My recent Huffington Post article “A New Perspective of “Jihad” in Christianity and Islam” sparked a good amount of controversy in the interfaith and anti-Muslim blogosphere. In a follow up post, I focus solely on what I call the “Jesus Jihad,” or the Christian struggles which are noted in the New Testament. The following excerpts have been taken directly from the Huffington Post article.
Although the term “jihad” is not literally used in Christian scripture, the idea of struggling is at the very heart of Christianity. There are a number of instances in the New Testament which provide guidance for Christians who are struggling with different problems of dilemmas in their lives.
Perhaps the most important part of the Christian “jihad” is the practice of non-violence. When the Roman soldiers arrested Jesus and brought him to Pontius Pilate, the man who contributed to Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus said: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my [disciples] would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18: 35-36). Violence, therefore, is antithetical to Jesus’ teachings. He did not require his followers to take up arms to show commitment to his teachings. Indeed, it was quite the opposite. In Matthew (26:53), Jesus told his followers that “… for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” Jesus encouraged his disciples to struggle against the desire to use force when frustrated or antagonized.
Another element of the Christian “jihad” is to show love for those around you. Jesus wants Christians to “love your neighbor” and even beyond that, “love your enemies,” a point which arises in Luke (6:27). In Matthew (5:9), it is written that peacemakers are blessed, “for they will be called sons of God.” The New Testament demands that Christians struggle in the fight for peace, even if it means embracing your sworn enemies and those who wish to harm you.
The Christian “jihad” also requires that Christians do not retaliate “evil for evil.” Romans (12:17) demands that Christians “live at peace with everyone.” People who call themselves Christians, yet call for the demise of Islam and anything related to Muslims, should heed to the demand of this verse and search for ways to build bridges for peace instead of fanning the flames of hatred and bigotry.
The Christian “jihad” can be explored further in the examples left by Jesus’ disciples. Peter, for example, is considered “the rock” of Jesus’ church because he spoke about the struggle to maintain the Christian faith at all costs. In 2 Peter (3:14), he stated “… make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with [Jesus].” In this verse, Peter is highlighting one of the ultimate aims of Christianity – avoid wrongdoing and sins. A true Christian such as Peter cared more for fixing his own transgressions rather than attacking others for their sins. He encouraged Christians to struggle with overcoming their personal dilemmas first before bickering and complaining over the errors of others. In essence, he believed progress is rooted in the individuals’ ability to change their attitude and behavior in struggling to adhere to the teachings of Jesus.
In addition to Peter, Paul of Tarsus, another disciple of Jesus, also embraced the Christian “jihad.” In Timothy 6:12, Paul encouraged Christians to “Fight the good fight of the faith,” which can be interpreted as spreading peace and love in the spirit of Jesus. In addition, in 2 Timothy (4:7), Paul stated, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” There is an inherent non-violent tone in Paul’s statements. Never did he ask Christians to take up the sword or use violence as a means of showing faith in Jesus. Paul made “every effort to do what leads to peace” (Romans 14:19).
Moreover, in 2 Peter 1:5-7, Peter stated that a Christian must “make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control’ and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance; godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.”
Jesus, like Muhammad, taught his disciples and future believers that struggling is a fundamental element of the Christian faith. He told his disciples to “strive to enter in at the narrow gate…,” which mirrors the popular Muslim notion of staying on the “straight path” and maintaining dedication to practicing Islam to the best of ones ability. Ultimately, Christians and Muslims are guided by their scripture to persevere in the face of their struggles. They are encouraged to struggle in this life, to maintain belief in God, in exchange for a higher reward when this life inevitably ends.
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