We are in the season of Advent when we look back to the time Jesus came and we are looking forward to Jesus coming again. But is this good news just for Christians?
I ask the question because there is a whole series of movements of people following Jesus whilst staying in their own religious tradition. Probably the most well known one, for Christians, are the Messianic Jews. These people are observant Jews and follow the Torah but they also recognise Jesus as Messiah. In the main these people are recognised as faithful followers of Jesus and many churches invite people from the Messianic community to teach and share in church.
But what about Hindus followers of Jesus? Or Muslim followers of Jesus? They certainly exist. So, Professor Prabhu Guptara describes himself as a ‘Hindu Follower of Jesus’ (HFJ). He challenges Christians when he says
HFJ are specifically anti-Christian, because we consider all forms of Christianity as systematic attempts to prevent people from understanding the person and teachings of Jesus the Lord. We have this understanding from Jesus the Lord who was Himself quite anti-religious (He was crucified at the instigation of religious people, on the basis that He was anti-religious). While, it is of course true that some Christians are followers of Jesus the Lord (and we are happy to recognise them as such), we are sure that Jesus the Lord is horrified by the ‘Churches’’ transmogrification of Him, His work and His teaching into ‘Christian’ religious structures and obscurantism.
Then there are the Muslim followers of Jesus. Carl Medearis was a missionary in the Middle East but now dislikes the term. He realized that Christianity got in the way of Jesus. He says
While the cross is the favourite symbol of Jesus in the Western arena, to the Eastern mind, Jesus is like Robin Hood or Ivanhoe…. He is the stuff of legend. He is the personification of a holy prophet, and yet a man of the people. He is a hero.
He started to just talk about Jesus. And people responded. Joseph Cummings tells a similar story
In the 1980s a similar movement began among Muslims who had come to faith in Christ. These were Muslims who trusted Jesus as Lord and divine Savior, believed Jesus died for their sins and rose again, and insisted this did not make them ex-Muslims or converts to the Christian religion. They wanted to remain within their Muslim community, honoring Jesus in that context.
Ibrahim was a well-respected scholar of the Qur’an, a hafiz. When he decided to follow Jesus, he closely examined the Qur’anic verses commonly understood as denying the Trinity, denying Jesus’ divine Sonship, denying Jesus’ atoning death, and denying the textual integrity of the Bible. He concluded that each of these verses was open to alternate interpretations, and that he could therefore follow Jesus as a Muslim. Soon members of his family and community came to share his faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior… Ibrahim still wanted to follow Jesus as a Muslim.