Some people hear me talk about Islam and think I hate Muslims because I want to offer them something other than their beliefs—and because I speak truth about what the Quran teaches. Do you think I hate Muslims? Islam was mine from birth. I practiced it for many years. These were and are my people. I have received the threats on my life. And I love them still. They are God’s treasure. I am giving my life for them.
Do you love Muslims? Perhaps you fear what they might do in your city and around the world. Perhaps you fear that they might spark a blaze of terrorism that destroys all that you own and love. What can you do when the threat of jihad presses in like an uncontrolled fire that turns on a whim and consumes everything in its path?
Two recent events are pressing on my heart this week: the California wildfires and the war on ISIS. They are completely unrelated…and yet the same.
We Have Backed ISIS into a Corner
Last week, American-backed forces drove ISIS out of the caliphate’s self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa, in Syria. You probably have seen the news reports. While some Western officials are celebrating, the mood for many is somber. European officials tasked with protecting their citizens from attacks—like the Champs Elysees killings, the Manchester concert bombing, the Barcelona van ramming, and the London subway bomb—know that the battle is far from over. American forces, hopefully, have learned from the Taliban and Al Qaeda what happens when a void is left in Islamic jihad leadership. The battle is far from over.
The reality is that when you kill a Muslim, 100 more will rise up in his place. The theology and culture of Islam—the Spirit of Islam—is anger, violence and revenge. Allah asked Mohammed to take revenge. Islam gives honor to those who kill and die for the faith. An Islamic jihadist facing defeat and dishonor is like a cornered animal—he’s at his most dangerous state.
The Enemy Is Not Just ISIS; It’s the Theology of Islam
Let’s make no mistake—ISIS is not the sole enemy. The enemy is the Spirit of Islam. There have been many “lone wolf” attacks, and yes, many have been connected with ISIS. But ISIS is not the common denominator; Islam is the common denominator. Islam makes people captive to fear and anger.
As Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammed al-Adnani said before his death last year, “True defeat is the loss of willpower and desire to fight. We would be defeated and you victorious only if you were able to remove the Quran from the Muslims’ hearts.”
We may have pushed ISIS back, but we are far from claiming victory. Lone wolves and sleeper cells will continue to be inspired by whichever leader or organization takes up the mission of the Quran: Taliban, Al Qaeda, ISIS—or whatever we will call ISIS 2.0.
The Gospel Solves the Problem of Revenge
Yes, it is good to make terrorists weak. Yes, we must stand up and fight. I’m not saying we shouldn’t. A nation must defend itself. Military might can be a good thing. But it will never be a long-term solution to peace. For this enemy, defeat only kindles more anger and fanaticism.
In past weeks, a video of a tree in California burning from the inside out went viral. This tree and this wildfire that killed many and destroyed much is like an observant Muslim lit up by the Spirit of Islam. You can attack the flames and spray them with water, you can build barriers and backfires to contain and defeat, but hot spots will smolder and rekindle and flames will leap from one place to another. The heat will sustain itself under the ashes, in the heart of a tree—wherever it can find protection.
The only way to truly put out the fire is to quench its burning desire to reignite—for a Muslim, this means we must solve the problem of revenge. We must love them with the gospel. As the Bible teaches us, we have to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).
I often feel people think my message sounds like a pastor’s broken record, an empty solution that ignores the realities of terrorism and war. But I have seen the results over and over again. The love and self-sacrifice of Jesus cools the ground and quenches the flame in the Muslim heart. They no longer have to be angry and seek honor through revenge. The good news is that millions of Muslims are also fed up with the message of hatred, violence, and revenge. They are questioning the teachings of Islam and are open to the message of the gospel.
When a Muslim hears and accepts the gospel, Jesus transforms them. He puts out the destructive fire and makes them a light to hundreds. And right now, Jesus is turning many fires into lights in Iran and the Middle East. The mainstream media won’t tell you this. The Iranian government won’t tell you this. But Jesus is the great firefighter for the Muslim world. So the violence is causing Muslims—who aren’t allowed to question—to question Islam. And Jesus is drawing people to him.
Do you love Muslims? God does. He sees all the destruction caused by fire and jihad, whether in California, Europe, or the Middle East, and he weeps for the many people here and there, who are his treasure. They need the gospel. If you have it, help me share it.
Coker, Margaret, Eric Schmitt, and Rukmini Callimachi. “With Loss of Its Caliphate, ISIS May Return to Guerrilla Roots.” The New York Times, October 18, 2017, sec. Middle East.
McDermott. Matthew. “Watch an Eerie Tree Burning from the Inside in California Wildfire.” Video on NationalGeographic.com. October 17, 2017.