Defending God’s honor? A response to the Islamic riots

Riots for honor?

No honor in the cross

In a blog post in response to the riots in the Islamic world, Tom Gilson asks the question, “what good is there in defending God’s honor?” In that post, Mr. Gilson highlights some differences between Islam and Christianity with the caveat that he has limited understanding of Islam.

As one who is also of limited knowledge of the Muslim faith, Tom’s article triggered some thoughts in me on how to respond to the rioting.

Take up your cross

Jesus tells us in the Gospels that those who seek to follow Christ are to take up our crosses. Luke 9:23 adds that this cross bearing is to be repeated daily. We are to embrace a symbol of humiliation. The result should be humility in us. We share the same tendency to pride and sin as the rest of humanity. It is only through the work of Jesus on the Cross that we can be other than what we were.

Go the second mile

Jesus also tells us that when asked to go a mile, we are to go two (Matthew 5:41). When we are slapped, we are to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39). To the one who demands our shirt, we should also give our coat (Matthew 5:40). Instead of defending our honor, we are called to surrender it for the sake of our relationship with God.

The founder of Christianity then went on to demonstrate how we are to do this by surrendering his own life on our behalf. He did not defend his own honor, but willingly embraced the shame and disgrace that should have been ours. He subjected his glory to the shame of our sin.

Anger doesn’t help

When faced with disgrace or a loss of honor, our natural response it one of anger and retaliation. Religious people of all stripes and colors, be they Atheists, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians or Marxists struggle with putting self above others. Some of these creeds actively teach humility, others do not. The actions of the rioters could be used as evidence that Islam falls into the latter category.

The point for Christians is that we are to respond in love, no matter how difficult it may be to do so. As Tom tells us in his post, Christians have wrongly tried to defend God’s honor and have made things worse as a result.

This is not a call to pacifism. Jesus actively resisted evil (remember him overturning the tables in the Temple courts?). Yet, when we see acts of senseless violence, the danger is to respond in pride and the wrong sort of self dignity. These will push us toward responding in unwarranted (but understandable) anger. Our response, if any, is to be measured against our call to love.

Jesus informed us that his teaching would bring a sword among us (Matthew 10:34) but his gave us no indication that it should be our hand that wields it.