There are certain things I’m afraid of. Heights, clowns, and tornadoes top the list, alongside the more subtle things like harm coming to my wife or children when I’m not able to protect them. I’ve been known to get a bit nervous when I get a roller coaster, because I have these unshakable images of that being the one time the whole contraption is going to fall to pieces, right as I’m on it.
But on thing that simply does not scare me in the least is when someone decides to stop being a Christian.
I don’t mean I’m not concerned for their soul – I totally am! But I’m definitely not afraid that something is going to happen to the Church as a whole, that the entire system of faith is going to collapse, or that someone’s conversion away represents any other kind of danger to Christianity.
Apparently, though, Muslims aren’t afforded such confidence. Maybe you’ve heard about the Christian woman in Sudan who has been sentenced to death for allegedly converting from Islam to Christianity. This article from CNN records an interesting statement about why it is so important to Muslim leaders to prosecute this woman:
During Thursday’s sentencing hearing, a sheikh told the court “how dangerous a crime like this is to Islam and the Islamic community,” said attorney Mohamed Jar Elnabi, who’s representing Ibrahim.
A “dangerous crime”? Wow. When I think “dangerous crime,” I think of something that threatens the lives of many, or that constitutes a serious threat to society, or that could drastically change life as we know it.
Well, I guess Christianity sort of fits the bill, then, doesn’t it? It threatens to shatter the life you used to live, dismantling the supposed security your sin and worldliness promised you. It poses a threat to a society steeped in selfishness and egotism and materialism and self-righteous sensuality. Becoming a Christian completely changes your identity, your purpose, your desires, your behaviors… in short, life as you know it.
So, Christianity really is a dangerous religion, isn’t it?
Okay, but is that what this sheikh meant? Probably not. But here is this Muslim religious leader – a Muslim Pastor, if you will – who is testifying in court that one young, pregnant woman can threaten a religious community, indeed, an entire religion, simply by changing hers.
Do you smell the fear?
Is Islam really so fragile a temple that all it takes is one young, pregnant woman abandoning it for the name of Jesus to pull it all down? Maybe not, but for this Muslim Pastor it sure seems like it. He fears what might happen if people are simply allowed to stop following Islam.
I don’t really think this is all that surprising, though, because I don’t believe that Islam offers much confidence to its followers. From what I’ve read of Islam, and what I’ve learned from talking to a few of its followers, salvation is no sure thing. On the day of judgment, Islam teaches that all humans will be judged on the basis of their works, and that even a Muslim who hasn’t done enough good will face the fires of hell. On top of that, I have been told by one former Muslim that even if you have lived a very good life, Islam teaches that if Allah wishes he might send you to hell anyway, just because, and that a truly faithful Muslim will accept this possibility as a matter of submission to Allah.
As if all that spiritual pressure isn’t enough to instill fear, there are all the cultural rules surrounding them. The consequences of transgression vary, but even in very lenient societies, a Muslim who turns his back on his faith and its standards for living will likely find himself ostracized by family and friends. It is a culture built on fear.
How much better it would if they could know the peace of Christ. With Jesus, there is no need for fear. He doesn’t offer us a “maybe if you’re good enough” provisional promise for judgment day. He declares that he is going to prepare a place for us, and says, “If I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you with me, that where I am there you may also be.” That’s a certain promise. His voice from the cross cries, “It is finished,” the same as saying, “You don’t need to do enough because I have already done enough.” And while the wages of sin is death, “the gift of God is eternal life through faith in Christ Jesus.”
There’s nothing to fear there. Death is swallowed up in victory. We have been reconciled with God. The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guards our hears and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.
What is more, we don’t have to worry about what might happen to the Church, to Christianity, or to the Christian community just because of one person’s religious decisions. If the gates of hell will not overcome the Church, certainly a single apostate isn’t going to pull it off. Why, apostates, heretics, and antichrists have been trying for two thousand years, and look how far they’ve gotten! No, there is no need for fear.
This is why Christianity trumps all other religion. It doesn’t offer a system of fear, that must hang onto its adherents with barbed claws lest the very system of belief be shaken. It offers peace, assurance, and promise. Yes, Jesus is better than Islam. Jesus is better than anything.
This woman in Sudan might die for her faith. It is a tragic and terrible thing that she should be killed simply for being a Christian. But even that is not a cause for fear. For one thing, it isn’t unexpected. Jesus told us this would happen. “In this world you will have trouble,” he said. But he also said, “Take heart, for I have overcome the world.” In Jesus, Meriam Ibrahim will also overcome, whether she lives or dies. She has no reason to fear.