Got Jesus? Muslims think they do. They believe He’s a prophet, was born of a virgin, given divine revelation, and could raise the dead to life. Despite His lofty status, Muslims still hold a deficient and distorted view of Jesus. It’s a tragic case of mistaken identity with dire consequences. Here are three ways Muslims mistake the true Jesus.
Muslims miss Jesus’ relationship. Muslims believe Allah is a transcendent God, meaning he is separate and distinct from his creation. This makes Allah a foreign and distant being, completely out of reach from humanity. Muslims, consequently, don’t pursue a relationship with God. They merely obey God.
Although Christians also believe God is transcendent, Scripture teaches He is immanent. This means God enters into His creation, interacts with His created beings, and develops a relationship with them. Jesus is a prime example of God’s immanence. By taking on human nature, God became like us in order to relate to us (and, of course, die for us). Jesus also models this intimacy when He teaches us to call to God in prayer with, “Abba, Father.” We can approach the God of the universe with the same relational closeness as a child coming to his father.
This intimate and familial relationship that Christians enjoy with God, though, is precisely what’s missing with Muslims who serve Allah. Jesus is the Son of God and the One through whom we have a personal relationship with God. Because Muslims reject the idea that Jesus is the only mediator between us and God, they’re robbed of their only means to know and relate to Him.
Muslims miss Jesus’ peace. Most Muslims believe Islam is a religion of peace. Although I think they sincerely desire to live peaceful lives (and most do), authoritative sources in Islam justify violent jihad in some cases. Not only is this teaching found in the Qur’an, but it’s modeled by Mohammed, the paradigm example of Muslim living. He authorized the use of force, led major military campaigns, and ordered the assassination of non-combatants. Furthermore, there is the historical precedent of violent conquest during the first 100 years of Islamic expansion across the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Europe.
By contrast, Christianity had no army during the first 300 years of expansion. Despite intense persecution, including the killing of its adherents, Christianity rapidly spread across the map. Christians didn’t engage in military conquest because Christ neither authorized nor modeled such behavior. He was—and is—the paradigm example for every believer. Jesus lived such a peaceful life that many people today believe He was a pacifist. He never retaliated towards those who sought to harm Him, even after multiple assassination attempts. When soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Peter drew his sword to protect Christ from being captured. Jesus, however, reprimanded him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.” He even reminded Peter that He could ask the Father to summon 12 legions of angels if He really intended to use violence to achieve His purpose (Matt. 26:53).
Even Jesus’ final directive to His followers, “The Great Commission,” is a command to make disciples of all nations. Notice, this is a persuasive enterprise, not a military one. If Muslims want to follow a religious system that prescribes peace, they should model their lives after Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
Muslims miss Jesus’ resurrection. The Qur’an, Islam’s highest authority, teaches that Christ was not killed (Surah 4:157). Without His death, there is no resurrection. Without a death and resurrection, there is no atonement for sin. Without atonement for sin, no one can be absolved of their guilt. They remain objects of God’s wrath.
By denying Christ’s death and resurrection, Muslims lose their chance to be at peace with God. Jesus offers all people an opportunity to take Him up on His offer. He willingly substitutes His life to be punished on our behalf so we can be free from God’s wrath. By denying Christ’s work on the cross, Muslims forfeit the only means of achieving peace with God.
There’s no doubt that Muslims have thwarted peace around the world at times, but it’s only because they’ve missed the true Jesus: His relationship, His peace, and the power of His resurrection. Only the Gospel can secure for Muslims what Islam never can—an eternal relationship of peace with the resurrected and living Lord.
Although Muslims miss Jesus in these three ways, Christians also sometimes miss an aspect of Jesus: His perspective. Christians who treat Muslims like the enemy are missing the fact that Muslims are actually hostages of the enemy. Satan is our true enemy. He erects strongholds to hold people captive (2 Cor. 10:3–5). To Christ, Muslims are image-bearers of God, intrinsically valuable, and deserve dignity, respect, and the opportunity to respond to the Gospel. We should see them through His eyes.