EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is part of a series featuring outstanding excerpts from student papers at the BibleMesh Institute, which offers affordable online training for local churches, schools, and ministries. The author’s name has been withheld for privacy and security purposes. She is preparing to serve as a missionary overseas. This post describes her prospective mission field.
This people has a strong Islamic background with Buddhist and animistic influences. I’ll be working on a small island with nearly 250 families. Their main source of income is fishing and they live in houses along the coast or above the water on pilings. Education in schools is not very good, and most children do not learn beyond the Western world 6th-grade level. When education is sought by parents, it usually involves an Islamic-based education. The people hold to traditional spiritual beliefs, too, involving evil spirits and shamans.
Not having lived in the island village or able to get to know my future neighbors yet, I’ll be considering who Jesus is within Islam. From conversations with Muslim-background friends, I’ve learned some about their view of Jesus. They believe that Jesus is a very important prophet sent by Allah. However, they do not believe that Jesus is God, and therefore do not believe in worshipping him. They do honor him, but not as God. They believe the Bible has been corrupted by man and so God sent one final messenger, Muhammad, to clarify his message. The lives of my Muslim friends are filled with a pressure to obey and uncertainty of whether they will make it to heaven with enough good deeds. They lack confidence in salvation, and their faith denies God’s grace. I was surprised to learn that their Quran often speaks about Jesus, though.
The Quran is the holy book of Islam allegedly revealed to Muhammad by Allah around the early AD 600s. Jesus is called the Word of God and the Messiah, held in honor in this world and hereafter (Sura 3:45,49; 4:171; 19:19; 37:171). Jesus is also said to be a sign for people, a mercy from God, and without sin. In Sura 3:55, Allah speaks to Jesus, saying, “I am gathering thee and causing thee to ascend unto Me, and…am setting those who follow thee above those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection.” The Quran even says that God will make Jesus a revelation for mankind and he will be a mercy from God.
These verses in the Quran seem to be biblically true about Jesus, however they refuse to accept his death as the Son of God sent for their sins. Sura 4:157 says that Jesus was not actually crucified or killed, but that another who resembled him actually suffered. (Some have argued this verse does not deny Jesus’ death and crucifixion, but that traditional Islamic scholars are the ones who have misinterpreted the meaning of this verse.)
There are basic truths about Jesus that the Quran affirms such as his virgin birth, moral righteousness, reception of the gospel, and performing miracles. However, believing truths about Jesus does not equal having a saving relationship with Jesus. In Psalm 118:21-22, the psalmist says he has found salvation in God and speaks of Jesus as the cornerstone the builders rejected. Even though the Quran calls Jesus the Messiah, Islam refuses to believe in Jesus as God, worthy of worship and the source of salvation. Lacking this, their faith is futile.
The Quran teaches that the way to avoid hell and Allah’s wrath is through works such as the five pillars (Sura 10:109; 23:104-105). Speaking with my Muslim friends helped me better understand this and their difficulty in understanding sin. In a right-and-wrong culture, the West understands our rejection of God as sin. However, most of the Islamic world exists in a shame-and-honor culture where the word “sin” holds little weight. In addition to speaking of sin against God, it may be helpful to consider our rejection and disobedience of God as dishonoring or shaming God. Or that our rejection of God has brought shame upon ourselves, and therefore we are separated from God’s presence and love. Yet Jesus restores our honor, becoming our Savior by taking away our shame.
The people in this island village also have Buddhist influences to their faith. This may impact whether they believe in God or not, or whether they believe in multiple lives to acquire enough merit to reach enlightenment. Having animistic beliefs intertwined within their faith may also lead to superstitions or efforts to please spirits. I am curious to learn more about how these different beliefs affect the way people in the village live.
It intrigues me that different religions have truths within them. The Quran of Muslims speaks highly of Jesus. Buddhism strives to reach a point of no suffering in a future life, which reminds me of a longing for the new creation. Animism recognizes a spiritual world but serves the spirits instead of God. I am thankful for the Bible and to know the true God in Jesus Christ.
 Jerry Trousdale, Miraculous Movements (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012), 137.
 Sura 19:21.
 Gregory R. Lanier, “‘It Was Made to Appear Like that to Them:’ Islam’s Denial of Jesus’ Crucifixion,” Reformed Faith & Practice 1, no. 1 (May 2016): 40.
 Ibid, 46.
 Andrea C. Paterson, Three Monotheistic Faiths – Judaism, Christianity, Islam (Bloomington: AuthorHouse, 2009), 217.