Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Does God really love you?

By Dallas M. Roark, Ph.D

We grow up in a culture in which the word “God” is used in profanity, in reverence, in doubt, and many other contexts. The word “God” is mentioned sometimes when people talk about creation, or the end of the world. When people suffer they raise questions about the goodness of God. There are religions in which God is said to hate people. When things go wrong we are inclined to raise questions about the meaning of life and whether life has purpose or not. There are religions in which the gods do not answer the prayers of the people. Sometimes every bad event is regarded as the will of god.

This leads to the question: how can we know about God really? People reason that the world expresses something of the magnitude of God’s power and his creativity. However, the ultimate question that needs to be raised is this: Does God love me?

There is really only one way to know this. God has to reveal Himself and declare his love not only in word but in deed. The next question is: has God done this? There are claims people make about God’s revealing himself but some of the claims do not relate to God loving me. If I am an unbeliever in Islam’s God, Islam preaches that I should be converted, or reduced to a second class citizen (dhimmi), or be killed.

The Islamic god does not love the unbelievers. Many times I have read that Muslim believers do not know if Allah loves them. The 99 names of Allah do not include Allah’s love without qualifications. The Qur’an does not affirm God is love as the nature of Allah. Allah loves those who do good, the pure and clean, the righteous, those who are just, those who trust him, the patient, and those who fight in his cause. This is conditional love based on what one does to please Allah. Allah does not love the transgressors, the corrupt, the unbelievers, the wrongdoers, the wasters, the boasters, the proud, the treacherous, etc. (Cf. this article)

We will see that Yahweh’s love is unconditional, that it is not based on what I can do to gain it, but it is given to us even while we are yet sinners and deserving of judgment.

Recently I read about two Afghan women who were grandmothers and they were fasting to make up the possible loss of fast days when they were younger in their child bearing years. They were fasting to make sure they had fasted enough to merit paradise. They were asked the question of how they would know whether they had succeeded in tipping the scales in their favor. Their reply was that we won’t know until we get there. But then it is too late to do anything about it. The Qur’an is filled with warnings about hell and many Muslims are afraid they will go there at death.

How sad to live in fear trying to do good things to secure a place in paradise.

In contrast, the Christian story about Yahweh’s love is awesome, it is unconditional. Yahweh declares his love for us even before we respond to Him. Many Muslim countries prohibit Christians sharing any news about Christian faith. But Yahweh is not bound by Muslim sharia. There are innumerable stories of Muslims who had a vision of Jesus telling them who He is, and what they can do to find peace, forgiveness of their sins, and the promise of everlasting life. Yahweh has a great love for Muslims and while the religion rejects Jesus as the Son of God, Yahweh does not reject and overlook the Muslims. There are huge numbers of people coming to Jesus from the Muslim culture and they find the love of Yahweh in their lives. Allah is silent, but Yahweh is responding in love and seeking people to know Him. Not only is Yahweh seeking Muslims to show his love, but in the name of Jesus miracles are being done. People are being healed in marvelous ways and people have been brought back from the dead in the name of Jesus.

Let’s see some of the passages telling this great love for you and me and all mankind.

“Even before the world was made, God had already chosen us to be his through our union with Christ, so that we would be holy and without fault before him.” (Ephesians 1:4)

Before the world was made, Yahweh had plans to love mankind. Before time began God wanted us to be in fellowship, in union, with Christ. There is no necessity that we exist. Only God can create life and only God can give everlasting life. Before creating the world God had you and me in mind. We are not an accident. The marvel is that Yahweh wants to have a relationship with us, He wants us to know Him.

Union with Christ is something that happens by commitment. In Christian marriage two people affirm their willingness to live together in love and support. This affirmation makes marriage possible and committed love leads to a wonderful life of mutual fellowship. Union with Christ relates to this. Giving our lives to Christ brings us in union with Him, and we live in a loving, joyful relationship with him and this leads to a life unlike anything else. We are given joy because our sins are forgiven. We are given hope because we are His now and forever in life after death. We are given his promise that where he is now we shall also be in the future.

Who is Christ?

