BLOG: The perception of Christians

This article is part of our series, ‘Barriers to the gospel’, where we explore a few areas of concern that Muslims have about Christianity and how we can respond to them.

In this series, we’re looking at common barriers and stumbling blocks that stand in the way of Muslim people coming to faith. Moving on from theological barriers, some of the biggest stumbling blocks for Muslims are not found in Christianity itself, but in the perception of how Christians are said to live. Challenging these perceptions is an important way to remove stumbling blocks.

A lack of reverence for God

Islam has very visible respect for Allah. This is particularly noticeable in the postures used in prayer – bowing and kneeling – and in the use of honorific titles. Allah is generally considered to be distant, mysterious and extremely holy. Likewise, physical copies of the Qur’an are treated with a huge amount of respect. In comparison, Christians can seem over-familiar, to not take God seriously enough. Partially this is a theological issue: we believe that God is relational and has chosen to take on our humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. However, much is also down to the perceived attitudes of Christians.

It is important in our interactions with Muslims that we are deliberate about how we speak about God and to Him. We should emphasise that He is holy and our position as adopted children is only through Christ. We should also be mindful of what we communicate in how we handle the Bible. For example, placing it on the floor sends an unhelpful message, even if in reality we have the upmost respect for the words it contains.

Prejudice towards Muslims or Islamic countries

Muslims often perceive western Christians as having a negative or antagonistic view of Muslims and Islamic nations. As evidence, they may point to what is seen as a history of western violence against Muslims, such as the Crusades, colonialism, and the founding of the state of Israel. This includes an assumption that Christians are supporters of the actions of Israel in relation to the Palestinian territories. They may also point to the actions of self-identifying Christian groups that hold Islamophobic views.

The most important way we can challenge this perception of prejudice is to show genuine love for our Muslim friends and neighbours. We have an important role to challenge society’s false perceptions. Regardless of our personal views, many of the issues surrounding the West’s interactions with Muslim nations are highly complex and should be addressed with sensitivity, grace, and humility.

Immorality of “Christians” and “Christian” nations. 

A significant stumbling block for Muslims is the perception that Christians are immoral people, reinforced by the actions and media of supposedly Christian nations. The assumption can be that westerners are representative of Christian morality. Additionally, Islam can often be legalistic, which can comparatively make Christians appear to compromise on sin. This is reinforced by the fact that many Christians drink alcohol and eat pork, both forbidden in Islam.

It is important for our Muslim friends to understand the difference between those who are culturally Christian and those who have an active faith. It is likewise important to note that western media is not representative of the morality of Christians. The Bible is uncompromising on sin and though we may not live up to the morality we aspire to, Christians are those who live in the world, but we are not of it.

Final comments

There are many other potential reasons why Muslims are not attracted to Christianity or prevented from taking a step of faith. Sometimes the fear of persecution is a major barrier, or the pressure of friends, family and community. There may be many other factors at play that we are completely unaware of. It is always good to ask questions, rather than assume we know what our Muslim friends believe. Above all, we must pray that Christ would reveal Himself to them and soften hard hearts.

In our final article we will look at some common reasons why Muslim people come to faith.

If you’re interested in learning more about Islam, take a look at our range of training courses.

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