November 25, 2014
Can’t We All Just Find Some Common Ground about Jesus Christ?
By Brittany Tedesco
Ever notice how our modern culture characterizes Jesus?
I’ve observed that it’s generally positive. I’ve heard people affirm that He was a prophet, a teacher, a defender of the underdog. Many believe He was a good example for us to follow, and was meek and humble.
Some believe that His meekness and humility necessarily meant He was tolerant and accepting of all types of behaviors—even going so far as to state that, were He still walking this earth today, He would be an advocate of their cause, however contrary it might be to the Bible’s description of godly behavior.
One of my Facebook friends lamented about Christians’ “obsession with blood.” She wondered why it is that we always have to talk about the blood (ick!) of Jesus rather than His life, His example.
Her post got many “likes.”
You see, people are cool with a Jesus who is meek, humble, and quietly supports their agenda. But start talking about the cross that Jesus endured, where His blood was poured out for your and my sins, and you start irking people.
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” 1 Corinthians 1:18.
The cross is offensive to people who don’t believe they need a savior. It always has been and always will be.
So how do we get around this?
There is no way around this.
Proponents of the Insider Movement (see my previous two posts) beg to differ. To reach people with the gospel, they say, you must find common ground with them—more specifically, common ground with their religious beliefs.
For instance, I could’ve just agreed with my Facebook friend that Jesus was a prophet and teacher, meek and humble, but stayed quiet about the “icky” blood stuff. That way we could have common ground. We can both use the same term, “Jesus,” it’s just that I view Him as Savior while she views Him as a really nice guy.
If I were a missionary to the Muslim world, Insiders would teach me to call myself a “follower of Isa.” Isa is the name the Quran uses for Jesus.
The Quran teaches that Isa was born of a virgin, that he could perform miracles, that he was the “Word of Allah” and “Messiah,” and that he’ll return in the end.
We’ll just ignore the fact that the Quran teaches that when Isa returns, he’ll destroy Christianity along with all other religions except Islam and will then rule as a follower of Muhammad.
We don’t have to mention that the Quran teaches that Isa did not die on a cross—specifically, it states, “those who said he was crucified lied” (An-Nisa’ 4:157). That man on the cross that history records wasn’t actually Isa but a substitute. Isa was taken up to heaven without dying, and will actually be a witness against Christians and Jews for believing in his death (An-Nisa’ 4:159).
Oh, and Isa is not the son of God because God has no son. Isa is a just a created human being who is a “slave of Allah.”
Muhammad, Isa tells us, is Allah’s gift to Christians. Isa foretells of Muhammad’s coming and that we should accept him as Allah’s messenger and the Quran as Allah’s final revelation.
Incidentally, Arabic Christians have called Jesus Yasou’ (the Arabic version of the Hebrew Yeshua) since ancient days. The majority still use this word today. Not until recently, within the last two decades, has the word Isa crept into Arabic publications written explicitly for Muslims by Christians who wanted to find common ground with them.
Either we tweak our message or we don’t reach them. Right?
Or is this a false dichotomy?
Why do we need to find common ground within a false religion—be it Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc—to reach people stuck in those false religions with the gospel?
What’s wrong with presenting the Truth, as a whole, without diminishing or downplaying certain key aspects of it, regardless of whether it jives with a different belief system?
Because some people will reject it? Of course they will. But at least we’ve presented them with a clear choice.
Isa? Yasou’? They both translate as “Jesus,” so what’s the big deal which one we use? Answer: because words have connotations. Yasou’ spilled His blood for us. Isa didn’t.
Here we go again, back to that icky blood stuff.
A Christian Aid Mission-supported indigenous ministry, which is successfully sharing Christ with Muslim refugees who’ve fled from ISIS, explained to us how they go about sharing the gospel.
“We talk about the blood, the sacrifice. We go from the Old Testament and why in the OT Abraham wanted to give his son, the meaning of the blood, and then Moses, when they put the blood [on the doorposts] and the sheep as sacrifice. So we go from the OT to the blood of Jesus that saves us.”
And what does Jesus’ shed blood mean to Muslims?
“That God would LOVE us so much,” is the response the ministry leader told us he is getting from the majority of Muslims who hear and accept the gospel.
They already knew about Isa. They just hadn’t heard about Yasou’.
Why would an Arabic Christian want to identify with Isa, when they could identify with Yasou’? Why would we want to identify with a mildly appealing, nice guy when we could identify with the all-powerful Creator, Lord, and Savior, Jesus Christ?
For the sake of common ground? We already have common ground with every person on earth without having to fabricate it: we’re all sinners in need of a Savior.
|Note: this post was written specifically in reference to the Insider Movement-driven initiative to replace the word Yasou’ in Arabic Bibles and literature with Isa (the word the Quran uses in reference to Jesus) in Arab countries. The Christians in these countries can trace their heritage back thousands of years and have always referred to Jesus as Yasou’. However, in non-Arab countries with significant Muslim populations (such as in Asia), native Christians should be consulted about how they’ve historically referred to Jesus. For instance, an indigenous ministry supported by Christian Aid Mission in the Philippines shows the Jesus Film to groups of Muslims who know no other word for Jesus but Isa. Workers with this ministry emphasize Jesus’ deity to distinguish Him from the false Jesus in the Quran, but still use the word Isa in their interactions with Muslims.|