Sūrah 2:128-129 Abraham’s prayer:
“…and, our Lord, make us submissive to Thee, and of our seed a nation submissive to Thee; and show us our holy rites, and turn towards us; surely Thou turnest, and art All-compassionate; (128)
and, our Lord, do Thou send among them a Messenger, one of them, who shall recite to them Thy signs, and teach them the Book and the Wisdom, and purify them; Thou art the All-mighty, the All-wise.” (129)
God’s nation, his kingdom exists only where people let him be King, that is, where people let his laws govern their lives. God revealed his will to Moses (Mūsā) through laws and sent prophets so that we understand and love God.
God is honoured when people want to do his will. Only then can we speak of God’s nation, his people.
It is man’s free decision to serve God or not to serve him. It is impossible, and even wrong, to determine who is a servant of God according to one’s birth or to a formal act (i.e. baptism or descent).
Serving God is a question of the heart and not of any form.
The Injeel teaches this understanding of service for God in Romans 12:1-2
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is:
his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Living according to God’s will does not mean partaking in ritual activities, but rather to test what is good and pleasing to God in every situation and to do it.
This passage demonstrates that Christians understood Jesus’ words very differently to how one often finds today. Many of us were raised in a “church” surrounding, and found it difficult to recognise that Jesus’ words point us in a completely different direction to what we were used to. We had to learn to distinguish right from wrong, and to distance ourselves from what is wrong and draw attention to it.
When we write here about Church (God’s people, his kingdom), then we are referring to the words of the Injeel. Church is not, as is commonly understood today, what came about through tradition and corruption over the centuries. We can assess who God’s people are (Ummah) by checking them against God’s word.
In passages in the English Injeel, where the words “Church” or “community” are used, “ecclesia” is the original Greek word. It means “those called out”. Church is, therefore, the fellowship of those who let themselves be called out of a godless life.
The English word “church” has it´s roots in the Greek word “kyriake”, which means “belonging to the Lord” (“kyrios” = Lord). Whoever keeps God’s commands belongs to him. This is possible for everyone, because our great and good God helps everyone who really wants to do what is good.
So church is not a building, but a term describing spiritual brotherhood. Jesus says in the Injeel:
“Then His mother and His brothers arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him. A crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.” Answering them, He said, “Who are My mother and My brothers?” Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:31-35)
“He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father1 and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” (John 14:21)
If anyone claims to determine how others should believe then they are clearly contradicting God’s will. Since Adam, it has been God’s will that everyone can recognise, understand and serve him. Wherever awe of God and love can be found, God gives his blessing, as promised through his prophets (Nabiyyūn) Isaiah and David (Dāwūd).
“For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” (Isaiah 57:15)
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, coming down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard, coming down upon the edge of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon coming down upon the mountains of Zion; for there the LORD commanded the blessing – life forever.” (Psalm [Zabūr] 133)
Someone might say that a leader in the church is necessary, otherwise there will only be confusion. This may be right in principle, but we must consider whether actually God himself should suffice as our leader, and whether it could be God’s will to have an additional leader (i.e. Pastor, Priest or other religious leader) over the fellowship of believers.
We can take a look at what Jesus said about this in the Injeel:
“They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi2 by men. But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matthew 23:6-12)
Here Jesus doesn’t only criticise the Jewish spiritual leaders for seeking honour, but he also says that no one should hold such titles, and that all believers are brothers and sisters. In church as Jesus meant it, there is no leader except God. Each member bears responsibility for the others. In questions of faith, each one knows that need to understand what they believe, to be able to give reasons for it and to be able to help each other in it.
“And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors’. But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” (Luke 22:24-27)
In the passage quoted above in Luke, “…But it is not this way with you…”, Jesus doesn’t only condemn the proud attitude, but expresses that there cannot be any hierarchical differences among those who serve God: “But you are not to be like that.” If this is not the case, then it is worldly (worldly = like among those who don’t know God).
Christians live as brothers and sisters without hierarchy. God is their only leader.
It is possible to recognise whether someone is a true Christian or only claims to be one by whether they live in the serving attitude that Jesus commanded.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
True love among one another is the sign for true love for God.
Jesus didn’t want to create a church structure or order of service, but gave himself as the example that devotion to God and one’s neighbour and the endeavour for deep unity is what is most essential.
The report in Acts 2:42-47 shows that those who took Jesus´ call seriously understood his intention, and lived it out by meeting daily, to share together and live in unity.
“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.” (Acts 2:42-47a)
Meeting for “Sunday Services” at specific times on Sunday contradicts the Bible. Such meetings were introduced at a later period (2nd century after Christ) and don’t have anything to do with original Christianity. They rather arose out of formalism.
Jesus fought for people to understand God’s will in it’s content and not to practice it formalistically or to give it a political interpretation.
Jesus lived at a time when the Jewish territory was occupied by the Romans. The Jews had very strong expectations at this time that a political freedom fighter, or Messiah, would come. They wanted to understand Jesus in this way, but he clearly expressed that he was not trying to call people to a political kingdom, but to a spiritual one.
“Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” (John 18:36)3
“Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Luke 17:20-21)4
As we read in Sūrah 2:128-129 at the beginning, it was Abraham’s prayer that someone would be sent from God to lead the people to a deep understanding of his word and to purify the nation.
Jesus’ aim was to show the Jews that political freedom from the Romans was not actually true freedom, and that they needed to be set free to do God’s good will, without being distracted by anything.
Jesus is the one God sent (the Messiah, the Saviour).
He taught God’s will so clearly, leading us to a far deeper understanding of what is good and by that enabling us to recognise what is bad and reject it.
As Christians, we believe that Jesus did not only bring a revelation from God, but that God revealed himself in Jesus. This means that Jesus’ revelation of what is good was entirely unique.
God doesn’t need anything from us – its rather we that need to understand God in the right way and to live our lives accordingly. We can’t give anything to God, we can only “sacrifice” our lives to him – meaning that we love and honour him completely. Only God is worthy of our honour.
Jesus called all people to repent and to devote themselves to the one true God (Tauhīd). He spoke clear words. Anyone who does not seek God with his whole heart cannot be a servant of God (Al-Mu’min). It is in this sense, as Al-Mu´minūn, that we see ourselves as Christians, in that we give our entire life to God in sincere devotion and help each other to be obedient.
Jesus made the unique claim, not only to show the way to God, but to be the way itself. He called all people to take his words seriously, to follow HIM and to love what is good.
Loving good is necessarily connected with distancing oneself from evil.
David sang in Psalm (Zabūr) 1 that sinners cannot remain in fellowship with the righteous:
“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Psalm 1)
As mentioned above, Christians are those who let themselves be called out of a corrupt generation5 (i.e. who have turned away from God). He spoke of two paths:
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:13-23)
Only he who takes the narrow path of obedience will reach God. Jesus did not want to say that there can only be few that go this path. As a realist, however, he knew that only a few would do so. Devotion to God will only ever be important to few people, who don’t just want to live by their own ideas – even own religious ideas.
“Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and the shall be my people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate”, says the Lord, “and do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me”, says the Lord Almighty. Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1)
“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but he one who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man´s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34-39)
When Jesus said that he didn’t come to bring peace but a sword, he didn’t mean it politically. He didn’t want to start a war. He meant it spiritually, that is to say, that the separation that comes as a result of faith, cuts through the deepest human relationships. Even those who, earlier, were best friends and family, become enemies as they remain in unbelief. Despite this, we must obey God and not try to fulfil people’s expectations.
“But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
By separating from evil, including wicked people, we do not mean that everything bad in the world should be destroyed. Godless people still have human rights, and will finally be judged by God. It is important to allow each their freedom to live as they want unless they endanger or destroy the lives of others.
Before we can distance ourselves from others, we have to assess why things are wrong. It is important to name what is wrong (i.e. in what others do), to explain it and to appeal to them to change. Only when it is visible that someone does not show willingness to change for the better, is it right to clearly separate from them. Separation is not a question of protecting oneself, but rather of love for truth (i.e. that truth is not distorted).
It is important to reject sin deeply, but not to reject the sinner. We must always keep a loving/helpful attitude towards them. Jesus called this loving your enemies. Christians seek peace and unity with all people. True unity however, means talking openly about the differing viewpoints, and wanting to understand each other and find the truth. We are convinced that the one true God, creator of heaven and earth, wants to help everyone who is God-fearing to clearly recognise his will. He can do this as long as we are humble and let him change whatever is wrong in our thinking.
- An expression of profound inner connection with God. Jesus didn’t have an earthly father, and “Father” certainly doesn’t mean that he is a relative in a literal, genetic sense, rather, the spiritual relationship is expressed. ↩
- “My Master!” – a respectful way of addressing a spiritual teacher in late Judaism. ↩
- Explanation of John 18:36 “My kingdom is not of this world”: Jesus made this statement to the Roman proconsul of Judea, Pontius Pilate. It was never Jesus’ aim to have political influence, and certainly not to be a world ruler, and his disciples did not take up arms to defend him. When Peter once cut a soldier’s ear off, Jesus healed it again. Sūrah 11:118 seems to reflect the understanding that God’s kingdom is not of this world. If everything went according to God’s perfect will without the free will of man, then there would only be one community, one nation. Many people do not want this, however, and God does not force them to submit to him. It is wrong to try to make devotion to God obligatory, for example, as in a state religion. This is a recipe for hypocrisy. If anyone is interested in the context to John 18:36, it is good to read verses 26-40. If you don’t have a Bible, then you can contact us. ↩
- Explanation of Luke 17:20-21 “…is among you”: The Pharisees expected that it would be visible when God establishes his kingdom on earth. Jesus answered them that they will not be able to recognize it by outward signs, but that it is already among them. By this he referred to himself. He called everyone to follow him and to belong to this spiritual kingdom. ↩
- By this we do not mean atheism, but especially pseudo-religion (pseudo = false), that is, people who speak piously, but act wrongly. ↩