[This first appeared at LifeChurchNC.com]
June 10, 2016
Later today, the life of arguably the greatest boxing champion ever, Muhammad Ali, will be celebrated in Louisville, KY, marking the end of a week-long series of events marking the career and the global impact of the man who is often referred to as The Greatest.
In the early 1960’s, Muhammad Ali converted to Islam, changing his name from Cassius Clay, and thus becoming one of the most famous American Muslims. Today’s service will be an inter-faith ceremony, where Muslims, Christians, Jews, atheists, etc. will be gathered together in one place for a peaceful and unified remembrance and celebration. This was one of the wishes of Ali, who sought to bring these different groups together during his lifetime.
However, it’s here we need to be careful and absolutely clear on what distinguishes Christianity from Islam and all other faiths, and why although we can stand alongside others on such occasions, we cannot stand unified under the premise of One God. Let’s be clear: Allah (the Muslim name for God) and Yahweh (the Judeo-Christian name for God the Father) are not the same. Although we could give extensive lists of reasons for our differences here, this distinguishment can be summed-up in one Name – Jesus.
As Christians, we believe Jesus is the divine Son of God, born fully-human and yet fully-divine. He is One of the three Persons of the God-Head; God who is indeed One but who is manifest in three distinct Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And it is only through Jesus (the Christ) that we are saved and reconciled to God. As the Scriptures tells us:
To many, this sounds incredible exclusive (and perhaps even a little arrogant) to say. And that’s because, the way to life is exclusive because that Way is through Jesus alone. And yet, the beauty and the power of the Gospel is that the offer of life is inclusive – offered to all who would believe.
Sadly, t’s because of this truth that today’s celebration will simply not be as complete as it could be. However, the passing of the great Muhammad Ali presents hope with the opportunity to see that those who are walking in darkness are pointed to the Light of the World.
Earlier this week, Dr. Jim Denison wrote a fantastic article titled Muhammad Ali and Good News in the Muslim World. I would encourage you to read it if you have a few moments. In his article, he offers some encouraging statistics on the advancement of the Gospel in Muslim areas all over the world that builds into an opportunity for us, as followers of the Way, to pray for Muslims – especially during the season of Ramadan, where many Muslims may be far more receptive to the Gospel through their practices.
Below, you will find a link to the 30-Days of Prayer for the Muslim World, which I invite you to join between now and July 5.