On March 20, 2011 Pastor Terry Jones held a mock trial in which the Koran was judged and after which a copy of the Koran was burned. Two weeks later an angry group of Moslems stormed the United Nations compound in Mazar–e-sharif and brutally murdered 12 innocent people. Both Pasrtor Jones and the Moslems of Mazar-e-sharif are religious. The Moslems went to Friday prayer and then murdered 12 innocent people in the name of Allah. Pastor Jones believed he pleased God in the burning of the Koran. Both are mistaken. The acts of both Pastor Jones and the Moslems who murdered the innocent reveal that their concept of religion is powerless to extinguish evil and often is the cause of evil. Both Pastor Jones and the Moslems did evil in the name of their religion.
As a non-religious Christian (to be explained later), I am compelled to pray for all religious people, including religious Christians like Jerry Jones, and Moslems, like those in Mazar-e-sharif. They need something more than religion, because it is obvious that religion has not helped them. Neither the Christianity of Pastor Jones nor the Islam of those at Mazar-e-sharif is attractive to anyone who wants to live in a world where people can disagree yet respect each other and where the value of human life is held high.
Now I understand that Islam was created to be a religion. By religion I mean a system in which people are placed under the burden of trying to achieve a righteousness which might somehow become acceptable to God. Tragically, religious systems understand neither the depth of humankind’s depravity and inability nor the height and breadth of God’s holiness, because of which there is an unfathomable and impassable gulf between man and God. Religion can only offer an external command to right actions, but is powerless to transform the heart to energize those actions. Islam has merit like any other religion, but it is still a religion which places on people a burden which they are not able to bear.
Pastor Jones expresses what might be called ‘religious Christianity.’ Religious Christianity is not the real thing. It is a counterfeit. Why? Because Christianity was never meant to be a system in which people are placed under a burden to achieve their own righteousness. Christianity is about a righteousness which God offers a gift to the undeserving. This gift is made possible because Jesus the Son of God came to earth to live the life that we have failed to live, to die the death that we deserve to die, and to rise again from the dead to offer us a gift of righteousness which we do not deserve. This gift is one that transforms the heart. One evidence of that gift in one’s life is a growing expression of love toward God and love to others, including one’s enemies.
I pray for Pastor Jones and those Moslems in Mazar-e-sharif because they need deliverance from their religion. Their religion actually accomplishes the opposite of what it seeks to achieve. Rather than bringing them to God, it separates them from God by building a wall of pride and self-righteousness. Their religion allows them to know about a god on their terms but does bring them to know the living God personally. And, because they don’t know him personally on His terms, what they know about him is confused, so confused that they think that provoking people by burning their holy book or killing people in revenge could somehow be pleasing to God.
Both Pastor Jones and the Moslems of Mazar-e-sharif need to repent and turn to the God who rejects all religious attempts to merit His favor. Rather He provides for them a gift of grace though Jesus Christ that not only grants them forgiveness but transforms them into people who respect, love, and protect even those who differ.