The furor created by Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida has stretched around the world. In July, Jones announced that he and his followers would burn copies of the Quran on September 11, in memory of the attack on America by radical Muslims on September 11, 2001. Everyone from Sarah Palin, to General Petraeus to the Vatican to President Obama have condemned the planned burning and asked Jones not to do it.
Muslims have staged anti-American and anti-Christian protests on at least two continents in response to Jones' antics. As of today, his plans remain unchanged and he invites other Christians to join him for his self-initiated "International Burn a Koran Day."
The actions of Jones are wrong and irritating on so many levels that they provoke ridicule and scorn. One of the tragedies in all of this is that he and others may well wear such backlash (which now includes more than a hundred death threats) as a badge of honor and a sign of suffering for the sake of Jesus. After all, didn't Jesus say,
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake (Matthew 5:10-11)?Of course He did. But when a Christian invokes scorn due to sensational, unbiblical actions he does not suffer for righteousness' sake but for stupidity.
Tony Reinke has provided some real biblical wisdom in assessing this whole fiasco in light of the "book burning" in Acts 19 and I encourage you to read his insights. I want to offer a few of my own, as well, as one who has more than a casual interest in what happens to Muslim friends and fellow believers living in the Muslim world.
- Jones has justified burning the Quran because it is an "evil book" that leads people away from the true God. Consistency, then, should lead him to add countless other titles to his bonfire, including many that are written by authors who purport to be promoting Christianity but who miss the gospel altogether.
- This proposed burning, coming as it does at the end of Ramadan, is severely damaging opportunities that Americans and Christians living in Muslim countries normally have to deepen relationships and share in the goodwill that is typically shown by Muslims to their neighbors in the celebration of Eid, the breaking of the fast. Instead, a cloud of suspicion is gathering over the heads of American Christians living in Muslim countries because of the actions of a small group of people in Florida. If you doubt this, you are simply naive and it is certain that you had no Muslim friends living near you on September 12, 2001.
- Burning copies of the Quran in Florida may appear to be courageous to some who think only superficially about such things. In reality, it is closer to cowardice. If Jones were genuinely courageous he would go to Kabul or Tehran and hold his bonfire. Better yet, if he were both courageous and wise he would go to those place, or others like them, and learn how to live among and love Muslims for the sake of teaching them the gospel of Jesus from the Bible.
- Burning Qurans is more about publicity than it is about honoring Jesus Christ or advancing His kingdom. It is an unbiblical activity. By that I mean, there is nothing in the Bible that directs Christians to do such a thing, especially in conjunction with a day of national remembrance.
Most Muslims are not fanatics who want to kill infidels. But even those kinds of radicals must be viewed through the eyes of biblical faith. In one sense they are our enemies because they have set themselves against Jesus as the incarnate Son of God and against those who call Him Lord. But our Lord has taught us that we, like He, must love even our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Love does what is good, not evil, to the one loved.
In another sense, however, even radical Muslims are not our real enemies. Paul reminds us of this in Ephesians when he says that "we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (6:12). Those who set themselves up as the enemies of Jesus Christ and His followers should be regarded as captives of our real enemy and in need of deliverance.
So pray for Terry Jones and for those under his leadership. They need to be taught the way of Jesus more accurately. Ask the Lord to show him how unChristian and harmful his plans are and to lead him to repent of them. Pray for US military personnel whose jobs will be made much more difficult as a result of the proposed Quran burning. Pray also for Christians living in Muslim countries as they miss out on opportunities and deal with the fallout of Jones' unbiblical and unwarranted actions.
God will rule and overrule these events for His glory and the good of His children. So we can pray confidently as we ask Him to guide His people to respond as those who have a crucified, risen Savior, no matter what happens on September 11 and the days that follow.