Some days I feel compelled to throw rocks at the Church of England. Today is such a day.
According to The Daily Telegraph's front page report a row has broken out within the Church regarding evangelism to Muslims. The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali has voiced concerns that not enough is being done to bring people of other faiths to Christianity. In response, other church leaders have criticised him for failing to show sensitivity to those following non-Christian religions.
This whole debacle has left me pretty gob-smacked. Follow my logic: Christians believe that the bible is God's true and complete word (don't get me started on 'Christians' who don't believe that!). Within that Word is what is known as The Great Commission, given by Jesus to his disciples following his death and resurrection and just before he ascended into heaven.
'Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshipped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."' Matthew 28: 16-20
'Go and make disciples of all nations'. Not 'go and make disciples of the nations that haven't got their own religion. Please don't step on any toes.' All nations. I think that's pretty clear!
And why are Christians supposed to do this? Because 'whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned'. Mark 16: 16. Christians are called to spread the gospel out of love. Because of our longing for everyone to be saved from God's righteous judgement that is surely coming. I find it crazy that someone would be offended by my telling them about Jesus Christ because I am concerned for their eternal destiny. If someone of another faith evangelised to me in such a way - "I'm telling you this because I care about you and as such have a duty to tell you what I believe" - then I wouldn't be aghast at their arrogance. I would listen and thank them for their concern. I know that it wouldn't change my beliefs but neither would I have a paddy about their intolerance for my religion.
The largest misconception (clearly present in the Telegraph's report) appears to be that the idea that Christians want to evangelise to Musims because we see Islam as a threat to culture and religion. I can't speak for all Christians but I for one want to evangelise to all people (Muslims, Hindus, Jehovah's Witnesses, atheists, agnostics and everyone in between) in order that they might be saved by Jesus Christ and have assurance of a wonderful and eternal life with the Lord after our time on this earth is over.
There is no problem with debate over religion. It is natural and necessary. For some reason this country in particular has become afraid of such discussion. Why can't Christians be bold and tell the world of the amazing sacrifice made for us and of the limitless grace and mercy that God has for his children?