muslim world sees the love of Christ, as supremely manifest at the cross, demonstrated in the life of His people today picking up their cross and following Him. Zach Harris Find out more at http://www.onelord.cn/horizons. Please feel free to post this newsletter publicly or to distribute copies to others who may be interested.