Our Muslim taxi driver in Paris offered his take on Allah’s mercy as he mentioned that he trusted in God’s mercy for any hope in the afterlife. We attempted to share the hope of salvation found in Christ Jesus in response.
Two days later, my wife mentioned how that conversation bothered her, and her mind went to ways to answer this subject. I also find talking about the mercy of God leaves me puzzled. How does a Christian explain God’s mercy? Is there a difference between how a Muslim describes Allah’s mercy and how the Bible describes understanding? She said, “I knew he would go there as we say the same thing but we mean something different. God shows his mercy through the Lord Jesus. We do not seek saving mercy at the end of our lives but he provided his mercy.”
Saving mercy is based not on our works but on God’s work. For the Muslims, when we say we know God’s promises for provision of his saving mercy, this sounds like a proud statement. Christians often say, “I know for sure I am going to heaven.” Notice the repeated “I” in this statement – sounds pretty cocky to others. Better to say, “Praise God, He has provided eternal life for us.” – giving focus on God’s work and his promises.
Many define mercy as placing yourself in the other person’s situation – getting into their skin and seeing with their eyes, even knowing their feelings. So, in response to the other person, not giving the judgment which that person may deserve. Christ Jesus, in his incarnation, became human to know our hardships and pain. He lived as we did in this world but without sin. His death on the cross gave us a provision for God’s salvation. His grace showed as he gave us what we do not deserve – a way to forgive our sins and then saving mercy to not give us what we justly deserve – hell and the punishment of our sin. The Lord, in compassion, became one of us to get into our skin and feel what we feel.
Based on my studies, I realize that Islam establishes Allah’s actions on his will, but as Christians, we know God’s mercy and love come from his character. In other words, God is merciful not just because of a whim but because he is merciful in his being and nature.
As we drove toward the center of town in Paris, our driver took us through the circle near the Arc of Triumph – a remembrance of victory. In reflection, I thought of God’s mercy in how he gave us a triumph by his provision over our sins. When we accept the provisional mercy he provided, we know the holy God’s conquest over sin. Mercy is when God does not gives us what we deserve – like hell and punishment for our sins. He demonstrates in the cross’s triumph and the Lord Jesus’ resurrections a spiritual Arc of Triumph for those who trust. One definition of the word triumphs is the word “vanquished.” God eliminated our shame and sin’s punishment when we joined with him and accepted his salvation provision.
As my wife and I talked, I mentioned that God’s mercy comes from his character, but Allah’s mercy comes from his will. My wife responded that mercy from one’s will makes it capricious – unpredictable when mercy may be offered or refused. Biblical mercy sources in God as he provides the mercy to those who can never deserve to earn his compassion, but Allah’s practical mercy becomes a worked-mercy since Muslims need to strive to achieve this type of kindness toward them. So when they are talking about mercy, they are talking about Allah’s will, evoking his mercy on their lives as a help.
For those convinced of their beliefs, the love of God and prayer will knock on their door. Muslims firmly believe in Allah’s will to be the driving force, so one’s actions become crucial. For Christians, God’s character and promise dominate as we lean on God’s provision for salvation. For this reason, our conversations with Muslims speak to a different level, especially when the subject focuses on mercy.
God’s mercy is triumphant in that he proactively moves to demonstrate his loyal love. I love the verse in Lamentations 2:21-23 which says, “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. 22 It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (KJV).
For further study check out “Difference in Oneness.”