Friday, July 21, 2017

A Middle Eastern Perspective on Loving Muslims Part 1

"God's spirit is upon me: he's chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to set the burdened and battered free, to announce, "This is God's year to act!" Luke 4:18 & 19 The Message

This week I'll highlight Brother Emad's story. He had just graduated from Bible College. Even though he saw the command in the New Testament to be a witness to those around him, there were three main factors that kept him from doing so:

"1. Fear. As a Middle Eastern Christian sharing my faith with Muslims was a difficult subject. I was not open to 'loving Muslims'. Fear and prejudice kept Christians far apart from Muslims. A lesson we had learned from history was that we couldn't trust Muslims. When someone suggested that I should share the Gospel with Muslims, I was convinced that this isn't possible. I had been brainwashed that under Islamic law it was illegal to witness to a Muslim. I was told it could even result in being sent to jail! No way did I want to take a chance of being severely harassed, risk persecution and imprisonment.

2. Argumentative Apologetic Approach. It seemed that often when the subject of religion came up between Muslims and Christians, there was a scene or shouting match. I wasn't interested in "fighting about religion". In my country both Christians and Muslims argued "my religion is better than your religion". It was all about someone being a winner and a loser. You were constantly poised to defend your religion and even shoved around if you tried sharing in public. This led to a total impasse between Muslims and Christians. At the end of the day, it left us feeling defeated.

3. Wrong theology. Middle Eastern Christians look at Acts 1:8: "But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere--in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." as their guide to witnessing. It clearly states that we are to start in Jerusalem, then Judea and Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth. Christians' thinking was first we will evangelize nominal Christians. Once they are all saved and only then would we witness to Muslims. And once all of the Muslims were saved, we would go to the uttermost part of the earth.

In my first year of ministry, I attended a conference on church planting among Muslims. The speaker spent time explaining 2 Corinthians 4:15 "All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God." What challenged me was the "More". Who are the "More"? I realized that "The More" are Muslims all around me. The speaker challenged us to reach out to Muslims but with a new approach. He really got my attention. It started me on a journey of rethinking what ministry to Muslims could look like. No one needed to remind me that the old way of doing things wasn't working."

Thank-you Lord for getting Brother Emad's attention and preparing him to reach out to his Muslim neighbors and colleagues. Amen.