Albert Mohler observes:

The case of Florida pastor Terry Jones presents Christians with an easy judgment but a difficult dilemma. This publicity-seeking pastor of a tiny congregation deserves to be condemned in every way for his act of putting the Qur’an “on trial” and for then burning a copy in a staged act of inflammatory showmanship. The judgment is the easy part. The difficult dimension of this is the fact that even our condemnation gives this pastor what he most desires — public attention....

Pastor Jones is not wrong to see Islam as a way that leads millions of people away from the message of the Gospel, and thus to spiritual death. But he did not reach out with a Gospel message, he simply staged a theatrical stunt intended to draw attention to himself and his church.

There is a striking parallel here with Satan’s temptation of Jesus. From a certain perspective, what Satan suggested or offered to Jesus was on the right track. Jesus genuinely needed bread, he had come to become known among Israel, and the kingdoms of the world were rightfully his. Satan painted his temptations as quick, innocent ways to get to the ends that Jesus genuinely wanted to reach. Of course Satan’s temptations were wrong just because they were not from God, but that is not all; have another deadly feature to them, which is that they were all easy roads, bypassing obedience. They were shortcut routes to distorted destinations.

Similarly, it is good to make it known that Islam is a way of death. It’s even good to make it widely and publicly known; for the more who know it, the more who might be rescued from it. Thus far Pastor Jones was on the right track. But he succumbed to the very temptation that Jesus rejected on the pinnacle of the temple: he made himself a sensation. He bypassed the incarnational work of living among the people with love, sharing their pains and joys, teaching and demonstrating that there is a better way in Christ. I very much doubt his antics have contributed a thing toward rescuing anyone from Islam.

Still, Pastor Jones is receiving his desired public attention. He has created a stir; he has gotten his name in the news. As Jesus put it more than once in Matthew 6, he has received his reward. It is the same kind of reward Jesus would have received had he jumped from the pinnacle of the temple: the insubstantial reward of being an insubstantial spectacle. God intends much better from us and for us than that, as Jesus demonstrated by following the road of obedience.

There is another column in the ledger next to “rewards.” Though he was not the direct, immediate perpetrator of riots and killings in Afghanistan, Pastor Jones still bears real responsibility for them. When God holds him to account for that, I fear that what he has gained through his fame will seem very much lacking.

Articles by Tom Gilson

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