A Conversation About Jesus at the Islamic Center of Reseda

by Kevin Grable

So, what do Muslims believe about Jesus?

That was one question on the minds of representatives of the Valley Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Reseda, CA, on a recent evening at a local mosque.

As part of our ongoing relationship, the Islamic Center of Reseda invited the Valley Vineyard to share a common meal and to engage in a conversation about Jesus.

The meal consisted entirely of home cooking by members of the Islamic community, featuring Moroccan and Pakistani cuisine and more. At the end of the evening, mosque members insisted that the Christians take leftovers, saying that it was a sin to waste food. Given the tastiness of what they served, this did not present a problem.

Following the meal, a leader from the Islamic Center and a leader from the Vineyard presented each faith’s beliefs about Jesus.

Muslims respect and revere Jesus as one of their primary prophets, and a number of stories from the Gospels have found their way into Islamic tradition. Muslims believe that Jesus was a prophet called by God to deliver a specific message – the Injil or Gospel – and that he performed miracles and healed people. The leader from the Islamic center also told two stories from the Qur’an that do not appear in the New Testament: one in which the infant Jesus speaks out in defense of his mother, Mary, and another involving Jesus forming birds out of clay and then breathing life into them and releasing them to fly away.

As a leader at the Vineyard, I then presented a brief explanation of the Christian understanding of Jesus’s life and calling, affirming many Muslim beliefs but expounding on the Christian belief that Jesus is also much more than a prophet.

We discussed not only our common beliefs about Jesus but also two areas where Christian and Muslim belief part company: the divinity of Jesus, and his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection. I spoke about Daniel 7:9-13, in which the Son of Man is given power and dominion; and the sacrificial nature of God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15 and the fulfillment of it in Jesus’s death on the Cross.

It is a measure of the maturity of the Vineyard’s relationship with the local Muslim community that we are able to have in-depth dialogue on these important issues. It is indeed possible to have productive and respectful conversation with those who differ from us, and these two Reseda communities are showing us the way.