The Cross reminds us Christianity is about God’s love
by Rev Julian Mann, TCW:
Standing in front of the central symbol of Christianity at a Q&A for invited constituents in a Sheffield church last week, former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg gave an eloquent defence of freedom of thought and speech.
It was the day of the Islamist atrocity in Stockholm and Mr Clegg was asked about the danger of non-violent Christian counter-cultural views being lumped in with violent religious extremism.
With the Cross behind him, the Sheffield Hallam MP argued passionately that the State cannot suppress ideas in people’s minds and that the most effective way in the long term to counter destructive ideologies is through consistent refutation in an open society.
On this Good Friday, it is worth reflecting on Islam’s negative attitude towards the central saving fact of the Christian faith. The Koran asserts: ‘They denied the truth and uttered a monstrous falsehood against Mary. They declared: “We have put to death the Messiah Jesus the son of Mary, the apostle of Allah.” They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but they thought they did’ (Surah 4.157, trans. 1956 by N.J. Dawood, Penguin).
Though it is unclear here quite who the ‘they’ are – Jews or Jewish converts to Christianity? – the denial of the Cross is clear. The crucifixion of Jesus did not happen according to the Koran. It was an optical illusion. Jesus was lifted up into the presence of Allah without being crucified, the implication being that someone else was crucified who was mistaken for Jesus.
This denial of the Cross is at the heart of the difference between Christianity and Islam. It is why Islam is about power whereas Christianity is about love.