The Muslims can argue over “battle gains” from the Battle of Badr if they want to but the “good” can easily become “bad” if they push this too far.  Disbelievers will receive punishment in the end; are they sure they want to argue and show a profound lack of trust in God?  So is the gist of today’s passage

It is 8:31 that has caught my attention today:

Whenever Our [Allah’s] Revelation [the Qur’an] is recited to them they say, “We have heard all this before — we could say something like this if we wanted — this is nothing but ancient fables.”

That is really the question, isn’t it?  Is there anything about this revelation that is new, unique, unheard of?  Could this be made up or is there something so unlike the stories told before that makes the revelations of Muhammad stand out as unparalleled? 

Of course, the same questions needs to be asked of every other “grand story” or metanarrative for life.  Is this just the same story people have always told or is it something special? 

The same question needs to be asked of the “stories” by which people today live:

  • Materialism — only that which can be sensed is real and capable of truly satisfying our needs and wants, so gather all you can
  • Nationalism — my nation is superior to all others and as long as we remain strong, rich, and intimidating we can ensure the best kind of life possible
  • Hedonism — physical pleasure will fulfill like nothing else so “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die”
  • Egoism — “I” am most important so look at me, love me, want me, give me attention because there is no better experience than when I am the trending topic
  • Romance — the love of the perfect mate will satisfy you like nothing else can

Are these really new, unique stories or is this just another “ancient fable?”  Wouldn’t we agree that as long as people have lived they have lived their lives by these stories?  Across time, gender, race, or socioeconomic level people have lived these stories.  Nationalism did not stop Rome from falling; will it stop America or China or Iran?  Whether the “I” was Caesar, Rameses, Napoleon, or Lady Gaga, “I” seems to end up empty and alone.  Is Bill Gates any more immortal than Tutankhamen or Solomon?  These are no new stories.  “We could say something like this if we wanted!”

And what about the “story” or metanarrative of Jesus?  Is it any different?  Is the way of Christ unique?

The God who created the world in power, majesty and love desired a relationship with his creation so much that he condescended to take on flesh and become a creature as well.  The God who is so holy that he is offended by sin is also so loving that He takes on the very punishment of sin and pays the price for human rebellion Himself.  The God who rules all things displays his ultimate power through the resurrection of the One who died, therefore overthrowing the twin forces feared by all human beings, Evil and Death.  The God who is so demanding He requires holiness of His followers also agrees to live within His followers as the empowering presence that makes holiness a reality.  This God invites all people regardless of past failures to find the greatest fulfillment in a life lived for others and in advancement of a kingdom that is not our own. 

What other god does that?  What other god would dare?  What other god would become so vulnerable?  What other god thinks that much of the creation?  What other story champions grace?  What other story says dependence produces worthiness, not work?  What other story says fulfillment comes through self-sacrifice?  What other story says the way up is down?  Is that a unique story, the kind that people haven’t “heard before?”  It seems so to me.

And what about the story told by Muhammad?  Is it something new, different, and unique?  That is the question the “disbelievers” of Muhammad’s time were asking.  It is also the question we are asking this year, isn’t it?