A Mosque, Moralism and the Gospel

I recently had the opportunity to visit a mosque here in central Florida. As an instructor of worldview and a Christian apologist, I was very excited about this. I figured it would provide me with greater insight into Islam and its followers. This seemed like something I would be able to use in future conversations with Muslims in hopes of building relationships and increasing opportunities to share the gospel with them. I also figured it would help me correct some of my misguided ideas about the Muslim people and their time of worship. The visit certainly did all of those things, but more importantly it was a shocking reminder of how desperately we, Christians and non-Christians alike, need the gospel.
When I arrived, there were a few things that jumped out to me right away. First was how big the mosque was. It is to my understanding that the mosque also serves as a school, but it was much larger than I anticipated. Second, was that the men and women were not worshiping together. As a Christian who is a member at a church that emphasizes the importance of the whole family worshipping together, this took me by surprise. Although, I had previously heard that this was the case, to see it in person was still surprising. And finally, I was also very surprised by how hospitable everyone was to us as visitors. However, the biggest surprise came during the speech, or sermon, that the Imam gave.

Once we arrived to the entrance of the mosque we were asked to take off our shoes and place them on a shoe rack. They had put out chairs off toward the side of the large room in which they gather for us to sit. The Muslims sat on the floor, as is customary for their time of worship. After a time of prayer, the Imam began the speech in Arabic and then began to speak in English.

To give some context, it would have been similar to a New Year sermon, due to the time that it was on the Muslim calendar. The Imam spoke about how we should all remember that one day we will stand before God and give an account for our actions. That none of us know when our time will be up, so even young people should resist the temptation to assume they will be able to live for God in their old age after spending years doing things however they wanted. He encouraged people not to smoke, not to drink, and not to have pre-marital sex. The Imam also challenged the Muslims who were present to memorize the Quran and to volunteer their time to good causes.

Perhaps what jumped out to me the most is how familiar this kind of speech, or sermon, was to me. It reminded me of many of the sermons I heard growing up in youth group. We will all give an account, don’t smoke, and don’t drink, don’t have pre-marital sex, and learn your Bibles (Quran in the Imam’s case). Many of my classmates confirmed that this kind of moralism is what they too grew up hearing in their youth groups.

The Imam would continually refer to an analogy of a student and how if the student studies hard, does his assignments, works hard, and respects the teacher he will pass his class. But if the student is lazy and doesn’t study for tests and puts off his assignments always giving his teacher excuses, then at the end he will fail the class. This, the Imam claimed, is a picture of us and God.

The problem is that from a Christian worldview we’ve already failed the class called life (Rom. 3:23). So, working really hard seems like an exercise in futility when you’ve already failed the class no matter what you do. You see, we are in desperate need of (and this is where the analogy will break down some) someone who can pass the class and give us his “A” for our “F”. This kind of exchange of our sinfulness for God’s righteousness is what we really need. Fortunately, Christ came and lived a perfect life and suffered in our place, so that we could have a “passing grade.”

I walked away from the mosque that day with a reminder of two major points. First is the importance of the gospel message. The Imam was right, we will all stand before God one day and give an account, but apart from my trusting in the life, death and resurrection of Christ I have no hope of passing that “test.” The second is one that applies mostly to pastors, evangelists and Christian educators. Always ask yourself, what about your message is different than that which the person/people you are speaking to can go hear at the mosque down the road. The gospel of Jesus Christ is that which makes Christianity unique and it is this unique message we must carry to the ends of the earth.

One Comment:

  1. Would you mind sending me this email message?
    My youth truly needs to hear this.