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Dear fellow Christians, virtually all more than 2 billion Christians are against burning Qurans, bit some individuals feel called by God to do so. Please pray that they do not succeed and speak out against their ideas whenever they are made public. Below you will find some reaons, why burning Qurans is against what the Christian faith stands for.

Though Jesus prophesied to his followers: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. . . . Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:5,9), and though the Apostle Paul exhorts us,  “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18), there are some people who claim to be Christians but who do not follow these commands. Instead they speak about burning the Quran. Thereby they decide that playing with fire is the order of the day.

Though none of us fully lives up to the expectations of Jesus, there is something that God has said that specially applies here: “’God’s name is blasphemed among the non-Christians because of you‘“ (Romans 2:24). We believe this principle applies to people burning Qurans. The people who speak about burning the Quran make neither the God of love nor Jesus and his Good News of reconciliation and forgiveness known around the world. They only bring themselves into the media and present a distorted picture of the Christian faith. Let me explain.

Quran burners try to win capital for the faith out of the political mood against Islam. Still: “’ . . . all who draw the sword will die by the sword’” (Matthew 26:52). In stark contrast Paul wrote: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness . . .” (Galatians 5:22-23). Our God-given requirement is different from Quran burning: “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone“ (Titus 3:1-2).

Quran burners confuse the mandate of the church and the mandate of the state with regard to Islam in a manner that leads to total chaos regarding the relation between religion and government. In the end Quran burners are loyal neither to the church nor to the state, but rather an individual takes things into his own hands in the place of a church that is supposedly too friendly and a state that is supposedly too lax. It is not a Christzian idea, that the individual may exercise force if the state fails to exercise force when it should, thereby rejecting state monopoly with respect to law and the use of force.

Of course we know that many Bibles are burned daily in different parts of the world, and we recognize the bias when Western media and politicians criticize single Quran burnings but never mention the thousands of Bibles burned each year. But what is our reaction as Christians to such things? Should we or do we burn houses of worship when churches are burned? No. It is one thing to defend one’s own life or the life of one’s family if threatened by violence. But it is unthinkable that we should take revenge for burning Bibles by burning Qurans. Paul teaches us, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all” (Romans 12:17).

It is, of course, wrong and unreasonable that Muslim extremists react to such provocation with violence. And we appeal to all our neighbors not to respond to the provocations of a tiny number of people who do not represent the Christian church. However, in spite of this, anyone who so excessively provokes in a manner that knowingly fuels violence, and in the process utilizes the language of war, is at least partly responsible for the violence that may result. For that reason, the World Evangelical Alliance rightly notifies Quran burners of future visits of widows of Christians if their husbands would be killed by Islamist violence in reaction to their deeds. The price for their anti-biblical ideas will probably not be paid by themselves, but rather by innocent and vulnerable people from other parts of the world. A truly courageous person would endanger himself, not others.

Christians are glad that God himself is the judge and has retained all final judgment for himself. Only God can look into the hearts of people, and in the end we cannot see his verdict, since “the Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

God has forbidden us from enforcing any sort of punitive sentence on our critics and from punishing other people for their ‘unbelief.’ Even Jonah had to learn by experience that God was more merciful than Jonah himself, for Jonah would have rather seen judgment come upon Nineveh than to see the people repent (Jonah 4:4:1-10). Jesus clearly rebuked the desire of his disciples to send down fire from heaven upon any villages that rejected him (Luke 9:51-56). Christian preachers may regret with a bleeding heart that people reject the offer of salvation in Christ, but they never have the right to declare such people to be evil, to attack them, to incite the state against them, to entreat judgment against them, or to carry out judgment themselves.

According to the biblical understanding, the monopoly on the use of force in this world is a matter held only by the state, which has neither the mandate to proclaim the gospel nor to increase the size of the Christian church. Indeed, the state has to stay out of questions of conscience and religion. It is for this reason, conversely, that the state, as God’s servant, expressly has to punish Christians who do evil (Romans 13:1-7). The state has to protect Christians only insofar as they protect everyone who does good, and, in its efforts to promote justice and peace, the state has to hinder anyone who plans violence or exercises violence, whether they are religiously motivated or not.

Would Jesus probably have burned a Koran? Would Paul have spoken out in favor of it? Indeed Paul was truly “distressed” about the many idols in Athens (Acts 17:16), but he then engaged in a friendly, serious, and respectful dialogue with the Greek philosophers (Acts 17:22-23), attempting to honestly convince them of the truth of the gospel. Paul implemented the principle articulated by Peter, that Christians must always defend their faith “with gentleness and respect” in relationship with their critics (1 Peter 3:15-16). We call on all Christians to follow these New Testament principles today.

 

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