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Why the Pope is Preparing Baptists for the Future

The controversy surrounding the Pope is out of control. If you have absolutely any access to world events, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you don't know what's going on, buy a newspaper. Here's a short recap. In a speech delivered last Tuesday by the Pope he quoted a 14th century Byzantine Christian emperor, Manuel II Paleologus. The quote came in the midst of several references to ways in which religion has used violence to advance its purposes. The Pope condemned all such attempts. The most controversial quote reads as follows:   Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached

The reaction to this sentence has been widespread and it has been fierce. All the talking heads have been running this story. They've been interviewing Catholics, Muslims, and all the rest, to get their perspective on the Pope's words. Also, many of these spokesmen have demanded a direct apology from the Pope. Some have said that the Pope's remarks are tantamount to the beginning of the Crusade against Islam. Some Muslims have taken their anger to the streets. All across the world there have been protests. These protests usually are accompanied with signs that call the Pope the devil, say he's going to hell, or speak of his need to have his throat slit. I saw that one protest featured a burning of the Pope in effigy. In the same spirit, several Christian churches have been burned and one nun has been killed. There's more to report, but you get the picture. 

And in all of the discussion surrounding these events, there are two main questions focused on by the networks and the clerics. First, was the Pope right to say what he said? Second, was the Pope's apology sufficient? To the first, there is almost universal agreement that the Pope should not have said what he said. Why? Well, for the most part, his comments hurt the potential for dialogue. To the second, most of the world is unsatisfied with the Pope's non-apology apology. You know what this is, it is the same kind of thing athletes and stars do all the time. They don't say that they are sorry for their actions or words. Rather, they say that they are sorry that their words or actions offended a group of people. And this is exactly what the Pope did. So now you're caught up.

For my purposes here, I just want to make a couple of quick points. First, the fact that Muslims have responded in violence to the Pope's comments, does not help the case they are trying to make that presents Islam as a religion of peace. It shows it for what it is, a religion that produces violence. Now sure, not all Muslims are violent. One of my best friends and basketball teammates in high school, was Muslim. Nevertheless, widespread violence has always accompanied this religion. Second, the disagreement over the Pope's comments as they relate to the "dialogue" between the faiths, will not be resolved. The reason this disagreement will not be resolved is because it is tied to a worldview issue. You see, there are those whose worldview says that the human problem is ignorance. These people push for education and dialogue because they believe that all of the world's problems can be solved by understanding. So, to hinder "dialogue" is to be evil. Therefore, as Rosie O'Donnell recently said, "Extreme Christians are just as bad as extreme Muslims". Christians cannot hold to this position. On the other hand, Christians believe that the world contains such things as sin and evil. And the only answer for these things is the cross of Christ. So, on the issue of religion, there is a way that is good and true and there is a way that is false and evil. And the Christian worldview recognizes that Muslims don't kill people because they are ignorant. They do this because they are sinful and in need of a Savior. This means that for the Christian worldview, dialogue is not the ultimate hope of peace. The ultimate hope for peace is Christ. 

And this ultimate hope for peace is found in a Christ who was humiliated, something fundamentally different than the peace offered by the world and Islam. This is why Christ can be ridiculed everday by the world, and Christians will not kill anyone. We are at the heart, a religion that advances through the humiliating death of Christ and the humiliating deaths of those who "are making up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ" (Col. 1:24). Islam, on the other hand, is a religion of honor. So when anything associated with Islam is humiliated, Muslims go crazy. You don't have to look far to see this. This past year saw violent Muslim riots break out in response to such things as a Koran being flushed down a toilet and a cartoon making fun of Muhammed being drawn. Islam is not strong enough to withstand embarrassment. Christianity thrives off the worst of humiliation. That's a difference that all the conversations in the world will not resolve and we need to remember this. 

Also, I think these events can teach us lessons that we need to learn so that we know how to act in the coming days. While this terror is somewhat contained (for those of us ministering in the U.S.), I fear that there is coming a day when it will be just outside of our houses. With the developments around the world from such countries as Iran, North Korea, and others, the prospect of America staying as it is, is growing dimmer and dimmer. Many Christians around the globe already know the crisis of decision this will bring. Will we confess Christ as THE only way, THE only truth, and THE life, when our families lives are on the line? Many men and women have made this decision and lost their lives. We need to remember these people in our prayers. Also, we need to prepare our families for this day. I'm afraid it's coming. 

And as we do this, I think it is important to realize what it's going to look like from the media's perspective. You'll notice that the talking heads are not focusing their stories on the fact that Muslims are calling for the death of the Pope. Of course not, anyone who hinders "dialogue" deserves death, right? Sorry. Instead, they are focusing on the Pope's statements and apology. It's almost as if the persecution that is being delivered by the hands of these Muslims isn't even happening. Well, I'm afraid, that in the coming days, if we do see greater Muslim persecution on our own soil, we'll see the same thing. Christians will continue to hinder dialogue by proclaiming the exclusivity of Christ and Muslims will kill them for it. And the story we can expect to see will be the story we see now, Christians are intolerant. We're not going to get a fair shake today and we're not going to get a fair shake in the future. But let's remember that we're not after a fair shake. We're after a New Creation filled with redeemed rebels brought out of every religion and race, singing the praises of the one who was humiliated, even to the point of death on a cross. There won't be any confusion or question asking found on the networks or in the streets of the Middle East then. There will only be answers. Well, there will only be one Answer. Jesus Christ is Lord.