Exactly how true Christianity brought about a change in the world at its inception is strikingly different from the methods used in amassing the first converts to Islam. Though the Quran states that “there shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion” (Al-Baqarah (The Cow), 2:256, https://quran.com/2), Islam spread with eight years of war against Meccan tribes from 624-623 AD (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam). Muhammad had united Arabia into a single Muslim religious polity, but he had done so primarily by military power.
In stark contrast to Islam, Jesus pointed out that the establishment of His kingdom would not entail carnal warfare but rather a change in the hearts of those who decided to follow Him. Approximately 540 years before the birth of Muhammad, Jesus stated, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). In this universal call, Jesus respects our free will. It is up to us whether or not we “wish” to follow Him.
In the Parable of the Leaven (Matthew 13:33), Jesus teaches that just as leaven has the ability to change flour into which it is placed, the gospel has the ability to transform the lives of those who accept it. This voluntary, inward transformation brought about the first converts to Christ (Acts 2:37,38,41) and will continue to do so until the end of time. The true Kingdom of God has nothing to do with military conquests or laws imposed on people against their will. It changes the heart and has the capacity to transform entire cities without the coercive methods of man-made religion.
Unfortunately, many Muslims equate Christianity with crusades, inquisitions, and other atrocities committed by those who claimed to follow Christ. Many of those in Islam are completely unaware that such carnal tactics have nothing to do with what is taught by Jesus in the New Testament.
May God help us to show those in Islam and other religions that we have been truly transformed by the gospel of Christ. May we offer them the same universal call to follow Him voluntarily.