The attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo sets western society ablaze again. People all over on the streets, to protest and to defend freedom of opinion, one of the greatest rights in our society. It’s good that happens, and let us pray for the friends and family of the people killed, and for peace and justice in our society.
For a christian there is more than the discussion about right of freedom and democracy. It is important that christians won’t be framed in that debate. What I mean is the question of what and how we see some of God in this. Some christians see in the attack the difference between islam and christianity. They point out the big difference between Jesus and Mohammed. Jesus let himself be humiliated and wanted to die without violence. ‘Put away the sword’ he said to his followers, just before he was killed. And this runs through up until the attack in Paris, so it seems according to these christians (in Dutch: commentary in Nederlands Dagblad, January 8th).
“important that christians won’t be framed by the questions concerning freedom of opinion or democracy”
Room for (self)retribution
First I’d like to confront the difference between islam and christianity from a slightly different angle. The attack on Charlie Hebdo was an act of retribution. Of course not from all muslims; that makes no sense. But in the shooting of the mockers the honour of prophet Mohammed was avenged, according to the attackers. That to them is justice. This retribution shows us how unique the gospel is. Only there it’s told that God himself carried all injustice and dishonour in Jesus. Because the islam denies that Jesus is Gods son and was crucified, in that religion there is always room for single-handed, human retribution and human justice.
“Because the islam denies that Jesus is Gods son and was crucified, in that religion there is always room for single-handed, human retribution and human justice.”
The rise of islam
The next step: Let’s not dwell on the remark that the uniqueness of the gospel is the selfsurrender of Jesus. We are at risk of forgetting something at least equally important. Because what’s happening now? While christianity is marginilised in North-West Europe, the islam is growing. And while our society left God at the front door, we’ll have to deal with a religion that let’s God be God over everything. Even with extreme terrorists who use God to try and disrupt society. I don’t believe in a revengeful God who would retribute when we fall short. There is no easy answer, though at the same time it poses the question if God is using islam to make something clear to us.
And then I think of a side of the gospel that is close to the love of Jesus; Gods right to be honoured and praised by all. Gods right to take Him as He is. It’s muslims that let christians feel that God is like that. That He can’t be mocked around, that He is utterly holy and can’t have it when someone turns his back on Him. Ofcourse the christian faith confesses this. But in our society that is focussed on ourselves, this belief is far from reality for many christians.
First, the film Exodus: Gods and Kings. Moses is pictured as someone who is troubled by Gods judgment on Egypt. This is a projection of recent culture. What is striking is that in the bible, Moses learns to see like God. At some point Moses is angry with pharao because he keeps resisting God. That aspect is left out in the film.
The second example is the trouble in our culture, just as well among christians, with chapters in the Old and New Testament that speak about Gods judgment (Church needs Psalms of revenge (article 2012)).
And that last: the book “Heaven is for real”. Pastor Todd Burpo writes in biblical language the experience of his son who has been in heaven and met Jesus. Jesus is, according to the book, a friendly man with kind eyes. I’m not questioning the authenticity of the experience of this boy. What strikes me is the suggestion that Jesus is exactly that. No words about the near-death experience of Saul and John when they had seen the risen and glorified Jesus.
The rise of the islam won’t let us get away with our cultural belief. At the same time you can feel how unique and whole the gospel is. The holy God was humiliated. The merciful went to be terrorised. Calvary is pure blasphemy.
Jesus can’t just say with us western society #IamCharlie. Jesus can also say #Jesuisblasphème (I am blasphemy) with the aggrieved muslims.
This article was originally publicised in dutch in Nederlands Dagblad, 9th January 2015.