Thursday, September 09, 2010

Terry Jones, Quran burning and the way of Jesus

Update: At 5:10 PM Eastern Time, September 9, 2010, CNN is reporting that Terry Jones has agreed not to go through with his announced plans.

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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
I love Muslim people. Because of that I want them to have the very best things in the world. The greatest of all things is the forgiveness of sins and new life that comes through trusting Jesus Christ as Lord. I want Muslims, and everyone, to experience this. Burning their holy book will no more serve this purpose than burning the idols in 1st century Athens would have served Paul's burden to make Christ known to the citizens of that city.

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.

11 comments:

Doug Hibbard said...

Well said.

I think this is also a case where our dual citizenship gets missed.

He is, as an American, free to say what he likes, demonstrate what he wants, and burn his own property all he wants.

As a Christian (some will say that's an assumption, but he claims, I'll spot him that), a citizen of the Kingdom of God, he's not free to do things which damage the efforts of the Kingdom. And burning any books just does not help, especially burning the holy books of other religions.

So, his American citizenship says he's free to do so, and that seems to be what he is insistent on reminding folks. He's forgetting that he's called to a higher citizenship. Whether the President thinks it's acceptable or not, I don't think his (and our) King does.

And we can ignore the President, but the King does not accept that.

Doug

Tom said...

I agree, Doug. Just because we can, doesn't mean we should. 1 Corinthians 6:12, 10:23.

Prophet Among Them said...

This action puts the lie to the old adage that "all publicity is good publicity." Not in this case. This action gives fuel to those who label all Christians as kooks.

Karen said...

Again I would not want them to burn the Bible. Nothing will be gained from this. One thing to remember that God is greater than any of us and may He intervene.

Bobby said...

Burning the Quran only adds another layer of bricks on the wall between Christians and Muslims. We don't put the fire out by throwing gasoline on it. God is Love and it's through love that all people will come to Him! Even the Muslims.

Andrew Brown said...

I agree with a lot of what you say but there is a very dangerous point in your writeup that seems all too prevalent with some Christians today. How on earth can you (a believer of the Word of God, the Holy Bible!) refer to the quran (a book that time and time again denies the deity and sonship of Christ!) as a "holy book"! No true Christian can honestly refer to the books of another religion (besides the Old Testmament Torah) as "holy"! "Holy" means to be separated or set apart for God. Any book that preaches a different god is nothing but unholy. To disagree is to show yourself as a believer in "many roads to god" (rather than Jesus being the only way to the Father (John 14:6) and therefore as not born again of the Spirit.

Tom said...

Andrew:

I said "their holy book." I am simply accommodating my language to their understanding, not putting my stamp of approval on it. To them it is holy and I acknowledge that. Such acknowledgement is no implicit agreement with convictions any more that speaking of "their god" would be an endorsement of Allah.

trixie said...

THAT PASTOR IS NOT USING HIS HEAD, IF THE PHILIPPINES GOT A PROBLEM WITH CHINESE BECAUSE OF WHAT HAD HAPPENED, HE IS PUTTING ALL THE LIVES OF CHRISTIANS ALL OVER THE WORLD IN DANGER.

Rob Bailey said...

The message/narrative/urging of the Bible is what is Holy. Not the paper or the ink or the glue or the gold embossed name. God made the trees we get the paper from to make the Bibles and they will all eventually turn to dust or ash. There will be no resurrection or rapture for the books themselves. The pages of the Koran will not be burned in the lake of fire.

Nathan said...

Thank you for the post. I showed it to my partner and he reacted quite indignantly and thought you were being too hard on the pastor. I don't think so. My partner is of the "carpet bomb them all" perspective.

Your post reminds me of two things. First, truth telling should be motivated by a genuine affection for those we are speaking to. Second, "patriotism" can be turned into an idol. I, in a sense, love my country. But as to citizenship, the civic should never be allowed to trump the eternal.

On an unrelated note, over the weekend I listened to a IX Marks interview from a few years back with you, Ligon Duncan and Mark Dever. It was educational, edifying and convicting.

Thank you.

Steve Loeffler said...

If we follow mr. Jones logic, then we ought to be burning whole libraries of books and whole museums of pagan artifacts, etc. I do not see Paul burning any books but I do see repentant pagan in Acts 14 burning their own books and magic stuff.

Our job is to preach the gospel to Muslims as well as to all other people groups for the sake of true conversion that will lead to the burning of their own sin related stuff.

Steve Loeffler