As our country grows increasingly divided regarding Muslims, and as we near another 9/11 anniversary, I have found myself drawn to understand, to gain just a little insight into his history…to find out how a man could come to hate other people so much.
He was brn in a small middle-eastern country bordering Syria. Born to wealthy parents…educated in the finest university in the country, some suggest that he was next in line to take over the family housing construction business. Yet at some point in his life there was a significant embracing of his heritage — especially his religious heritage. There is good indication that this was passed down from his parents, but we are not entirely certain.
What we do know is that in time he became a zealous follower of his religious heritage, and he began to view Christians as dire enemies to that heritage. He gained the support of religious and — at least to some extent — national leaders; he began to gather people whom he could influence; and he began to terrorize those who did not have the proper fear of his god.
Christians especially were terrorized, held in captivity, tortured, killed. But not just in his land, he extended his reach even to foreign cities. It was less through his religious convictions and more through his terroristic strikes, that he became a household name. And now we know that he was directly involved in the killing of many innocent people.
But then one day as he traveled to Damascus, intent on the development of a new plan to instill fear in the hearts of those who didn’t follow his true way, he had an encounter with God…the one true God. In a letter to friends he described it this way,
At noon, along the road…I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who traveled with me. Everyone fell to the ground and I heard a voice speaking to me in Hebrew, “…why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you?” he asked. And the Lord replied, “I am Jesus, who you are persecuting. Now stand up! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant. Tell the world about this experience and about other times that I will appear to you. I am going to send you…to open their eyes so they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to the power of God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.
You may have figured it out. His name was not Osama Bin Laden — the picture was for effect — his name was Saul…later his life was so radically re-created that he took on a new name –Paul. Former terrorist. Former killer of Christians. Then God reached down in amazing grace and changed his heart, brought him on the team.
Lately we have the NYC mosque controversy; we have a church burning Korans; and we have Christians trying to figure out what they should do. But if the goal is to do what Jesus did…don’t we already know the answer? Is God unable to do today, what He did back then? Is anyone still praying for Osama Bin Laden? Is anyone praying for the Imam who is leading the NYC Mosque plans?
Pastor Terry Jones is leading the charge to burn Korans. He said, “Radical Islam could take over the United States and the best way to fight back is by sending a radical message.” Actually…I agree. I just don’t think burning Korans is radical enough. I think it will take something more like the radical message of grace, the radical message of the cross, the radical message that in Christ, God is no longer counting our sins against us.