10/28/12 Muhammad 69
A man smoking outside a grocery store looked like he might have time for a chat, so I asked about his beliefs. I got an earful. His name is Muhammad and he moved to Chicago from Jerusalem about 40 years ago. At first he claimed that he believes and supports all religions as equals. But as he went on to talk almost everything he said contradicted that sentiment. As a Muslim, Mohammed believes that Jesus is just another in a long line of prophets, with the original Muhammad being the last and greatest prophet of all. To deny Muhammad and glorify Jesus goes against every fiber of his being, so instead of trying to focus on Jesus’ divinity, I focused on a subject I knew he and I would agree on – God’s infinite glory and worth. This is a subject Muhammad felt like an expert on, with his disciplined and zealous practice of religion seeming to prove his devotion. But I hoped my questions could help him to rethink those beliefs – “If our sins against an infinitely holy God are to be paid for with religious deeds, what would be an appropriate price?” Mohammed confidently spoke of his regular practice of prayer five times daily, or his memorization of a quarter of the Koran. But why not memorize all of the Koran? Why not pray 10 times a day? Is God not worth it? To me, Islam is a sign of the futility of playing the “good works” game. It is a logical outcome of the idea that we can somehow bribe God into ignoring His own justice with our religious deeds. But God will not be bribed, and He will display His justice as well as His love. In fact, the cross of Jesus is not only a demonstration of His love as written in John 3:16, it is also a demonstration of His justice as we see in Romans 3:26 – “he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” Oh how I wanted to communicate this truth to Mohammed, but a lifetime of believing in his own ability to earn God’s justice left him highly opinionated and unwilling to listen, unless by His grace God intervenes and speaks to his heart.