Muslims, Christians, and Jesus
- Thursday, February 19, 2009
Let me tell you, when an AK-47 stares at you, you find an incredible capacity for introspection, along with a unique closeness to God.
I asked myself, If I had to do it all over again, would I spend my life in the Middle East, living among Arabs, trying to be a visible expression of Jesus to them?
I had my answer immediately. The Holy Spirit spoke inside of me so strongly that my body trembled. I heard the words, I love these people.
That's when I realized the truth: I loved these Arabs too. But it wasn't my love that drove me—it was his love for them. I was simply a part of the story.
* * *
Sadly, when my wife and I returned to the United States, we found that the temper of Western Christianity was markedly different. TV, radio, magazines, pulpit messages: so many voices, so much conflict.
Some called for the destruction of Islamic nations, and even Islam on the whole. Others disagreed, but it seemed that almost no one knew what to do, what to say, or even what to hope for.
Entering the arena were many religious voices who found an outlet where they could iterate their political allegiances and use them to fire upon Muslims, Arabs, and sometimes non-Christians in general.
At this juncture I came to a horrifying realization: The momentum within Christianity was moving rapidly into the realm of politics. Some people who felt wounded and vulnerable from the 9/11 attacks found it relatively easy to assume terrorism was synonymous with Islam, making it justifiable in their eyes to beat our plowshares back into swords. I know this is an observation that does not include all Westerners, Americans, or Christians. I also know I am treading on sensitive ground with this subject. But a problem resurfaced that had not been seen since the Crusades. The causes of men were falsely aligned with the causes of God, linking our military successes to his will and broadcasting the message that God is "on our side."
At least that's how my Arab friends saw it. The Christians are coming. Again.
* * *
After we had moved back to the United States, I received invitation after invitation to speak at universities, churches, and other places. I was puzzled by my newfound popularity. One day I realized the truth. It wasn't me that people were interested in; a thirst had awakened, a desire to become more familiar with this religion called Islam. My ego wasn't deflated at all. In fact, my heart surged with hope. Many Christians are now choosing the road less traveled, driven to learn about Islam and thirsty to see if there is a way to reach out to Muslims.
In fact, when I'm asked—as I often am—what is the answer to the issues in the Middle East and I answer "Jesus," I am often mocked as being simplistic, even by my committed Christian friends.
They are looking for a political answer that simply doesn't exist.
When I can't make sense of something, I pull everything back to its simplest point, stripping away the confusion and noisy complexities. What matters is what has always mattered:
* * *
Maybe you're reading this book because you want to understand your Muslim friend or neighbor. Maybe you want to go to the Middle East to share Jesus' love with people. Maybe you're just curious about what makes a Muslim different from you. In any case, my intention is to give you some information to help you befriend a Muslim and practical tips on how to live a life that's truly Good News to a Muslim. I cannot hope to speak for every perspective on every issue. I'm not infallible, I'm not the final word on Islam. I'm only a follower of Jesus who loves Muslims. This book is not intended—in any way—to be the complete and final treatise on this matter; just helpful and genuine.
I've had Muslim scholars read each of these chapters, and they have agreed that what I've said is fair. At the end of many chapters are sections entitled "A Christlike Perspective," which are what I believe would be a response sanctioned by Jesus Christ. For those of us looking to live our lives as much like Jesus as possible, I lay out what he might want us to do with the subject at hand.
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