About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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Environmental Influences


It's no secret that our cultural environment influences how we think, how we live, and really, who we are.    For the Christian, Jesus and the Bible should influence us more than anything else.  If you have no Biblical understanding, you won't have any Biblical influence, which is often the case with today's Christian.  In Romans 12:1 and 2 the apostle Paul tells us not to be conformed to this world. "This world" is the cultural environment in which we live. The reason why Paul says this is because our cultural environment is sinful.  That's why the first generation Christians viewed the cultural environment in which they lived as something to be rescued from, not embraced. (Acts 2:40)  With this in mind, I would like to point out how the cultural environment influenced both Jesus and Mohammed, especially in the way they spread their gospel.  


Mohammed was born either in 570 or 571 A.D. in Mecca , which is in modern day Saudi Arabia .  The cultural environment in which he grew up in was tribal.  These tribes were constantly at war with each other.  Once a year these tribes would gather in Mecca for a pagan worship celebration.  During the celebration fighting would often break out among these tribes. 


The religious environment Mohammed grew up in was pagan polytheism.  That's the worship of multiple gods.  The paganism in Mohammed's day can be traced to the Canaanite religion seen in the Old Testament, which the God of the Bible detested. 


Mohammed's ethnic environment was Arab, which can be traced back to the Assyrians in the Old Testament.  The Assyrians attacked and overthrew the northern kingdom of Israel before the Babylonians overthrew Judah , the southern kingdom of Israel .       


That's an extremely simplified synopsis of the cultural setting Mohammed grew up and lived in.  The question is, "how did this cultural environment influence  Mohammed's life, and in particular, how did it influence the way in which he spread his brand of gospel"?


Just outside Mecca , in 610 A.D., Mohammed claimed to receive revelations from the archangel Gabriel that resulted in his conversion to a type of monotheism, sometimes called "Abrahamic Monotheism".  Even though he stopped worshipping multiple gods, it is quite evident that the paganism he grew up with influenced his teachings and the way in which he spread his gospel.   Some suggest that Mohammed's teaching, and thus Islamic teaching, is simply an updated version of the old Canaanite religion.  I tend to agree.  One way in which paganism influenced Mohammed, and thus Islam, is seen in the hatred towards Jews and Christians.  Pagan hatred towards Jews was part of the culture Mohammed  grew up in and goes as far back to the time of his forefathers, when Abraham left Ur to settle in Canaan .   


The tribal warfare that Mohammed became a military leader in, influenced the way in which he spread his gospel.  Mohammed was used to attacking, killing, and conquering, his tribal opponents.  With the same military fervor he spread his new religion.  Through military conquest, battle by battle, he fought for political and religious supremacy across northern Africa to the west, and to Persia ( Iran ) to the east.  This is how Islam spread in its infancy.


Jesus was born in Nazareth , which was a rough, tough,  and uncultured town.  Nazareth was nothing like cultured Jerusalem .  Jesus' teenage acquaintances were probably not the type of guys you'd want your son to hang out with.  Street fights were probably commonplace.  Luring teenage girls into the Galilean hills for an afternoon of pleasure might have been a sport the teenage boys played and bragged about.  I wonder what kind of nasty names Jesus was called when He refused to play the game.


Jesus grew up in a traditional Jewish setting.  Judaism became a strict humanistic religion, something Jesus detested later in life.


The culture that Jesus grew up in should have influenced Him to be a rough, tough, not so caring type of guy, motivated by a strict humanistic legalism.  He should have spread His gospel in that same rough, tough, and legalistic way, but He didn't.  Jesus was a  loving and caring man, and when it came to women, he had more respect for them than was culturally common among the men of His day.  


There was another cultural environment that shaped who Jesus was.  Although He was born into humanity in uncultured Nazareth , Jesus' real home was in heaven.  It was that cultural setting that influenced Jesus in who He was, and how He spread His gospel.


Unlike Mohammed and his Islamic followers, Jesus and His earliest followers did not spread their gospel by means of military force.  They simply preached the gospel, healed the sick, and loved those who persecuted and killed them.  Still, Jesus' gospel spread throughout the known world.   


One could write a book on how the cultural settings influenced, or didn't influence, both Jesus and Mohammed.  If you take the time to think about it, there's no other logical choice but to conclude that Jesus is the one to whom you should serve. 


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