Daily Devotions

Jesus' Role in Islam

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“Image can be found in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.”

So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (Rev. 3:16)

Over the Thanksgiving holidays, somehow the topic of Jesus and Islam came up in conversation. I was rebuffed when I mentioned that Jesus was as important, or even more important, than Mohammad within Islam. The competitive side of me went to work to prove my argument. I could have made my statement more precise by saying that while Mohammad remains preeminent in Islam, Jesus’ role is as important, or even more important in the eternal future of Islam.

I consider the Christian Century one of the most intellectually, and religiously, significant periodicals in the world today. Muslims, according to Amy Frykholm, in her Christian Century article “Who is Jesus for Muslims,” understands Jesus to be born of the Virgin Mary, but “neither God nor the Son of God.” “Jesus’ message is called the ‘Injil,’ or the gospel.” Muslims also affirm the Christian tradition of Jesus being a miracle worker. They even include Jesus’ miracles not included in the Christian gospels.

Within Islam, Jesus is “one of the five elite messengers of God.” As one of the five elite messengers, Muslims believe that Jesus is “unique among the prophets of God,” and in the last days will return to the earth. First, Jesus will “lead a great battle against ‘ad-Dajjal’ or the Antichrist.” The complexity of this statement would take volumes of interpretation to consider fully, but in simple terms, Jesus is fundamental to God’s return. Further, Jesus is the only one who has the Islamic title, “al-Masih.” Al-Masih means “Anointed One.” The root means “touching,” for it is Jesus whose touching brought healing. In Islam end-times belief, Jesus will be touching the faithful are healed for eternity.

I share this not to say Muslims are Christians in disguise, or that Jesus is somehow better than Mohammad. They have different tasks and different job descriptions. Rather than deny Jesus, Islam affirms and honors Jesus in a transformative way. Islam is extremely careful to uphold monotheism and make a careful dance to avoid having Jesus appear divine. Jesus came before Mohammad and will return to heal the people. I believe that God affirms all three religious people, as long as they live their faith with passion and compassion. I believe God is much more upset with those who are lukewarm in all three religions.

There remain significant differences between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, but I hope you finish this devotion realizing that there is more that unites us than what divides us. No matter what fundamentalists of all three religions claim, we remain close in many ways. Today, pray for all three religions, that we can begin modeling mutual respect and love. There should be room for all three monotheistic cousins to affirm what unites us, discuss and even disagree about what separates us, while affirming that the one true God loves and touches all three religious’ peoples. Plus, I win the family Thanksgiving argument! (I know the last sentence was immature! Allah, forgive me!

Alcoholism, Drug Addiction and Zombies

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I am going to bring it recovery and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security. (Jeremiah 33:6)

I’ve decided to write a devotion on alcohol and drug abuse, because it is so prevalent that it affects just about every family in this country. Friends and family of mine have died from this dreaded disease. A disease – but a self-inflicted disease. I had a friend say, “people shouldn’t judge me because I have a disease,” speaking of his alcoholism. My response: “Yes, but a cancer patient has a disease, and she/he gets treatment. You are not willing to get treatment!” One of the worst aspects of the disease of alcohol and/or drug addiction is that the afflicted often do not think they have a problem, or diminish its damage of themselves and others.

A brave writer, Sam Grittner, writes of his own addiction in his article, “Life of the Living Dead.” Grittner equates alcohol and drug abuse with being a zombie. He claims, “Once someone has ‘turned’ they become a paradox: They inhabit a person’s body but everything that made that person special has been extinguished.” Like a zombie, all of life has been taken away except the hunger. Since the only thing that matters is filling the hunger, they will calmly lie, steal, threaten, and excuse the worst actions, because nothing is as important as feeding the hunger.

You could argue that alcohol and drug addiction is worse than becoming a zombie. A zombie, at least, once they turn, you know who they’ve become and what to expect moving forward. Alcoholics and drug addicts hurt those who love them by getting their hopes up and having them dashed with relapses. Grittner shares his own pain: “When I relapse, the voice inside me, the one that hates me and is afraid of who I really am and the potential I have, the voice that tells me that I’m a failure and unloveable and that I should kill myself because deep down I’m just a junkie and eventually I’ll relapse-I will always relapse. Because that’s who I am. A *#@* [expletive] monster.

You can feel Grittner’s honest pain, and it can bring memories back of your own pain with a loved one who has the disease of alcohol and/or drug abuse. While Grittner points out, there are no known cures for being a zombie, or for drug and alcoholism, one can stave off the hunger and take control of one’s life again. Groups like AA and other treatment programs provide care with accountability. Accountability is key. Others can help the person, not only remain sober, but to break the addiction to lying – lying to oneself as well as to others, and to God.

Today, pray for those with the disease and all those affected by the disease. Pray for God to bring healing, by tearing away the excuses and lies that keep individuals from treatment. Through the Holy Spirit, help them embrace the truth that they are worthy, loved, and blessed by you, dear God. Pray for the wisdom of loved ones to know how to respond in each situation – when to reach out and when to let the person hit bottom. The key difference between a zombie and an alcoholic and/or drug addict? The zombie cannot turn back into a human being. The alcoholic and/or drug addict can become human again. Be prayerful, demanding, and deliver hard truth – and watch humanity return.

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