Who do you say I am?

Christian and Muslim answers at Christmas

Jesus asks this question in the Gospel, there were various answers, but he wasn’t satisfied until Peter said, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’. Christianity still stands by this answer, as do the Christian members of the Christian Muslim Forum. The question is often used today by evangelists but it is not often wrestled with as it was in the time of Jesus.

But this December emel, is asking, ‘In a world of divisions, can the man both Muslims and Christians call the Messiah, have the potential to be a bridge? The Muslim understanding of Jesus is simple. He was a man, born of a virgin (the account in the Qur’an’s third chapter very similar to the gospels). He was given prophethood by God from birth and performed miracles during his life by God’s leave. Muslims do not believe in the crucifixion; and the majority orthodox belief is that he did not die and will one day return. In a nutshell, that is it. But there is more.’ The article goes on to ask, ‘How is it possible to accept his virgin birth and yet reject him as divine?’

Muslims recognise the religious importance of Christmas for Christians and are opening up a dialogue and challenging the perceptions of many who are unaware of Jesus’s place in Islam. There is also an article in a recent edition of the New Statesman, while the Barnabas Fund addresses it in their January/February magazine. Muslims engaging with Christians about Jesus is an encouraging development, even if it has its own difficulties. I remember an ecumenical Lent group where we talked about a Radio 4 series – people of different religions were reflecting on Jesus. One of my friends crossly said, ‘I don’t want to hear about Jesus from a Buddhist!’

We can’t be Muslims and Christians and agree entirely about Jesus, though we can try to convince each other of the rightness of our own beliefs, in the best possible way. When we don’t handle our differences honestly we end up fudging or being perceived as compromising each faith’s distinctives. This is one of the concerns which many Christians have about some conversations between Muslims and Christians about Jesus. Our work in the Christian Muslim Forum depends on there being difference between us so we should be in a good place to explore the different opinions. So let’s ask ourselves, as Christians and Muslims, ‘Who do we say Jesus is? Is emel right that can he be a bridge?’

Christian Answers, Julian Bond

Muslim Answers, Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad and Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra

So where does this leave us? We are still different, we have not accepted each others beliefs. Some conversations about Jesus become unhelpful and unconvincing arguments about who is wrong and who is right. The best conversations are those where we listen patiently to each other and seek to understand, and hope that what we are trying to do is share what is important to us while giving space for ‘the other’ to share in the same way.

With greetings of Peace this Christmas,
‘Christmas statement’
Julian Bond, Abdal Hakim Murad, Ibrahim Mogra
with grateful acknowledgments to emel for the use of their image and their article

Posted December 21st, 2009 in Archived, Christian. Tagged: , , , .

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