The temptation to comment on the sleaze currently oozing out of Washington in the battle for control of Congress, tainting the guilty and the innocent alike, is almost irresistible. It can wait. A much more important story unfolded last week in an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania, a tale of forgiveness and grace that brings into sharp focus the clash of cultures in which we are now engaged.
We have heard repeatedly over the last five years that Islam is a “religion of peace hijacked by radicals.” The President of the United States, in a vain attempt to appear evenhanded, has told us many times that this is the case. Meanwhile, bigoted “entertainers” like Rosie O’Donnell make millions telling TV audiences about the dangers of “radical Christianity.” And yet we see little real evidence of either point of view.
There are stark differences between the manifestations of radical Christianity, as taught by Christ and His true disciples, and radical Islam, as taught by Mohammed and those who have followed his teachings down through the ages. One is radically merciful, the other radically merciless. One is radically redemptive, the other filled with radical retribution. Indeed, sadly, Islam has no concept for forgiveness. Christianity, on the other hand, is all about forgiveness.
To be sure, there have been those who have used the name of Christ in sick, twisted ways. Two modern examples leap to mind: the Phelps family in Kansas, with their “God Hates Fags” catchphrase (which seems to be the entire theology of their Westboro Baptist church) and the murderers who kill abortionists in the name of God. But when “Christians” like these go awry, they are universally condemned by virtually every Christian leader in the world. No such condemnation is heard from the leaders of Islam. Indeed, the silence from them is deafening.
In Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, radical Christianity has been quietly on display for a long time. Taking the teachings of Jesus Christ and applying them to every aspect of their daily lives, the devout Amish people of this community could not have anticipated the violence that was about to descend upon them and their families in their simple, one-room schoolhouse. And yet, when it came, and when it was clear that death was about to claim their precious daughters, they knew what to do. At least one of the girls in that schoolhouse asked the gunman to kill her first, hoping to spare the life of her sister and the other younger girls, if only briefly. That is the peace of a Christian who knows that physical life is only the beginning of a gift God has given to his children. That is the request of a child who understood I Corinthians 15:55: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
Consider the grace in evidence last week as the Amish community buried five little girls while loving and praying for the family of the man who murdered them. Then consider the Muslim demands for the death of Pope Benedict and the Danish cartoonist who portrayed Mohammed with a bomb in his turban, both of whom dared to point out the obvious about the primary prophet of Islam.
Consider the radical Christianity displayed through the long, sacrificial life of Mother Theresa as she ministered to the forgotten dregs of humanity, and then contrast it with the doctrine of those who would fly airplanes into buildings and behead those who disagree with them.
Islamic radicals follow a leader who told them to kill any who would not convert to Islam. Christian radicals follow a leader who laid down His own life to save all of humanity. In which civilization do you want your children and grandchildren live? Those are truly the choices with which we are faced. Which culture will you defend?
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord Jesus Christ, for His is the true religion of peace.