Muslim Followers of Jesus

I just finished editing a fascinating article and series of responses on what is known (to a very small circle) as the C4/C5 controversy. Never mind the terminology, which concerns a sociological scale of different religious identities. The controversy is over the existence of Muslim followers of Jesus. They exist in great numbers throughout the world, I am told, and not in secret. They participate in Islamic life and religion, but they follow Jesus.

One may well ask, how can you follow two religions at once? The answer has to do with how the two faiths construe their identity.

Islam is a faith of nurture and context. If you are born a Muslim, you only stop being a Muslim if you decide not to be one. (There may be fervent Muslims and not-so-fervent Muslims, but they are all Muslims.)

Whereas followers of Jesus never consider birth central. It’s up to each person to believe and embrace the faith. You find Christian parents praying for their children to give their lives to Jesus. If the children don’t, they aren’t considered Christians.

Islam is a religion of law. God is beyond us, but his will is revealed. And thus Islam is closely identified with a Koran-inspired culture. (That’s why shariah law is a big deal.) If you live in that culture and appreciate that culture, you are living as a Muslim.

Whereas followers of Jesus are much more concerned with a personal relationship to Jesus. Sincerity and faith are the key. Living in a “Christian” culture may actually get in the way.

I think that is why separation of church and state first happened in so-called Christian nations. Followers of Jesus see their relationship to him as much more significant than the legal framework they live within.

A Muslim follower of Jesus is one who was born a Muslim and never divorced his culture and his heritage. He finds enough leeway in the Koran and in his community to allow him to follow Jesus and still remain firmly embedded in his Muslim heritage.

There’s lots of controversy about this movement. Some Muslim followers of Jesus have reportedly been murdered by other Muslims for refusing to stop declaring their allegiance to Jesus. And some Christian leaders are convinced Muslim followers of Jesus are trying to live a contradiction, pushed on by zealous missionaries.

I wonder whether these kinds of mixed allegiances will become more common in our globalized world.


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8 Responses to “Muslim Followers of Jesus”

  1. Paul VanderKlay Says:

    Someone once told me that there are even Americans that say they follow Jesus. I have my doubts. 😉 pvk

  2. jun Says:

    I just had a wonderful privilege of listening to one. He was raised a Muslim and studied Islam for 17 years. He came from a tribe that equates their identity with being a Muslim. He became a Christian by taking the Koran and some Muslim writing that mentions Isa al Masih seriously. He remains a Muslim “culturally”, but is a true follower of Jesus Christ through and through. I am just amazed of how the Lord calls people to Himself.

  3. markelkinsblog Says:

    I don’t see how there should be any controversy at all. Jesus never called anyone to divorce themselves from their culture. The Apostle Paul told Gentile Christians not to embrace the law, the major part of Jewish culture. But just before he was arrested in Jerusalem, he was purifying himself in the temple because he had “taken an oath”. This was something clearly “Jewish”.

    As Christians, we should divorce ourselves from violence, drunkenness, gossip, selfishness, and a host of other things that get between us and God. Although many people call the United States “Christian”, our culture is far from Christ’s teachings. I did not have to divorce my culture, only harm full aspects of it. Anyone else should have the same opportunity.

  4. Bill Reichert Says:

    Isn’t this really the Jews for Jesus controversy taken from a different angle?

    • timstafford Says:

      Yes, there are some striking parallels between Muslim followers of Jesus and Messianic Jews. But there are also some striking differences.

  5. Fred Prudek Says:

    I think that the major concern in my opinion with this issue is ecclesiology. I have trouble understanding what role the church plays in the insider movement. Where does the Lord’s Supper and public baptism and the ecclesia (gathering) fit into the Muslim followers of Jesus movement, and if it is delayed because of persecution, is that a valid reason to exclude the ecclesia?

  6. Carol Andersen Says:

    I’m with your first respondent, Paul. If you can be culturally American and follow Jesus, certainly it is not outside the realm of possibility that you could be culturally “Muslim” and follow Jesus. Seriously, I think these insider movements of Muslims following Jesus within their cultural setting are arguably the most incredible thing that God is up to in our world today. There are many elements that remind me of the book of Acts – persecution, signs and wonders, but maybe most of all the central issue of the Jerusalem council – did the the Gentiles have to become culturally Jewish to follow Jesus. Do we seriously think that our Protestant Christian cultural forms are necessary for people to follow Jesus? As Peter says in Acts 15:10 (my paraphrase) – why would we want to burden them so?

  7. moraloutrage Says:

    What is not well understood is that Muslims revere Jesus as one of God’s greatest messengers to mankind. Disrespect toward Jesus, as we have seen all too often in our society, is very offensive to Muslims.

    Verses in the Koran state that Jesus was strengthened with the “Holy Spirit” (Qur’an 2:87) and is a “sign for the whole world”(Qur’an 21:91). His virgin birth was confirmed when Mary is quoted as asking: “How can I have a son when no man has ever touched me?” (Qur’an 3:47)

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