Evangelizing Muslims: An Interview with Thabiti Anyabwile
- Saturday, February 12, 2011
Trevin Wax: You devote an entire chapter to hospitality. How does hospitality bolster our evangelistic witness?
Thabiti Anyabwile: The Scripture commands us to "be hospitable." The active practice of hospitality has several spiritual benefits. When we move out toward others in hospitality, we make our love concrete and real. Hospitality helps us conquer the tendency to privatize our faith, fear of man, passivity, and even xenophobia. When we practice hospitality, we're able to show kindness to strangers (Exod. 22:21; 23:9; Heb. 13:2), to build meaningful relationships, and in a certain sense to render service to Jesus himself (Matt. 25:34-40).
Sadly, most immigrants to the United States never enter a Christian home. In our failure to be inviting and to care for "the strangers in our gates," we end up forfeiting precious opportunities to help them settle into the community, cross cultural bridges, and alter stereotypes of Christians. Hospitality brings us close to people in intimate settings. And that both commends the gospel and creates gospel opportunity.
Trevin Wax: How do Muslims view the Christian church? And how does their view help or hinder our witness?
Thabiti Anyabwile: Most Muslims confuse Christianity and the Christian with "the West" in general. They use the terms as synonyms. And since many Muslims view the West as a place of decadence, sensuality, immorality, and injustice, they tend to think of Christians as hypocrites, people professing religious faith but living lives quite contrary.
We have to be quite honest and sober about this critique. For the Lord himself said that the world could legitimately judge the authenticity of our discipleship by how we love one another (John 13:34-35). He calls us to let our light so shine before men that our Father in heaven would be praised (Matt. 5:16). So, this critique, while sometimes wrongly confusing Western culture with Christianity, needs to be heard and addressed.
I think we'll find that there are places where we fall short of demonstrating what the new community of God's redeemed people looks like. In those areas, we need to repent and turn to Christ for fresh grace.
But this critique also gives us an opportunity. The church is filled with hypocrites—but redeemed hypocrites. We are imperfect ambassadors of Christ, but we mourn our shortcomings, we do recognize a significant difference between the world and the church, and we have the only real solution to hypocrisy—the gospel.
In Islam, hypocrisy is always a reality. The Muslim is always conscious of his failings to submit to the will of Allah. If he or she is honest, they know that no amount of religious observance delivers them form the stain of sin and the inconsistency that arises.
Only the cross of Christ removes that stain and the sin that caused it. Only the grace of God in Christ Jesus promises a clean conscience, peace and reconciliation with God, and the power of a renewed life. So, we have the opportunity to demonstrate the power of the gospel by humbly confessing our weaknesses and sins, by living in ways that are genuinely distinct from the worldly culture that surrounds us, and by holding out the perfect righteousness of Christ as our righteousness by faith.
Trevin Wax: For those who do not know any Muslims personally, how would you recommend we start building relationships?
Thabiti Anyabwile: First, pray. Ask the Lord to lead you to specific relationships where you can be fruitful in His cause.
Second, consider your leisure and shopping habits. Are there some restaurants or retail establishments that you could visit that would put you in contact with Muslim neighbors?
Third, build a network. If you don't have any Muslim friends, there is a good chance that someone in your church or workplace does. "Borrow" their Muslim friends by opening your home and inviting them over.
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