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Wednesday, September 9, 2009


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

"God is great!" shouts Imam Samudra, charged with planning and seeing through the attacks that murdered 202 persons in Bali, Indonesia, last year. He threw his fist to the sky and shouted to his attorneys to join him in his exclamation that "God is great!"

God is indeed great. "God is great. God is good. Now we thank Him for our food."

Many of us learned that table grace as children. Therefore, we have been indoctrinated that God, the Christian deity, is surely great. There could be much more doctrinal dissertation provided from biblical data; but let that simple prayer suffice.

However, according to the Christian Holy Book, God is not only great. God is love. That postulate is presented in both Old and New Testaments. Further, it was lived in out in the 33 years of Jesus’ existence on earth. Christians consider Jesus to be deity incarnate, that is, the revelation of the loving, great God.

This same Jesus informed His followers that they would be known by their love for one another. Though they have not always lived up to that standard, that was the expectation set forth by the Master.

In addition, Jesus provided His followers with a number of stories about the love life. For example, a well-known one is referred to as The Story of the Good Samaritan. In this parable, one man cares for another who has been beaten by thieves. Jesus intended by that illustration to send forth His own followers with
like acts of kindness.

Jesus lived out His own teaching in many instances as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. For instance, Jesus fed the hungry multitude. Jesus healed the sick. Jesus blessed the children. Jesus defended the poor. Jesus counseled the wayward. Jesus gave up His life to a spiritual ministry rather than a materialistic gain in hopes of setting like example for His disciples. Then Jesus offered His very life upon a cross in order to provide the gift of salvation to those
who have faith in Him as Lord.

Sometimes Jesus’ love was tough love. For instance, there were times when he scathingly scolded religious hypocrites. He called them "whitewashed tomb stones." In other words, Jesus would not tolerate a spiritual charade. He required genuineness. On another occasion, Jesus rebuked religious fakes by telling them that they were children of the devil. In that, Jesus could be especially forthright in His definition of truth. Underneath it all was His motive of love — sometimes expressed in obvious tenderness while at other times expressed in uncovering a counterfeit spirituality.

The Christian deity is both great and loving. But when one analyzes the Muslim deity, Allah, that one is basically a deity of greatness as defined by lording it over others, controlling and at times even killing the opposition. In the Koran there are explicit instructions for Muslims to slay infidels, that is, non-Muslims.

When Muslim enthusiasts take these Koran statements literally, they follow
through with murdering and maiming non-Muslims; in that they believe that they have a reward waiting for them in the Muslim afterlife. Therefore, when Samudra was caught and thereby informed that his final court sentence could be death, he stated publicly that he would "embrace" death gladly, knowing that his reward from Allah was being held for him in heaven.

Contrary to Muslim teaching, Jesus taught His own to be as loving lambs, caring for the sick, those imprisoned, giving clothing to the naked and beverage to the thirsty. They were to be pro-active for the gospel, that is, seeing through daily their good works in thanks to Jesus for saving their souls. This popular passage is found in Matthew 25:31-46 where Jesus’ words are recorded regarding the sheep and goats at Judgment Day.

The sheep are those then who lovingly bind the wounds of the hurting, carry food to the starving, lift cups of cold water to the lips of those famishing, put arms around the lonely and seek to understand the wayward. What a contrast this is to the Muslim mandate to kill off the non-Muslims in order to find reward in heaven.

In this one cry from Samudra, "God is great!" is the underlying contrast between the Christian faith and the Muslim religion. Muslims regard deity fundamentally as great — particularly mighty enough to slay non-Muslims. Christians regard deity as both great but foremostly loving in His might.