By Jimmy Trent
I am saddened that Pastor Terry Jones of Dove World Outreach Center is leading an outrageous act of burning Korans on September 11th. I am saddened that this may result in harm to Americans worldwide as General David Petraeus stated Monday. Ultimately, I am saddened that Jesus is being misrepresented to millions while news outlets across the world continue to pounce on this story as it unfolds.
Jones said recently on Hardball with Chris Matthews that in response to radical Islam, “our message must be radical and we feel that this message will be received as it is intended, as a warning.” This puzzles me because the very action that Jones is condemning is the same thing he is doing by burning the Koran. It seems clear to everyone but Jones and his followers that this is an act of hatred and violence. Richard Hays, Dean of Duke Divinity School, makes an alarming observation comparing Jones’ book burning to the Nazi regime when they held a book burning ceremony of their own in 1933. There they burned more than 20,000 Jewish books. We are all aware of what came after.
Jones addresses this in his post, Ten Reasons to Burn a Koran. Under reason ten he claims that they are not like the Nazis. He says that his followers are, instead, like the 1st Century christians who brought their scrolls of witchcraft to burn following their conversion (Acts 19:11-20). The conflicting issue with this association is that those new converts brought their own books to burn as a symbol of their repentance. They were not burning others’ books, as Jones is doing, in order to radically communicate a political message and send a warning.
I believe that as Christians, and as Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU) Director at the University of Florida, we do have a radical message and we are called to communicate that in a radical way. We differ from Jones, though, in both our message and our method.
Our message is radical. We are all sinners and enemies of God deserving hell, we all need to be saved and only Jesus can do that (John 14:6). Is that radical? Absolutely.
Our method is radical. We love as Jesus loved in that, while we were still sinners and enemies of God, Jesus died for us. We now give our lives to love our friends and enemies alike, not hate them (Matthew 5:43, 44). Is that radical? Absolutely.
John, a disciple of Jesus, wrote that Jesus is the fullness of grace and truth (John 1:14). When we only live by truth, we burn Korans as hate-filled extremists. When we only live by grace, we huddle together as ashamed inclusivists. When we live in the tension of both, we unapologetically engage our world with their need for the forgiveness of sin while finding common ground in our need for that same forgiveness.
Mr. Jones, you say you want to be radical? Don’t burn Korans. Follow Jesus by loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you.
Jimmy Trent is director of Campus Crusade for Christ at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He blogs at http://jimmytrent.com/ .This post was reprinted with permission.