Islam and Christianity: What’s Different?
“I don’t understand Muslims. And since I don’t understand Muslims well, I am afraid I’ll offend them with what I say or do.” Thousands of Christians have approached me with comments just like these. Often, thoughts like these can become insurmountable obstacles to Christians, demotivating them from even approaching Muslims.
Maybe you can relate. If so, you certainly are not alone. The Islamic religion and its followers can seem like a complex, complicated puzzle to solve. Yet there’s no need to allow fear or uncertainty prevent you from sharing the truth of Christ with Muslims. In this blog, I’ll unpack one key point of differentiation between Islam and Christianity to inspire and empower you to share Jesus with Muslims around you.
Jesus: The Essential Difference Between Christianity and Islam
The main point of differentiation between Islam and Christianity centers around the identity, nature, and role of Jesus Christ. Christians believe that Jesus Christ is God. In Islam, Jesus is not.
As Christians, we believe Jesus came to earth as the Son of God. In Islam, Jesus is a messenger who was sent by God to point people back to the one true God. A messenger is a highly respected position and the title for a human, but not divine.
Christians believe salvation is achieved only through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Only Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross meets God’s perfect standard of holiness, love, grace and justice. God guarantees salvation to anyone who submits his or her life to and accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior. You either reject God’s free gift of salvation in Jesus or accept it through Him. There is no other way for humans to gain salvation.
In Islam, the cross is not necessary, as only Allah saves by his mercy. He chooses to forgive whom he chooses to forgive. Muslims work hard to please Allah, hoping he will choose to forgive them on Judgment Day.
Christians believe salvation is guaranteed to those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God and trust Him as their Savior. In Islam, to claim Jesus is the Son of God guarantees loss of salvation. It is an unforgiveable sin and blasphemy to add “partners” to the one and only Allah.
In summary, the one thing that differentiates Christians from Islam – and from all other religions or belief systems in the world – is what you believe about Jesus Christ and how you respond to Him.
Islam’s Primary Purpose and Goal
Islam believes that God’s original revelations written in the Christian Bible have been changed. As a result, Muslims believe that Christianity strayed from monotheism – from the one true God, Creator of everything, the God of Abraham. They operate from the belief that Christians worship a false god, described as the Trinity. They have faith that Allah gave the complete and final revelation to Mohammad (the Quran). With that in mind, one main purpose of Islam is to bring humankind back to God’s one and true revelation by pointing everyone to the one true Allah. When they guide the world to become Muslim, they will have fulfilled God’s second primary purpose for humankind: to be fruitful and multiply.
Islam’s main goal is to help establish and usher in the kingdom of God on earth. Throughout history, Muslim scholars, clergy, leaders, politicians and individuals have disagreed about what this goal entails and how to accomplish it. This is one reason there are different denominations within Islam (like Sunni or Shiites.)
Crossing the Divide
Gardeners and farmers know that a fruitful harvest begins with understanding the soil where they are planting seeds. In this case, the specific soil you’re working with is the heart and mind of a Muslim who does not believe Jesus is God. This is soil that desperately needs gospel seeds. The essential difference between Islam and Christianity is Jesus.
Now that you know this big difference, what’s next?
“I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts.” Exodus 31:3
As with anything, a little knowledge, prayer and a generous spirit of love can help you cross this great divide. Understanding Muslims around you is far simpler than you may believe. And it doesn’t require a college degree in cross-cultural communication or Islamic studies. Start small. Learn more from these helpful resources:
- Read more practical ideas like this in the iHOPE book, Muslims: 5 Biblical Essentials.
- Listen to the iHOPE Empowers Podcast series. Start HERE with Essential #2: finding a ‘person of peace.’(You’ll find the iHOPE Empowers podcast series on iHOPE’s website, iTunes or iHeart Radio.)
- Watch the iHOPE’s free 5-part online video series. Enroll HERE to enroll and get the corresponding Small Group Study Guide. You can also find the series in RightNow Media.
Email me at Renod@iHOPEministries.org to share how this iHOPE blog and resources may have inspired and/or empowered you.