Why the Cross Is Good News for Muslims – The Stream

Muslims reject the cross. They deny Jesus was crucified and rose again. Since their highest authority — the Quran — explicitly denies His crucifixion and resurrection (surah 4:157), they really have no choice. Whatever the Quran affirms, they must affirm. Whatever it denies, they must deny. Rejecting the reality of the cross, though, means Muslims miss out on a theological reality that has eternal consequences.

An Eternal Fate That Hangs in the Balance

Part of the problem is that Islam operates on a merit system. Whether you enter Paradise or not is based on your works. You are born with a clean slate (Islam rejects the idea that we are born with a sin nature), and you accrue good and bad deeds during your life. Two angels keep track of your deeds: one tracks your good deeds, and the other tracks your bad deeds. At the final resurrection, all your good and bad deeds are placed on a scale (surah 21:47, 7:8–9). If your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds, you go to Paradise. If your bad deeds outweigh your good deeds, you go to Hell. Although some Muslims tell me that additional factors can play a role in your destiny, they confirm that the Islamic system of salvation is based on individual merit.

A Muslim who puts his trust in Christ is free from the uncertainty of where he’ll spend eternity.

One of the most significant ways a Muslim can shift the scale in his favor is to undertake a mandatory pilgrimage to Mecca called the hajj (surah 22:27), which entails performing numerous rituals in and around Mecca for about a week. After completion, Muslims are cleansed of all their sins, thereby resetting their sin count to zero. It’s as if they were born again with a blank slate, though they get to keep the good deeds they’ve already accrued. Mohammed himself said, “Whoever performs Hajj to this Kaaba and does not approach his wife for sexual relations nor commit sins (while performing Hajj), he will come out as sinless as a newborn child, (just delivered by his mother)” (Bukhari 1820). At the moment a Muslim completes the hajj, he has zero bad deeds but a life’s worth of good deeds. 

Here’s the problem: Unless a Muslim dies immediately after completing the hajj, he’ll start accruing bad deeds again. Depending on how much longer he lives and the number of bad deeds he accrues, he’ll be left again with uncertainty about his eternal fate.

Jesus, the Cross, and the Problem of Sin

Jesus and the cross directly address this problem. Unlike the one-time zeroing out of your sins with the hajj, Christ’s work on the cross forgives all your sins — past, present, and future. You no longer need to strive to earn additional merit or worry about racking up additional sin. Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” At the moment a person puts their trust in Jesus, God justifies them. That person is no longer a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3), but now is a child of God, adopted into His family. When God looks at that person, He doesn’t see the stains of sin, but the righteousness of Christ.

The fact that a person’s future sins are forgiven doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to continue to sin, presuming on God’s grace (Rom. 6:1–2). Such an attitude is unchristian. Nor is it appropriate to neglect to confess your sin. Indeed, we’re still commanded to confess sin (1 John 1:9).

The cross, though, is the good news that Muslims need. A Muslim who puts his trust in Christ is free from the uncertainty of where he’ll spend eternity. He no longer needs to chase a lifetime of good deeds or fear accumulating bad deeds. Jesus completes the work on his behalf. He earns that person God’s favor.

Jesus Tips the Balance of Allah’s Scales

In fact, what Jesus offers Muslims — and the rest of us — is even better. Christ not only forgives your sins through His work on the cross, but also transfers His righteousness to the individual who asks for salvation. That means Jesus addresses both sides of Allah’s scales. One the one hand, His death on the cross cancels sin, thereby eliminating the weight of a person’s bad deeds. On the other hand, His righteousness weighs down the other side of the scale. With no bad deeds on one side and all good deeds on the other, the scale of justice is tipped in your favor. You don’t have to wonder about your destiny. Jesus takes care of both sides of the ledger.

Having said all this, I’m not claiming the Islamic system of salvation is true or that God uses a scale. Rather, I’m pointing out that the cross is good news for Muslims, should they put their trust in Christ. It will end their lifelong (and impossible) struggle to earn God’s favor, and grant them confidence in their eternal destiny.

Alan Shlemon is an author and speaker for Stand to Reason. He trains Christians to share their convictions in a persuasive yet gracious manner. He has been a guest on both radio and television, and has spoken to thousands of adults and students across the country at churches, conferences, and college campuses.

Copyright 2024 Republished with permission.

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