This may be a controversial statement, but Christians can learn a lot from Muslims about honoring God. It’s sad, but true, so keep an open mind about the statement. Although they don’t have the true God, consider the following six practices:
- Respect for Scripture: The Quran is considered a holy book and treated as such. It is not desecrated by putting it on the floor and it maintains its own place at a table. It is rigorously memorized and in Islam those who know it cover-to-cover receive the highest honor. In contrast, Christians often use the Bible as a coaster to protect our laminate countertops. We bury it in book shelves next to drivel such as The Shack rather than giving it a place of honor. We interpret our Scripture carelessly and flippantly with little regard for the Author’s original intent though studying the culture, genre or audience it was written to. Bible illiteracy within the church is rampant and memorization of a few passages is a rare feat. We no longer stand out of respect when the Bible is read in church like was the tradition 50 years ago and is seen in the Old Testament with regard to the Law (Nehemiah 8:5).
- Scripture memorization: Memorizing the Quran is a high priority for Muslims. Not just passages, but the whole book. Boys will often go to a special school to focus on memory work. This is because Islam sees the essential human condition as one of forgetfulness rather than one of depravity. Memorizing the Quran is their way of attempting eradicate sin. The Bible also supports hiding God’s word in our heart so that we won’t sin against Him (Psalm 119:11), but support a view that memorization is a cure for our sinful bent. Nevertheless, we fall short of prioritizing learning about God and His will through this method.
- Reverence toward God during prayer: When Muslims pray they humble themselves on the ground and bow their head to the floor. Their prayers may be repetitive and ritualistic, but their posture is one of humility and submission to one greater than themselves (see Nehemiah 8:6). How often do we even kneel before God when coming to Him in petition or praise? Evangelicals more likely toss a pray to heaven during their drive to work or slip away into sleep which talking to the creator of the universe.
- Consistency in prayer: Muslims pray consistency. Once again this is a ritual, but it is also a priority for them. We fit it in when we have time after all of our other priorities are crossed off the list. God gets the left overs.
- Reverence towards names: The name of Mohammed is honored in Islam with the phase ‘Peace be upon him’ after his name is said in speech or text. They are careful to use his name appropriately. In contrast, Christians create ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ type songs, plaster his names on mints and other trinkets and generally disregard the commandment to not take God’s name in vain (defined as lacking substance or worth).
- The discipline of fasting: Muslims dedicate 30 days to daylight fasting during Ramadan to learn humility and submissiveness to God. Christians, most frequently in a Reformed tradition, fast from some food during the forty days of Lent in preparation of the celebration of Easter, but this seems to be less common as each year passes. Beyond Lent, each individual is on his/her own and fasting does not appear to be a priority like it is for Muslims. It is also rarely taught from the pulpit despite the examples of Moses (Exodus 38:28-29), Jesus (Matthew 4:1-4) and Paul (Acts 9:9) among other Biblical teaching on the topic (Joel 1:14, Matthew 6:16-18)
The standards of Islam are not the standards of Christianity, so we are not to be measured by them. However, we’re to honor God in all that we do to the point of what we eat and drink. Unlike Islam, our saved is not based on our works, but by grace through faith in Jesus’ finished work. We’re to work out our salvation as a thank offering to Him, so we should be serious about our disciplines and reverence toward God. God calls us to run the race to win and fight the good fight, rather than take advantage of our freedom.
In summary, consider these three questions. Why are our spiritual practices not as consistent as reverent as the Muslims’? Are we too comfortable with seeing God as our friend and not serious about seeing Him as our Lord and honoring him as such? As we journey into this new year, how will you change how you approach God in prayer, view of the Holy Bible, use of Jesus name and spiritual disciplines of fasting?