“For it was by God's own decision that the Son has in himself the full nature of God.” (Colossians 1:19)

“The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us. We saw his glory, the glory which he received as the Father's only Son.” (John 1:14)

“No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is the same as God and is at the Father's side, he has made him known.” (John 1:18)

However incomprehensible it is for us to think about God, the bottom line is that God loves us and became incarnate in a human body form that we call Jesus. God came down to our level. We sometimes express our love for a baby by getting down on the floor where we can have eye contact at a common level. This simple idea is related to what God has done. He loves his creation and he has descended to our level so that we could know what God is like, how he loves us, and how he wants a relationship with us.

“Because of his love God had already decided that through Jesus Christ he would make us his children---this was his pleasure and purpose. Let us praise God for his glorious grace, for the free gift he gave us in his dear Son!” (Ephesians 1:5-6)

Love is expressed in words and deeds. Even before humans had existence God made the decision to adopt us as his children. Among humans I am sure that mothers have different emotions than fathers since they are carrying the child and their sense of love begins in the awareness of pregnancy. When my wife was pregnant I had no feeling of growth of the baby as she had. The moment of awareness for me came when I looked into the window of the nursery where my son lay and I was gripped by love for him instantly. I saw and loved. God had a creative idea about the humans he would make and he decided beforehand that we would be his children.

The appropriate response on our part is to praise God for his glorious grace, for the free gift he gave us in his dear Son. What is that free gift? It is Jesus.

By giving us Jesus we are forgiven our sins. “For by the blood of Christ we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven. How great is the grace of God, which he gave to us in such large measure! In all his wisdom and insight God did what he had purposed, and made known to us the secret plan he had already decided to complete by means of Christ.” (Ephesians 1:7-9)

What is the meaning of “the blood of Christ by which we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven?” When Jesus was here he kept a Jewish Passover meal with his disciples. At one point he took a cup of wine and said these words, "this is my blood, which seals God's covenant, my blood poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink this wine until the day I drink the new wine with you in my Father's Kingdom." (Matthew 26:28-29)

God has made a new covenant in which our sins are forgiven. This is like a guarantee that our lives in union with Christ are freed from the penalty of sin by virtue of forgiveness. When our sins are forgiven, there is nothing that we can do, nor have to do, to enjoy this wonderful privilege. Moreover, the words of Jesus give us the awesome hope of celebrating in His Father’s Kingdom forever and ever. No wonder the Scripture declares how great is the grace of God.

This plan was not known until God revealed it in his Son, Jesus Christ.“God did what he had purposed, and made known to us the secret plan he had already decided to complete by means of Christ. This plan, which God will complete when the time is right, is to bring all creation together, everything in heaven and on earth, with Christ as head. All things are done according to God's plan and decision; and God chose us to be his own people in union with Christ because of his own purpose, based on what he had decided from the very beginning.” (Ephesians 1:9-11)

God came down to reveal all of this to us. The prophets of the Old Testament foretold it and the Gospels writers recorded what He did and said.

The Scripture then turns to the present reality of the lives of people at Ephesus: “And you also became God's people when you heard the true message, the Good News that brought you salvation. You believed in Christ, and God put his stamp of ownership on you by giving you the Holy Spirit he had promised. The Spirit is the guarantee that we shall receive what God has promised his people, and this assures us that God will give complete freedom to those who are his. Let us praise his glory!” (Ephesians 1:13-14)

Several ideas are in this passage:

1) They became God’s people when they heard the true message, the good News that brought them salvation.

2) They believed in Christ as the Son of God, which is the good news.

3) God gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit which was promised in the Old Testament.

4) The Spirit is the guarantee, the earnest money as it were, the down payment, of what God promises us, namely, everlasting life in His presence.

5) We have freedom in Christ.

