PASTOR COLUMN - Jesus seen in Egypt's nonviolent revolution

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One remarkable aspect of the recent revolution in Egypt has been its emphasis on nonviolence. The leaders' approach shares much with those of Ghandi in India, Lech Walesa in Communist Poland, and Martin Luther King, Jr., in the United States. It certainly challenges Christians when, of those four examples, one leader was a Hindu and one group made up primarily of Muslims.

However, as I think of those Egyptian leaders, I realize that the teachings of Jesus somehow affected each of them, including those devoted to Islam. A book edited and translated by Tarif Khalidi entitled "The Muslim Jesus" gives us a fascinating view into Jesus' influence on Islamic faith. It begins with references to Jesus in the Qu'ran as "Spirit of God" or the "Word of God." Later, Muslim leaders simply referred directly to Jesus. As a result, Khalidi's book contains more than 300 direct references to Jesus in early Islamic writings. Here are a few examples:

"Jesus said to his people: ‘… Do not examine the sins of the people as though you were lords, but examine them, rather, as though you were servants.'" (Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak, 797 A.D.) That compares with the Bible, in the New Testament, Matthew 7:1-5: "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

"Jesus said: ‘The merciful in this world is the one who will be shown mercy in the next world.'" (Abu al-Hasan al-Hamiri, 992 A.D.) That compares with Matthew 5:7: "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy."

"Jesus used to say: ‘charity does not mean doing good to him who does good to you, for this is to return good for good. Charity means that you should do good to him who does you harm.'" (Ahmad ibn Hanbal, 855 A.D.) That compares with Matthew 5:43-47: "You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven."

Hanbal also wrote: "Jesus said, ‘He who seeks worldly things is like the man who drinks sea water; the more he drinks the more thirsty he becomes, until it kills him.'" That compares with Luke 12:15-21: And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' "Then he said, ‘This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."' "But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'

"Jesus said: ‘The heart of a believer cannot really support the love of both this world and the next, just as a single vessel cannot really support both water and fire.'" (Abu Bakr ibnAbi al-Dunya 894 A.D.) That compares with Matthew 6:24: "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."

In 1208, Abu al-Hasayn Warrim ibn Abi Firas wrote: "Jesus prepared food for his disciples. When they had eaten, he himself washed their hands and feet. They said to him: ‘Spirit of God, it is we, rather, who should do this.' He replied, ‘I have done this so that you would do it to those whom you teach.'" That compares with John 13:3-17, the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.

As a Christian, I strive to follow my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I believe he is the Son of God and that his death on the cross has broken down the dividing walls between us and God. Even though what unites us as "people of the Book" is far greater than we might assume, Christians and Muslims clearly understand Jesus differently. However, I do not have exclusive rights to Jesus. Why then should I be surprised when his teachings and his truth show up in unexpected places or his Spirit transcends human religious barriers?

The Rev. Chuck Hindman is pastor of Pioneer United Methodist Church. E-mail him at: chuckh@pioneerww.org. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312, or by e-mail at catherinehicks@wwub.com.

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