Though I enjoy different places, I hate to travel; but there I was, traveling again. Waiting in the airport lounge, I reviewed a copy of our Jews for Jesus Newsletter. As I read, I sensed someone standing behind me, reading over my shoulder. I was right.
The man approached me. He smiled and said in a rather thick accent, I see by what you are reading that you are a Christian.” I smiled back, presuming that he too was a Christian. But as I prepared for a nice brotherly chat about the Lord, he surprised me by saying, “I’m a Muslim. I want to ask your opinion. What do you think of the Satanic Verses?”
I was sure he meant the book by Salmon Rushdie, but certain parts of the Qur’an are alleged by some to be Satanic verses. Referring to those, I answered that it had been a long time since I had read the Qur’an and I did not recall that section.
He said, “No, I mean the modern book.” I had to admit that I had not read that either.
Then he asked, “What do you think of our sanction against the author?” Certainly I had heard of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s threat. Suddenly I decided I’d better be very tactful. I said, “What do you want me to think about it?” He snapped back, “You should know that we take our religion seriously and will not stand to see the world’s truest prophet defamed!”
Although the American press plays down the idea, I think more Muslims side with the Ayatollah Khomeini than we allow ourselves to believe. We tend to negate what we can barely face in ourselves—the fact that we are usually not very serious about what we say we believe. Others, however, are extremely serious about what they believe. Their beliefs, right or wrong, give them the strength to be willing to die, to kill and to endure all manner of hardship in their zeal to propagate them.
Our secularized society devalues religion. The entertainment media rarely show people saying grace at meals. Nor do we often hear one character telling another about some discovery in a scripture text during morning devotions. Evangelicals in drama are usually portrayed either as charlatans or quaint fossils of a bygone era. Nothing about the way Christians are presented makes our religious viewpoint believable.
When the character of Jesus was misrepresented in the film “The Last Temptation of Christ” a few concerned people did protest. No one took it upon himself Khomeini-style to offer a reward for the assassination of the producer or director. Indeed, all of us would have been shocked if someone had. But before we congratulate ourselves on being nice, civilized people who are horrified at such an idea, let’s examine our attitudes.
Vengeance is the Lord’s, and God certainly does not need us to assassinate anyone to vindicate his honor. However, the painful truth is that most of us simply do not care enough for the honor of Jesus even to become properly angry when he is maligned. In today’s society we have learned to “be cool.” But God needs people with fiery zeal in their hearts who are willing to stand up and defend what they believe.
“Gutless godliness” must go. For the sake of righteousness, it is proper not to inflict violence. On the other hand, to endure violence for the gospel’s sake is another matter. Jesus did.
If protesting wrong and doing right means we must go to jail, then may God give us the strength to endure the ordeal. If doing right means that our fellow man will inflict violence upon us, then may the Lord give us the strength to endure the pain. If doing right means that we will be misunderstood and despised, let us remember our Savior who chose to be despised and misunderstood that we might receive salvation.
If we are to have any effect on our generation, the time has come when we must take what we believe so seriously that others will not be able to dismiss it simply as the self-serving opinion of otherwise weak people.
Jesus died for you. What have you done for him lately?