8/17/16 Yusef about 22
“Excuse me, you asked me a very interesting question about a week ago”. A middle-eastern man interrupted an outreach conversation I was just finishing up, and patiently waited until I could give him my full attention. “I’m Yusef, and I’m sorry I couldn’t talk when you asked me that question last week. I had a very bad stomach ache, but now I’d like to talk about it” “Of course” I answered, and he continued. “You asked me what I think happens after we die. I’m a Muslim, and I know you are a Christian, and I’m just wondering, do you think I will go to heaven? If I do will I see any other Muslims there?”
There is a short answer and a long answer to that question. I believe it is such an important question, it deserves the long answer in order to avoid a misunderstanding. The short answer would be “No, he would not go to heaven”. The misunderstanding would be that he would be condemned to hell for not being a Christian, for not having the right religion. This common misunderstanding makes the God of the Christianity seem so unreasonable as to be unbelievable.
I was not about to tell him he would be shut out of heaven and condemned because he is a Muslim, but what I did explain is that Muslims, along with all people, are condemned because we are all sinners. Yusef agreed that God deserves our total respect and devotion, that He is holy and perfect in all His ways, and that there is nowhere we can escape from His presence. He understood and agreed that he has willingly sinned against God regardless, that he deserves punishment and needs God’s mercy.
It’s at this point where I began to explain the major differences between Islam and Christianity. Islam teaches that a combination of God’s mercy and one’s religious devotion can allow people to obtain salvation. “But God, who is perfect in all his attributes, would have to compromise some of his mercy in order to require religious devotion, and some of His justice in order to overlook the punishment we deserve” I explained.
But Yusef objected. “What if a man has oppressed and mistreated me all my life? Wouldn’t God’s justice require that he be punished rather than me?” Yusef was making a very common mistake. It’s so easy to point fingers at others, and Yusef was focusing on the sin of others but forgetting about his own. God’s perfect justice requires that the payment for sin is death, but in His perfect love and mercy the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus. Jesus took our punishment for us in our place on the cross, not Mohammed, not Confucius, not Buddha.
There are many religions that tell us we can be good enough to earn some sort of heaven or salvation. But we are all equally dead in our sins. Only one has a Savior, Jesus, and He alone deserves to be our Lord.