Handcuffed man black and white

Conflict in Christianity, Islam, and Judaism

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A key difference between the religions of Christianity and Islam is their approach to conflict. In Islam, it is acceptable to fight and kill in certain situations, though this is usually permitted as self-defence in the face of persecution.

The Old Testament is full of conflict. God commands Israel to fight and conquer certain nations at certain times. So we can say that in both Islam and Judaism, fighting is permitted and even ordered by God, often in response to periods of great sin and transgression.

We know from the story of David and Goliath that fighting isn’t about who has the biggest army, it’s about who has the One True God on their side. Religious conflict can occur, but it is of course always in God’s hands what the outcome will be.

Christianity is a different kind of religion. The radical approach to conflict brought by Jesus is that we should never fight. We should always turn the other cheek and go the extra mile – even pray for our enemies and for those who persecute us.

I’m mindful of the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ which was part of the Decalogue given to Moses. It would seem that the teaching of Jesus reinforces this, even taking it much further as regards avoiding conflict. The Christian approach to conflict is radically different to that found in the Qur’an and in the Jewish Scriptures.

The question for all of us must be: which religion do I follow? How can I take one approach or the other when all Scripture in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity is God ordained (in my understanding)?

Many people will simply follow the religion of their forefathers, but I think it’s good to consider the issues deeply and personally and try to understand the perspectives of religions other than our own. Perhaps, if we do this, we might be able to find a way that all the Abrahamic religions can be reconciled.

The major areas of disagreement in the Abrahamic religions, as I understand them, are the supposed divinity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity. Both of these ideas are rejected in the Qur’an. But I wonder, can there still be a Christian faith if Jesus is not God and the doctrine of the Trinity is a fabrication?

If Jesus is viewed as a prophet, as is the case in Islam, this doesn’t diminish his moral teaching. He is still a mighty prophet through whom God worked many miracles. And I don’t believe we can dismiss all the miracles that have happened when people have prayed to Jesus throughout Christian history (I have witnessed amazing miracles through prayer to Jesus myself).

Muslims argue that Jesus never did, and never would claim divinity, but this is hard to reconcile with many of the Scriptures in the New Testament that have historically been understood to be evidence of a divine Jesus. Is it perhaps the case that Jesus only performed miracles by praying to God the Father and not through any divine authority of his own? If this is the case it might enable the Scriptures of the Abrahamic religions to be reconciled, and it doesn’t mean we have to neglect the person and teaching of Jesus, just that we might need to understand his person and mission a little differently.

A final thought. I wonder whether different religious perspectives that seemingly contradict each other are all valid. Perhaps truth is not absolute, and I mean this in the sense that all three of the major Abrahamic religions can feel totally truthful in their own right, even though they are often considered to disagree with one another. Is this kind of pluralism something we can and should accept? Or is it the case, as I have suggested, that the truth will mean all three religions can be peacefully reconciled?

It’s important to remember that the Christian Scriptures found in our Bibles were chosen selectively and have changed over time (and there are many different versions, of course). So maybe we have to take seriously the claims of corruption made by Muslims who revere the Qur’an as the word of God.

Ultimately, of course, it’s all in God’s hands, and we all must consult the Lord in accordance with our conscience. Judgment day is not an area of disagreement among the Abrahamic religions, so this should always be on our minds. I pray that there would be clarity for me, and for all of us, in understanding the different perspectives found in the Abrahamic religions, especially as they relate to the serious subject of conflict, and whether or not seemingly contradictory teachings can be reconciled.