As you all know I've been reading a translation of the Quran that I borrowed from the library. If you didn't know, wellllll check the previous two thousand posts and you'll see. (Ah, I'm using a bit of that Middle Eastern exaggeration now, I see!) I've greatly enjoyed reading, posting my thoughts and interacting with several lovely ladies who have been so kind in helping me better understand things. I've heard various points of view and gotten some answers and clarifications. Thank you all so much! I hope you will continue to read and comment as time allows. I value your opinions.
In the comments section of one of the posts, a couple Muslim women asked me to answer some questions from my faith as they had some things they were curious about and wanted to finally get some answers. I answered one question which lead to a great follow-up reply and more questions. So, I thought instead of trying to answer them all there on a post about the Quran, I'd begin a new post where people can ask questions and we can all interact. I welcome all of you to question and try to answer the questions posed. I don't claim to be some authority on Christianity so I covet (in the not-breaking-the-ten-
Instead of going back and answering those questions one by one, I'm going to tweak and copy a couple of comments I made on someone else's blog two months ago to jump start things. I believe part of the answer is within these comments. Thus you can read what I said and ask follow-up questions or simply ask again what you want to know if this isn't helpful in the least!
The discussion on that blog lead to someone reminding us of how bloody the Abrahamic religions were with circumcision, the offering of sacrifices according to Jewish Law, the significance of the blood of Jesus for Christians, and the slaughtering of lambs for one of the Muslim Eids. It was within this context that I replied with this first comment.
I know what you mean about how bloody the Abrahamic religions are. I’ve sometimes wondered about it as well since it creeps me out looking at it from a 21st-century point of view. I wonder how God could be sooooo bloody!
But then I wonder if perhaps it should show us just how awful our sins are in God’s eyes especially when we consider the sin offerings the children of Israel had to offer.
If you take the story of Adam and Eve according to the Biblical version, when they sinned God took the skin of an animal to cover them. An innocent animal lost its life (unless God somehow provided skin to make a garment without the animal being slaughtered..which He could). And each time the Israelites put their hands on the heads of animals in a “transfer” of their sins to the animal who then was sacrificed, it should have been a sobering reminder to them that sin is not cheap. It’s not something God shrugs and dismisses.
Leviticus 17:11 — “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”
I’ve never been able to explain God and why He requires what He does, but then I guess it’s not my place to be His apologist. I’m sure when He looks at me, He wonders why I do what I do and accept what I accept soooooo…
I just chalk it up to His ways being different and higher than mine (Isa. 55:6-8) and leave it at that if I can.
Notice the mention of blood being necessary for atonement in the verse from Leviticus! This is why Jesus' blood has such great significance in forgiveness of sins! Jesus was the perfect lamb of God who was sent as the final sacrifice! In the OT, the people went to the Temple to offer sacrifices for their sins - deliberate ones and even unintentional ones. If you read the Torah, you will see precise details of what had to be offered for various sins. Sin is not cheap! It costs innocent creatures their lives! We believe this is a foreshadowing of the Lamb whom God would send as the one who would take the sins of mankind on himself and pay for them...for all those who believed in the work he had done on the cross. This is why I have a problem with the Quran and its taking out the blood of Jesus. Yes, it says nice things about him, but without the shedding of blood, the Bible says, there is no payment for sin. Without Christ's work, there is no salvation! Yeah, it's that serious. Contrary to what we'd like to believe, we cannot work hard enough to wash ourselves clean in front of a Holy, Perfect Almighty God. Quite simply, we cannot save ourselves. God is our Savior. Both the Bible and Quran agree on this. Yet most of us act as if we can somehow make ourselves clean enough that God will see fit to let us into heaven.
Picture something with me for a minute. Suppose you were a mechanic busy working under the hood of a car. You can imagine how greasy your fingers would be after a few hours on the job. You catch a glimpse of yourself in the side-view mirror and notice a smudge of pizza from lunch that somehow dropped on your chin. Without thinking you take a swipe at this tomato-y red stain and instead of wiping yourself clean, you leave a black grease spot on your face. The crux of the matter is: you cannot clean yourself when your hands are dirty! No matter how hard you try to get that smear of pizza sauce off your face, you will still be dirty as long as your hands are black with grease.
Now, apply this spiritually. In God's eyes we are all sinners. One sin made us imperfect and I am willing to bet my life (if I were a betting woman, that is) that all of you reading this now have done at least one thing wrong. Some of you maybe even two or three. For me, it's up near, ooooohhhhh, a billion sixty four, I'm sure. So. We are all sinners. We all have dirty hands like the mechanic. We can work hard at cleaning the spots off us, but in reality, we are only smearing the dirt. It's hopeless for us to clean ourselves! Ahhhhh, what do we do? We ask God for help. We call for the Savior which God claims to be! Both the Bible and Quran say this, in fact!
Joseph in Sura 12:
101. O my Lord, you have given me dominion and taught me the interpretation of dreams; O Creator of the heavens and the earth, You alone are my saviour in this world and the world to come; let me die submitting to You, and place me among the upright."
And I did a post about God as our Savior from the OT earlier this year. In that post, I mentioned this lovely Psalm (40) from David. I think it explains how our "cleaning" is from the Lord, not our own efforts.
1 I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the LORD.
Notice how much of that is "He" doing the work and not "I." "He" even put a new song of praise in David's mouth! Why are you taking credit for what GOD has done?
Back to the blog where I left another comment. A bit later in the discussion we were talking about repentance. I thought this comment might be helpful to the one who asked about forgiveness of sin.
First we must understand repentance which isn’t merely a “Oops, they caught me…I’m sorry, God.” Repentance isn’t just turning from your sins either. John Edwards could stop sleeping with his mistress and go back home to Elizabeth without being truly repentant. (I’m just using him for an example since he is in the news a lot these days and lives in my state. Substitute Tiger Woods, Mark Sanford or Cheater of Your Own Choice if you’d rather.)
Biblical repentance is changing your mind about your sin to the extent that your actions change. (We believe it’s a work of GOD in our hearts.) Like when Jesus visited Zacchaeus and salvation was brought to Z’s house. Z then repented and said he’d give half of his goods to feed the poor and restore fourfold what he’d taken from others. He wasn’t merely “sorry” for cheating his people in tax collecting, his change of heart changed his actions.
Notice the message of John the Baptist, Jesus and the disciples to repent. My point of bringing up repentance is to show that we cannot flippantly say, “Oh, I believe Jesus cleanses our sins so I can sleep around, get drunk, cheat others, lie, steal and live like the devil and still be OK.”
That’s a mistaken notion that Jesus’ blood is like an insurance policy — it gets me out of hell while I live like hell every day. Not so.
So if Hitler had a change of heart that resulted in a change of action and he asked God to forgive his sins, yes, I believe he would be forgiven. The same with Osama bin Laden which, by the way, an older friend of mine told me last weekend she was praying for his salvation. And the same for any other mass murderer. Yes, what they did is wrong and they will have to live with the guilt of what they did, but can OBL go back and apologize to those he killed? Can Hitler? Can George Bush?
Could King David go back and apologize to Uriah after Uriah was killed? No. Do I think God forgave David after he repented? Sure do.
This may differ from other Christians, but it is my understanding of repentance and forgiveness of sins. If you disagree or want to add or change something I said, please speak up!
Now I will leave the post open for more questions or simply feedback/comments/whatever you want to add on this subject or any other. I'll continue with the Quran posts soon. I have three in drafts ready to be published whenever I get the notion. Thanks again to all who've left feedback. You've been very helpful!