“Convert to Islam or die” has been the call from the Islamic militant group ISIS to Christians in Iraq. This barbaric call to convert to Islam of be beheaded differs greatly from the call of Jesus Christ. Let’s consider just some of the contrasts.
First, the call of Christ is a call of compassion; not a call by compulsion. When Jesus Christ walked on this earth and looked at the crowds that followed him, he had compassion on them because he saw them as sheep without a shepherd. The Bible says we are all like sheep; we’ve all strayed from God and from the way we are to live. That is why each of us needs a Good Shepherd to search for us and to bring us back into the fold of God’s kingdom. Jesus is that Shepherd who came to seek and save that which was lost. While Jesus accomplished salvation through His sinless life and His sacrificial death on the cross, paying the debt of sin for all those who will believe in Him, the now resurrected and ascended Jesus compassionately seeks out His own today by the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus does not strong arm any of us to believe in Him. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17, English Standard Version). While it is true that God the Father must draw us to Christ so that any of us could believe in Him, when our minds are illumined by the Holy Spirit, we realize that it is God who says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3 New International Version).
Secondly, the call of Christ is a call to life; not a call for death. Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” Because we are all born in sin and with a sin nature, we are all spiritually dead, with no hope of life, and in desperate need of salvation. We need a way (a door) to be made spiritually alive. Jesus is that door God has sent for us. Then Jesus says, “The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy…” Now who is this “thief” of which Jesus is speaking? Is it not the devil that has always been the one working in the world and even works through individuals of false religions (such as ISIS) who want to steal, and to kill, and to destroy? In contrast to this “thief” and his works of death and destruction, Jesus says, “…I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:10, 27-28, ESV). It is only in and through Jesus Christ and being His sheep through faith that you and I can find life, abundant and eternal. He is not only the Good Shepherd who leads us to life; He’s the door through which you and I may find life. Jesus said, “enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14, ESV).
Finally, the call of Christ is an invitation to enemies; not an elimination of enemies. Since you and I are born in sin, we are naturally born enemies of God and so we are in need of reconciliation to God. The Bible says that God put forward Jesus Christ as a propitiation, or a sin offering, on our behalf so that you and I might be reconciled into a right relationship with God. The apostle Paul said, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Romans 5:6-8, 10, ESV). The group ISIS desires to eliminate the believers in Jesus because they hate Jesus and so they think that if they kill all of Jesus’ believers, they can somehow kill Jesus. The aforementioned apostle Paul had a similar mindset before his encounter with the risen Lord on the road to Damascus. If only the people of ISIS would understand as Paul came to find out, that Jesus Christ is not only a merciful and compassionate Savior, but He is also Lord of all, who loves them, desires to forgive them, and is calling them to be reconciled to God.