Subject: What compels Iraqi Christians to cling to Jesus Christ
Romans 5:8 “God demonstrated His love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
We are witnessing the consequences that Christians in northern Iraq are facing for their decision to renounce Allah and commit their lives to Jesus Christ. The latest reports even last night are the number of Christians left in Iraq has gone from over 1.2 million in 2011 to somewhere between 300,000 – 400,000 today, with the imminent threat of the complete extermination of Christians in Iraq if someone doesn’t step in and stop ISIS from the indiscriminant slaughter of men, women and children.
While we in America watch in horror at this savagery, we need to be paying attention to the real-life transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, when there is a choice to stay alive by denying Christ and embracing Allah, these Iraqi Christians choose to identify with Jesus Christ and are paying with their lives. Why?
In April 2011, the Christian missionary team called ‘Discover Indigenous Missions’ was allowed by the Kurdish government to distribute bibles in northern Iraq. They explained that the government was actually encouraging Iraqi Christians to live in the north by giving them free lands to settle on, and to allow them to build churches. This missionary group handed out nearly 50,000 Kurdish New Testaments to the northern Iraqis. Here is what one of those recipients, Johannes, told them after he read through the New Testament.
“One recipient, Johannes, comes from a Kurdish Muslim background. He said, after reading through the New Testament, “Christ’s words of love captured my heart. They kept coming to my mind. I decided to reject the Bible and pray to Allah, but I could not forget what Jesus had said. His words fought against the words of the Koran; they encourage love, not murder. Then, I ran to the mosque for study and prayer there. Finally, I could not handle the conflict; I surrendered to the Lord Jesus in the mosque during the prayer time and was saved! The hate of Islam could not stand against Christ’s love. His words overcame those of Mohammed.”
Ergun and Emir Caner are brothers and PhD professors at prestigious universities in the United States. As brothers, they both converted to Christianity from Islam as high school teenagers. In their award-winning book ‘Unveiling Islam’, they explain why Muslims like Johannes would find the Person of Jesus Christ so attractive:
“The greatest difference between the two faiths (Islam and Christianity) is the personal quality of God. Allah sent prophets and messengers to proclaim the truth. In Christianity, God the Father sent His Son to be the truth, to die for sin, and to reconcile men and women to Him. In Islam, it is hoped that salvation is earned through one’s good works (Surah 3:31). One must love Allah in order for Allah to love the person in return. In Christianity, God loved people first in order to secure their salvation.”
As the Caner brothers explain throughout their book, Allah is a ‘god of the scales’, where there is no concept of one being cleansed from their guilt. The Muslim must demonstrate through their works that they are worthy to be forgiven.
The message of God’s unconditional grace through the historical event of Jesus Christ’s atoning work on the Cross is, to the Caner brothers, the most powerful message in world history, especially to a Muslim who cannot fathom how God could love them with no conditions applied. As Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrated His love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”