May we stand in joy as we suffer
Attorney General Loretta Lynch made controversial remarks while speaking to a Muslim Advocates Dinner in Arlington, VA on December 3, 2015. She vowed that the United States Justice Department would take aggressive action against anyone who used “anti-Muslim rhetoric” that inspires violence. Her statement indicated that prosecution targets speech.
After a strong backlash from critics, the Attorney General rephrased her statement on Monday, December 6, 2015, to emphasize prosecution would come only against the actions of hate and not the speech of hatred.
The historical justification of aggression in the name of Christian Truth is unquestioned. Violence from Christians toward heretics, pagan faiths, and even toward fellow Christians is part of our history. But in contrast, violence against Christians is also part of Christian History. The blood of Christian martyrs soaks the pages of Christian history. But in our contemporary culture of struggle against the Islamic State [ISIS], the debate over the proper Christian response to the hateful rhetoric and violent action from religious zealots toward Christian faith raises important questions.
The opinion that the Islamic State is an evil presence is universal not only in the West. Evil is to be opposed. And Christians speaking about the errors of Islam are targeted with charges of hate speech. Religious speech is now hated speech in the United States.
The debate against the Islamic State carries over to the century’s long debate about the good or evil intentions of the religion of Islam itself. I wish to take a Christian position that all religious thought and devotion apart from the truth of the Christian gospel is evil regardless of moral agreement. But the Christian response to evil is that all evil is unnatural to the original creation of God who made all things good. The Gospel Truth of the Christian Faith is that all that departs from the divine good is evil and restored only through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Paul clarifies the nature of God and all that he creates as good in his first letter to Timothy.
“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” [1 Timothy 4:5, ESV]
Human sin embraced evil over God’s holiness and goodness. The redemption made possible by Jesus Christ is the only truth. Any other religious or secular attempts at redemption are false and oppose God’s goodness making them evil. God does not bless Islam since it is not true redemption. God’s word does not make holy what rejects His word. Prayer to Allah is not a prayer to the one true God of Christianity.
But to compare this Christian truth to false religion is deemed hate speech. Language begins as ideas and to term religious speech as hateful rhetoric equates hate with ideas. Freedom of ideas is foundational to the U.S. Constitution.
Jesus Christ command Christians in Matthew 5:38-48 to love their enemies. In speaking truth, we express love to those who hate us. John Piper has a compelling video on his Desiring God website about this very subject. There is a distinction between loving and trusting. To love, we must forgive. Christians must forgive the Islamic State terrorists for their hatred toward us and the many egregious acts of death toward Christians.
To trust the Islamic State Terrorists is another issue altogether. One must earn the trust of others through actions. I do not trust an Islamic Terrorist. Nor do I trust a follower of Islam to speak the truth of redemption and grace. Only Jesus Christ speaks this truth, and thus I trust him.
To love a person of the Islamic faith is part of Jesus’ command. Christians hate no one. But we do hate the sin of the misguided religious attempts to make good what is tainted evil.
Christian speech in the United States is clearly under assault. Our love for people of Islam will include challenging language confronting the sinful ideas of the religion. Christian faith is a religion that must speak the truth. This speech requires harsh truth.
But when Loretta Lynch promises to prosecute Christian speech because a false religion is offended, Christians must stand up and smile. Jesus promised in Matthew 10:25 that we will have enemies as disciples. The Apostle Peter calls Christians to rejoice in suffering [1 Peter 4:12-19].
So Christians, let us hate Islam since Islam is a false attempt to restore God’s holiness and goodness in our world. Let us love the Muslim people who seek the truth but embrace a misguided philosophy. Let us speak truthfully about the saving grace through Jesus Christ. But let us not retreat when accused of speaking hate.
Let us not, “suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.” [1 Peter 4:14-15]. Too often misguided Christians speak with emotion rather than reason.
May we stand in joy as we suffer for speaking the loving truth while the enemies of God hear only hate.