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Not in the Name of Christ

A controversy erupted this week at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. This annual event consists of various religious and political leaders who gather to give speeches and pray. This year's event came on the heels of yet another Muslim atrocity in which a Jordanian fighter pilot was burned alive by ISIS, an Islamist military force operating in Iraq.  This murder is just the latest example of Islamic violence that occurs frequently around the world.  In reference to these things, the president of the United States declared at the Prayer Breakfast that many religions have been hijacked by evil persons with murderous intentions.  To those who claim to follow Christ, he said, "And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.  In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ."  In essence, these comments indicate that Christians have no moral high ground from which to be critical of violent Muslims because of the atrocities committed in the past by men who claimed to be Christians.

There is no doubt that men have claimed to act in the name of Christ while committing atrocious deeds.  The president mentioned the Crusades and the Inquisition in his speech as examples. These were efforts made by the Catholic Church to retake territory captured by Muslims and to maintain Catholic orthodoxy respectively.  In both cases, many thousands of people were killed, and the Catholic Church claimed the authority of Christ for these actions.  The president mentioned other examples as well, and there are even more not mentioned by him that could also be cited to make his point.

However, there is a great difference between those who have invoked the name of Jesus to justify violence and those who claim to act by the authority of Muhammad. Those who claimed the name of Christ did so falsely, for Jesus never authorized His followers to use force and violence to influence unbelievers.  In fact, when James and John suggested calling fire down upon those who rejected Jesus, the Lord said, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them" (Luke 9:55-56).  Additionally, when Peter took up a sword to defend Jesus, the Lord said, "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword" (Matt. 26:52).  In no passage of the New Testament did the Lord Jesus command, commend, or condone violence against unbelievers, but rather He prohibited it.  Likewise, when the Lord's apostles were later inspired by the Holy Spirit, they instructed Christians to be peaceful and gentle toward all men (Rom. 12:17-21; 2Tim. 2:24-26).  Therefore, any actions taken by the Catholic Church or anyone else that violated these directions from Scripture were not done in Christ's name, for Jesus never authorized such violence.

In the case of those who commit violence in the name of Muhammad, they are fully endorsed and supported by the Quran, the book of Islam ostensibly given by Muhammad. This book is filled with so many calls to violence that they cannot be listed here.  These calls are directed against those who reject Islam.  It is no surprise that many modern Muslims are committing atrocious acts in the name of Muhammad, for that is their mandate, tradition, and history.  The religion of Islam was violent from its beginning, for Muhammad himself led military campaigns to wipe out the Meccans in wholesale slaughters.  Throughout their history, Muslims have conquered, intimidated, and spread their influence by violence.  Many continue to do so today.

Is it fair then to attribute atrocities to the name of Christ in the same way that atrocities are attributed to the name of Muhammad?  Absolutely not, for no one who has done such things has done so by the authority of Jesus. Acting in the name of Christ is not merely a matter of stating His name in connection with any arbitrary act, but rather it is a matter of acting on His word.  Notice Matthew 7:21-23:

21"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  22Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?'  23And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'"

Therefore, let us take a few lessons from this controversy.  We must not allow anyone to place the Lord Jesus and His true followers into the category of guilt and violence that belongs to Islamists. Such a characterization is a deceptive equivocation designed to take blame away from those who are committing violent atrocities today.  At the same time, we must never do anything contrary to the will of Christ while wearing His name. Our mandate from Colossians 3:17 is, "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father."  In all we do, we must keep our behavior excellent and above reproach as good representatives of the Lord (Phil. 2:15; Col. 1:22; 1Tim. 6:14; Tit. 2:8; 1Pet. 2:12).  Finally, let us also be careful how we use the name of Christ.  Invoking His name is a serious endeavor, and we must not make false claims in His name or attribute evil to His name falsely.  If we call Him Lord, then we must do only His will (Luke 6:46).

Stacey E. Durham




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