Some of these ideas are echoed elsewhere. Galatians says, “To show that you are his children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who cries out, "Father, my Father." So then, you are no longer a slave but a child. And since you are his child, God will give you all that he has for his children.” (Galatians 4:6-7) “Freedom is what we have---Christ has set us free!Stand, then, as free people, and do not allow yourselves to become slaves again.” (Galatians 5:1)

In light of all this we are warned against giving up our freedom, “Since you have accepted Christ Jesus as Lord, live in union with him. Keep your roots deep in him, build your lives on him, and become stronger in your faith, as you were taught. And be filled with thanksgiving. See to it, then, that no one enslaves you by means of the worthless deceit of human wisdom, which comes from the teachings handed down by human beings and from the ruling spirits of the universe, and not from Christ. For the full content of divine nature lives in Christ, in his humanity, and you have been given full life in union with him. He is supreme over every spiritual ruler and authority. (Colossians 2:6-10)

We are not perfect people. We have sinned and rebelled against God’s nature. Does this negate all the wonderful ideas above? No, not really. We have a description of what has taken place for us in the book of Romans.

“Now that we have been put right with God through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. He has brought us by faith into this experience of God's grace, in which we now live. And so we boast of the hope we have of sharing God's glory! We also boast of our troubles, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance brings God's approval, and his approval creates hope. This hope does not disappoint us, for God has poured out his love into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit, who is God's gift to us. For when we were still helpless, Christ died for the wicked at the time that God chose. It is a difficult thing for someone to die for a righteous person. It may even be that someone might dare to die for a good person. But God has shown us how much he loves us---it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us! By his blood we are now put right with God; how much more, then, will we be saved by him from God's anger! We were God's enemies, but he made us his friends through the death of his Son. Now that we are God's friends, how much more will we be saved by Christ's life! But that is not all; we rejoice because of what God has done through our Lord Jesus Christ, who has now made us God's friends. (Romans 5:1-11)

Can it be that Yahweh did all this for “wicked”, “sinners” who were God’s “enemies?” The answer is an emphatic yes!!! We are all sinners, estranged from Yahweh, and we need to be made friends of God. There is no other way of becoming a friend of Yahweh outside of Jesus. The disciples were persecuted for preaching about the resurrection of Jesus, and their reply was this: “Salvation is to be found through him alone; in all the world there is no one else whom God has given who can save us." (Acts 4:12)

If God loves me so much where does hell come in? Hell was only prepared for the devil and his angels, not you. God does not send people to hell. God does not force Himself on people. We can think of God as a “gentleman” who protects your freedom. Hell is what I do to myself. I can reject God forever and that is hell. If I reject God’s great gift in Jesus, what else is there? If I reject the Light, there is only the darkness that Jesus spoke about.

There is no good news in Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and any other “ism.” In these religions everything depends on what I do, not on what God has done. Religious works will never be enough to bring a person to acceptance by Yahweh. Yahweh has been so gracious that He wants you and me to live with Him forever. You cannot find any hope anywhere else like Yahweh’s gracious gift of Jesus as Savior and Lord. Think carefully about the following verse of Scripture written to a group of believers at the church in Ephesus. “ You were saved by faith in God, who treats us much better than we deserve. This is God's gift to you, and not anything you have done on your own. It isn't something you have earned, so there is nothing you can brag about.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

There are a number of things that happen when Muslims become followers of Jesus Christ.

1) Families are healed. Wife beating is no longer practiced, wives and children are not treated as slaves, polygamy is rejected, and prostitution dies out.

2) An atmosphere of freedom comes. Fatalism—whatever happens is Allah’s will—is rejected. There is new hope and optimism, and they expect the blessing of Yahweh in their lives.

3) A spirit of love. Yahweh puts love in their hearts, not only for the family but for others, even other Muslims who do not have this love.

4) Diminished violence. Tribal violence destroys so much in the Muslim culture, and when people learn to forgive and forsake revenge their lives are happier.

5) Evidence of Divine favor. Farmers who became Christians prayed over their fields instead of using Muslim or spirited blessings and their crops increased in contrast to the Muslim crops.

6) Freedom from demonic possession. Many Muslims have had years of torment from demon possession. When they become Christians the demons are cast out and they are free.

7) The power of individual prayer. Prayer is made anytime and all the time in the language of the person, not in Arabic, that may not be known. Prayer is not a rote speech to an uncaring god, but a cry of the heart to Yahweh who cares about you.

There is no greater gift than God’s love. Please don’t ignore it.