So I had the privilege of meeting with a Muslim man yesterday. I purposely say it was a privilege because it was. In addition to being a leader in his local Mosque, this man, named Mohammed, is a pediatrician by vocation.
We mostly sat around his dinning room table discussing our beliefs, including the differences between Christianity and Islam. I purposely tried to do more listening, as I wanted to make sure I understood him first (à la, Miroslav Volf’s idea of double vision) before I spoke myself. Regardless, I felt it was a great conversation and I am grateful for the opportunity.
Not surprisingly, there is a fundamental difference between Christianity and Islam on the question of how we understand who God is. While these difference cannot be ignored or set aside, there is no reason why Christians and Muslims cannot have a respectful dialogue about these differences. I believe our conversation was evident that such dialogue can take place, as I know it has between other Christians and Muslims.
One issue that came up has to do with American Christianity. The question was asked as to why American Christians believe that they can claim God’s grace while continue to live pretty much however they want to as though they will not be held accountable to God for their actions.
Before we dismiss the accusatory generalization of the question, think about it for a moment. What is going on in American Christianity that would even give someone the impression that we Christians believe we can live without accountability to God for our actions?
While perception and reality are never the same, there is always a certain amount of truth to the perception and it is that certain amount of truth that we Christians should wonder about. For my Muslim neighbor, this issue is about obedience to God and obedience to God ought to be a concern for all Christians to since the idea of obedience to God is a very biblical idea. In fact, it is a gross misappropriation of the gospel scripture to live as though God’s grace negates obedience unto God. Such error is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer meant by “cheap grace.” Do we Christians believe the grace of God is cheap? Our answer will be evident in how we live.
There is a question I have about the way Islamic faith understands grace and the forgiveness of sin but I need to do more reading first. Besides, before Christians, like myself, become too critical of the Islamic way of life, we need to get our own back yard cleaned up first. In other words, we must tend to our own issues rather than someone else’s.