Have you ever thought it might be easier to just die rather than have to face the temptations and trials of this world?
I had never given this question much thought before. Until I met Fatima.
Hailing from the Middle East, Fatima was one of the first true believers in Allah that we had known. She had a deep heart and loved to pray. As she came to do a graduate degree in our city, we quickly became close. That’s when I heard her story of falling.
Discovering People of Faith in America
Fatima loved that our family prayed before meals. For she had been afraid that all Americans are immoral and ungodly, basing that belief on what others and the media had told her. Finding people who love God proved comforting to her.
As we got to know her better, she happily began to attend our Friday night international student meetings. We would often include an optional Bible study and discussion time with the students.
Sometimes we sang songs with guitar accompaniment to worship God. One evening I asked Fatima if we were making her go against her own religion since there is no singing worship in the mosque in this way.
She simply replied, “I don’t know, but I love it!”
One Friday night, the Bible study was on the story from Acts 20 of Eutychus who was healed by the Apostle Paul after falling from a window. After we finished the study, Fatima told me she could relate to the story because, when she was a child, she had fallen from a second story window.
“I was only seven, and I miraculously had no injury. I wish, however, that I had died at that time.”
“What? Why is that?” I queried, surprised.
“If I had died then, I would have had fewer sins to account for before Allah.”
A Key Difference
I was pretty shocked when I heard this statement from our friend.
At this point, I realized a key difference between Islam and Christianity. In Islam, the good deeds are weighed against the bad deeds. If the good deeds prevail, the person can enter paradise, but if the bad deeds are more numerous, a terrifying fate awaits. This can be a heavy burden to bear throughout life.
For those who authentically choose to follow Jesus, however, the scenario is different. Christians who take their faith seriously recognize they are incapable of ever being “good enough” to please a God who is completely holy and perfect.
You see, the whole point of Jesus was – and is – to bridge that gap between perfect God and imperfect man. Jesus lived, yes. But his most important work was dying on a cross, something he did not deserve, but did so willingly. In so doing, he offers the free gift of forgiveness. Individuals need to humble themselves and receive the free gift. This is what Christians believe and where they find their hope.
No question about it. Both Christianity and Islam – along with Judaism – stem from a single source. We are, no doubt, "People of the Book." There are many aspects we share in common. But this difference is significant. It is not something to gloss over.
Back to that Fall
Although I may never have the kind of discipline I see in Fatima when she prays five times per day, I am thankful because I deeply believe God loves me and valued me enough to lay aside his “godness,” become a man, and die to provide me a way to have a relationship with Him.
I pray Fatima discovers this Hope, too.
And I’m so glad Fatima didn’t die when she fell. She remains a very special person in our lives.
What do you feel happens after you die? Do you believe good deeds will get you into heaven?