Loving our Muslim Neighbors, Part II
- Monday, September 11, 2006
The following article is the second in a two-part series about how Western Christians can reach out to their Muslim neighbors. If you missed Part I, you can read it here.
Some Difficult Truths
Not all stories in Muslim ministry resolve so neatly. In fact, ministry to Muslims is notoriously labor-intensive, slow, and difficult. And hard truths remain, despite our best attempts at cross-cultural sensitivity.
"Islam's ultimate goal is to bring the world under Islamic law," said Ashton Stewart, the director of Persian ministry for the Association of Reformed Presbyterian Churches (ARP), and a church planter. "Though not all Muslims live this way, this is what is preached from the mosques. Muslims are taught to acquire property and social standing, and to increase their political power so that they can Islamicize the world. Where Islam is the dominant religion — at least 55 countries in the world — no other religion is tolerated unless it agrees to submit to Islamic rule."
Consequently, confronting Islam is a spiritual battle, says Stewart. "Christians need to take seriously the weapons of prayer and the Word. Every time you witness to a Muslim your faith will be tested."
If the Christian's goal were world peace, this would be especially troubling, says Stewart. But that's not so. "Taking sides on peace in the Middle East is the wrong conversation for the Christian church. We are called to spread the gospel to all nations, including those in the Middle East."
Christians and Muslims are inevitably in conflict, says Jud Lamos, current director of MTW's Enterprise for Christian-Muslim Relations. "In many ways, we are traditional enemies. Many Muslims still seethe with anger over conflict that goes back as far as the Crusades." So inevitably, there is polarization on both sides. "As societies, they hate us, so we hate them," said Lamos. "They are afraid of us, and we are afraid of them. So it is important that we see Christ as the ultimate answer to the hatred that exists between nations and peoples. We need to be followers of Christ and love our enemies while at the same time exercising our abilities to protect our freedoms."
Stewart reported that an American friend began to rethink his attitude toward Muslims as he learned more about them. "I was wrong in hating Muslims," the friend said. "I can see now that God loves them and is working in them. I don't want a spirit of fear or revenge to control me."
Reaching Out to the Muslims Around Us
There was a time when one had to travel thousands of miles from the U.S. to take the gospel of Christ to Muslims. No more.
Muslims in the U.S., who now number between two and six million, are more responsive to the gospel than those in their culture of origin says Iraj, an Iranian immigrant and Christian convert who heads a "Light for Islam" ministry, estimating that some 20 percent of them convert to Christianity. "These Muslims are generally more open because they have more freedom, less pressure from their family and peers, and are influenced by an American way of thinking."
Anees Zaka's Church Without Walls ministry allows him frequent interaction with Muslims in the U.S. "I pastored Presbyterian churches in the Middle East for years and was never able to enter a mosque," said Zaka. "But here in the U.S. I meet with Muslims in mosques several times a week."
Though the average Christian is intimidated at the thought of talking about faith with a Muslim, opportunities abound. "We all encounter Muslims now — everywhere," said Carl Ellis of Project Joseph. And believers don't necessarily have to study the Koran or know all about Islam to befriend them. "The Word of God does the heavy lifting when applied to each individual's issues."
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