If you haven’t heard, the Dove World Outreach Center (DWOC) of Gainsville, FL, a church of about 50 people, plans to burn several hundred copies of the Qur’an on the anniversary of 9/11. Their Pastor, Terry Jones, told ABC’s “Nightline” on Tuesday “Jesus would not run around burning books, but I think he would burn this one.”
I don’t know what is more infuriating—the astronomical amount coverage that has been given to a nutty, disgruntled pastor in Florida or the fact that said Pastor thinks it wise and pleasing to God to burn Qur’ans. When folks in Jakarta, Indonesia found out about this small church in Florida planning to burn Qur’ans, thousands rioted outside the U.S. Embassy. In Kabul, Afghanistan, thousands protested and burned an effigy of Pastor Jones! That seems a bit of a strong reaction to the burning of your holy book. Its incredible that this sort of nonsense is not getting the same media attention as some crack pot who leads a church of 50 people is planning to burn a few thousand copies of the Qur’an. Nevertheless, we as Christians need to remember that not all the Muslims in the world are rioting and again that our aim is always first and foremost the proclaimation of the gospel to all people.
I think it goes without saying that this action is not the sort of thing that Christian churches ought to be doing. We are, after all, called to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44). Further the purpose of the church is to make disciples to the glory of God (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8), and we are do so with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15-16). It is difficult for me to understand how burning another world religion’s sacred book would aid us in fulfilling the great commission.
This act is nothing more than disrespect. Such statements do not represent what Biblical Christianity is about. Such statements do not promote Muslim/Christian dialogue—in fact such acts serve to cut off such dialogue and erect unnecessary walls to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So what do we do when professing Christians act foolishly in public like this?
I have three suggestions:
- Ignore them—Pastor Jones and his church are looking for attention. This is a publicity stunt—so the best thing we can do in response is ignore them. If the media in our country had half a brain, they would have ignored it too, but instead its been made a national spectacle and Hillary Clinton and General Petraeus are somehow involved.
- Major on the Majors—what bothers me most is the unnecessary walls to the gospel that are being erected because of this. This ought to remind us of the Biblical call to take the gospel to all nations—including Islamic nations.
- Live above them. When people misrepresent Christ, we must strive all the more faithfully to represent Him as He truly is. When Jesus said we are to shine as lights in the world, I am not sure he had in mind Christians lighting other religious books on fire in protest. Don’t mishear me—I think the Qu’ran is a false book, I think it has led many people to Hell, but again the goal of the church is to make disciples of all nations.
Interestingly enough, Pastor Jones said, “We expect Muslims that are here in America to respect, honor, obey, submit to our Constitution.” It is that very same constitution that gives Muslims the right to read the Qu’ran and Christian’s the right to share the gospel with such Muslims.
What a crazy world we live in—I think the best thing we can do with this whole fiasco is to ignore it and press on to preach the gospel to all tribes, tongues, and people