Some Muslims try to persuade Christians to accept Islam because Jesus was a Muslim. That He was if we stick to the definition of ‘Muslim’ which is someone who submits to God. The truth is we must all be Muslim, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should all accept Islam as a religion simply because Jesus was a Muslim.
To explain: Islam rejects the Christian belief that Jesus was crucified and that He is God, but these are important beliefs in Christianity. To reject these beliefs is to reject Christianity altogether. Here is what makes Christianity difficult to believe but what we must always remind ourselves of: We worship a crucified God.
Before I continue, I must clarify that I am not writing this because I am against Muslims. What I am against is Islam because it presents a mistaken understanding of Christianity. However, do not think that I am filled with hate for Islam. In this venue we discuss truth, and it is possible to disagree about truth without hating each other. To give an example, two friends may disagree on their philosophical beliefs, but they can still remain friends because they are critical thinkers who do not accept their beliefs based on emotions or connect their beliefs with their self-image such that to attack their beliefs is to attack them personally.
Christians worship a crucified God who took in all the evils of the world and instead of punishing it, He took it all in and forgave it. This has very deep implications which we must list down here:
First, God does not punish us for our sins. Immediately, many people will object. ‘What about hell?’ they say. The true Christian idea of hell is man’s rejection of God, not God’s rejection of man. God wishes us to go back to Him and to remain in Him, or if we sin again (as is inevitable) to keep going back to Him.
Another objection to this is the number of rules the faithful must follow, e.g. Sunday mass, 10 commandments, etc. If we do not follow these rules, doesn’t God get mad at us? He does, but not for His sake. God gets mad for our sake. These rules exist to bring us closer to God. That said, it is possible for these rules to be taught incorrectly, i.e. out of obligation rather than love, and so be misunderstood. This is why there are a number of bitter Christians who reject Christianity for a more liberal lifestyle, but we must not judge Christianity according to the incorrect teachings of some of its teachers.
Second, if we are truly followers of Jesus, then we must follow His example. I am not sure about how Muslims must act, but I am sure of how Christians must act. A true Christian prays for his enemies and loves them even if he meets death at their hands. God loves us even if we do not love Him back and it is through this love that He hopes we would go back to Him. In the same way, the true Christian hopes that through his love for his neighbor, the latter would come to realize the truth of God’s love.
A good and very moving example of this comes from Les Miserables where the priest tells the authorities that he has given the church’s silver to Jean Valjean even if the latter actually meant to steal it. A non-Christian might think, ‘Oh the priest is an idiot!’ On the contrary, the priest is not thinking of the silver but of Valjean’s soul. It was his hope that that act of forgiveness would move Valjean’s heart to repent and live a better life.
An obvious objection to this is Christian love doesn’t always work. That is true, but that is not the point. The Christian does not believe that the world will ever be completely just unlike the Muslim who, I think, believes that the world will be just only if Sharia law is completely implemented (?). The Christian loves his neighbor because the latter is his brother or sister in Christ. We are one body, and as every cell lives for other cells in a body, so we must live for others.
Third, Jesus must be crucified to show us the fundamental truth of this fallen world: those who follow Christ will be hated as the world hated Christ, but they are the ones who will triumph over death and receive eternal life.
If Jesus was saved by The Father and taken up into heaven, then the point of the crucifixion would be lost. Instead, we would have a limited idea of God as a powerful being who can destroy the world at any time if He wanted to. I say limited because though God is indeed powerful, He is more than that. He is a God who loves us and wishes what is best for us. Thus He went down to earth to show us how to live in order to be worthy of heaven.
Further, the crucifixion of Jesus teaches Christians that the secular world will hate us, but we must react with love rather than violence. We must follow God’s example and love the world which hates us, and continually hope that through this love others will realize God’s love for them and consequently repent. This is why the true Christian loves everybody: atheist, agnostic, non-Christian, etc.
The cross is a true symbol of Christianity because it tells us the fundamental truth of this religion: that the world hates God but God loves the world back. The cross tells us that though God can destroy all those who hate Him, He does not do so out of love. Further, that to pick up our cross is to do exactly that every day of our lives until God decides that we have done enough to merit heaven.