Subject: Christianity and Islam Part 4 – Sacrifice: The Cross vs. The Sword
Mark 8:34 “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.”
The movie ‘American Sniper’ begins with Chris Kyle having to make a decision that changes his life: does he shoot a young boy who is running toward a convoy of marines, carrying an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade)? He pulls the trigger. And although his instincts were right (the boy was being used by terrorists to attack and kill soldiers), when his partner on the roof congratulates him for making the right choice and saving soldiers’ lives, he is angry and inconsolable.
Why is that? Because the definition of the enemy he has come to kill isn’t supposed to be a child with an IED (improvised explosive device). This is the face of Islamic terrorism most Americans will never have to confront. Which is why foolish statements like the one made by MSNBC foreign correspondent Ayman Moheldin, that Chris Kyle was a racist who went on a killing spree, should never make it on a national news network.
In a statement to the National Press Club in Washington, D. C. in 1957, Golda Meir, the fourth Prime Minister of Israel and one of the founders of the State of Israel, explains what Chris Kyle was going through and why this new type of enemy, Islamic terrorism, is so abominable: “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”
The use of children in radical Islamic warfare isn’t new. In August of 2014, The Clarion Project, a HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonprofit_organization” \o “Nonprofit organization” nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate people about the inherent dangers of Islamic extremism, released a report entitled ‘Teaching to Kill: The Islamic State’s Jihad Camps for Kids’.
In this report, they interview members of ISIS on how children are being indoctrinated at special Jihad Camps to kill the ‘infidels’, with rallies that include ISIS members giving their testimonies to the children on the glory of fighting for the Islamic state: “We believe that this generation of children is the generation of the caliphate. This generation will fight the infidels and apostates, the Americans and their allies, God willing. The right doctrine has been implanted in these children. All of them love to fight for the building of the Islamic State and for the sake of God… Beautiful virgins are calling, enroll me as a martyr.”
The Bible never records Jesus instructing His followers, whether children or adults, to kill the infidel. Authority over all life and death is in the hands of God alone. And although some Christians are called to give their lives and die for their faith, martyrdom in the Bible is never giving your life by taking others’ lives.
Jesus Christ asks His disciples to do something far more dangerous, every day: He calls us to live for Him. The fundamental difference between the Christian worldview and that of Islam is that Christian sacrifice is not in violent armed conflict but, as our verse this week says, in personal surrender of one’s life to Christ.
In ‘More than a Prophet’, Professors Emir and Ergun Caner explain what Jesus meant by ‘take up his cross’: “Did Jesus mean that a true disciple must be ready to kill and be killed in His name? Did He call us to give up our lives in conflict? The answer is far more profound. Jesus called us to follow Him in complete and total eradication of ourselves. We are called to crucify the flesh. Christ did not call us to kill or enemies; He called us to love them. This love negates any desire for vengeance or ‘holy war’. The cross was in fact an instrument of death only to the one who was carrying it…Christ calls us to be totally abandoned to His will. Thus, we are truly ‘crucified with Christ’, but that ‘crucifixion’ is different than was His. Our death is to self… We are never called to kill others in the name of our Lord. This crucifixion is our personal desire to be completely given to Christ.”
This is how the apostle Paul explains the Christian definition of true sacrifice, of ‘taking up his cross’, in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave His life for me.”
Just as with Paul, Jesus Christ loves you and I so much that He willingly died on the cross so that you and I can have the opportunity to receive eternal life as a free gift. But that free gift has a cost: our very lives. Each of us must be willing to die to ourselves and devote our lives to Him. What constrains Christians to devote themselves to Jesus Christ is His love for them, demonstrated by His sacrifice for their sake.