If you were anywhere on Earth last week, I assume you heard about the attack in Paris against the newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
Besides the shock for the death of the victims, the big debate was about Safety, Freedom of Religion, and Freedom of Speech in general. The signs that became popular stated “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie), expressing that everyone felt attacked, not just the newspaper.
You might also know that the attackers were killed by the French police a couple days later.
Now I want to take a different perspective: that of the family of the attackers.
Several weeks ago my friend Paul was telling me something he recently learned about Islam (please forgive my limited knowledge, and feel free to correct my statements, if they are not precise).
He was describing that normally for a Muslim to enter Paradise he or she has to go through several stages of purification, but when a Muslim dies as a martyr for his faith, he is given immediate access to Paradise.
Not only him, but a significant number of his close relatives are also granted the same privilege.
That explains, my friend said, why we sometimes see the celebration of the families of those Muslims who died for their faith.
At this point I told my friend: “That is quite similar to Christianity”.
He stared at me for a few seconds, as if I was crazy.
I said: “We also have someone who died as a martyr, and through His sacrifice we are granted access to the presence of God”.
We, similarly to the Muslim belief, receive the benefit without personal merit, just because we have been made family with the one who died on the cross.
Obviously, despite the similarities, there are some major differences:
– The One we Christians trust to give us access to our Father is the only One who lived without sin
– The only One who after dying on the cross defeated death, coming back to life
– The One we trust is the Son of God, and He is God Himself
The Bible presents several names for God, indicating His character and attributes, and one of my favorites is when He presents Himself simply as “I am”. Nothing else needing to be added.
It is a very powerful and awesome way of understanding God.
By the way, in French that becomes: “Je suis”.