We have heavy stuff coming up in Muslim Connect in the weeks ahead, like looking at the Hajj and understanding Sharia. So I thought we’d lighten up this week with a tongue-in-cheek look at what Christians can learn from Muslims. I firmly believe that both Christians and Muslims can learn from each other, but this list is for fun! (And we’ll look at what Muslims can learn from Christians in a later week!)
It’s a tricky role, isn’t it? Guiding a group of disparate, messed up people on the way of Jesus? Prophet, teacher, counselor, referee and sometimes janitor. Pastors hear the worst of the worst, which might be juicy and interesting the first time or two, but not the 400th! They are expected to encourage and help believers navigate the present world while preparing for the future one. It’s no small task and I’m sure I’m not alone in my sense of empathy and respect.
Islam poses a unique challenge for pastors. “How do I help my people think like God does about Islam? How do I help them love Muslims as Jesus does? What does it mean to be both Christian and American relative to these issues? How do I boldly, yet carefully, walk the prickly path between truth and political correctness, love and wisdom? Remembering that Jesus walked it well and it led him right to the cross.”
Assuming most pastors aren’t pursuing advanced degrees in Islamic Theology, what might actually help them be the thought leaders in this arena we need them to be?
I’d also be happy to hear your ideas. What would help your pastor lead in regard to Islam?
I saw something stunning this week: A young woman shared her story of deciding to follow Jesus in a country that is overwhelmingly Muslim. She endured intimidation, rape and other brutality before eventually fleeing for her life.
Men did terrible things to her; some, at least, in the name of Islam. I don’t pretend to understand this, neither the objective facts nor the underlying issues and subtleties. But this does happen. Certainly not always, but too often.
What is stunning about this woman’s story is her response: She wisely, I think, fled for her life. Then in the neighboring country where she settled for a time and now in the U.S., she winsomely and boldly befriends Muslims. Who would blame her if she insulated herself from everyone with any relationship to Islam? How do you process what she dealt with? How do you move on with your life?
She chooses engagement over estrangement. Filled with the love of Jesus, she seeks ways to kindly share that with others, particularly Muslims. Not knowing her entire life, I assume she stumbles in this occasionally, but she’s trying to be like the man who extended mercy, empathy and kindness, even to the ones who executed him.
What have I suffered at the hands of Muslims? Nothing really. What have you? I don’t know your story and I don’t dismiss indirect suffering. What I do want though is the grace to imitate this woman as she imitates Jesus.
Send me an email if you’d like to know more about this young woman’s story.
Now That’s a Good Question
This afternoon I took four sharp people to visit a mosque for the first time in their lives. We’re in Catania, Sicily and my friend Hassan said, “If you’re wearing pants, not shorts, feel free to go in.” He also tossed me a couple loaner head coverings for the two women.
It was cool to watch their brains crunch the contrast between what we see in the media about Muslims and the peaceful atmosphere inside the mosque. They shared some of their honest deliberation: “I’m a little apprehensive being in here, but I’m not totally sure why.” “I see so much bad stuff. Is that really what goes down in here?” Basically, “How much of what I think, believe and feel about Muslims is true and real? And how do I know?”
The effect was further heightened when we visited the mosque attic where the imam allows some down and out asylum seekers to sleep.
My friends asked insightful questions as we chatted afterwards: “What makes the difference between nice Muslims like these and the ones who blow stuff up?” “Is there really a difference?” “What do I tell my friend who thinks all ‘real’ Muslims want to kill Christians?”
These are great questions and I’m curious about how many Christians are asking them. I’d love to hear your thoughts. And I’d really love to hear your questions. What do you wonder about Muslims, about Islam? What bugs you, puzzles you, makes you scream at the TV. What, if you were shooting straight, makes you a little nervous? What would you like to know.
I’m sure you’re busy, but can you give me 30 seconds to fire off a question? Send it in an email or post it in comments here. I’d love to know what you’re thinking. Thank you.
What if this weekend for no cost and a tiny bit of time, you could make a difference? If you could take a small little piece off the wall separating Christians and Muslims; if you could diffuse the slightest little bit of confusion and hostility, would you do it?
I know what you’re thinking? “Will this make me look dumb?” Well, maybe. Of course everything we do looks dumb to someone. The trick is getting the right people to roll their eyes. Do that and you know you’re on track!
Ramadan ends this weekend and is immediately followed by a three day celebration called Eid Alfitr. It’s a big deal for Muslims and consists of family gatherings, yummy food and presents for kids. Basically a huge, “Whew, we made it through Ramadan!”
Here’s what I want a gazillion Christians to do this weekend: Wish Muslims a Happy Eid. Simply that. (tweet this)
The cool way to say this is “Eid Mubarak” (Eeed moo-Bar-ehk). You can post something on your Facebook page (Tag me if you do, so I can witness your awesomeness!). Or for the really intrepid, actually say it to a Muslim person! If you have a Muslim friend, all the better if you say this while handing them a present of chocolates or dates.
Will you do this with me? Even if we all do, world peace will not land with a thump come Monday. But bit by bit, the kingdom of God will be emerging and people like us will be humble conduits of the love of Jesus. And just maybe a few Muslims will be blessed and encouraged.
Can I ask you to share this post? We’ve only got a couple of days to shoot for the “gazillion Christians” doing this. Thank you.
What if in the space of one night all your prayers could be answered, all your sins forgiven and your destiny for the coming year established? Would you stay up all night and pray? Many Muslims will do just that next Wednesday because they believe on the Night of Power (Layla-tul-Qadr) those very things happen.
The Quran says:
This night, which falls somewhere in the last ten nights of Ramadan, commemorates the first night Muhammad said he began to receive the Quran from the angel Gabriel. This year it happens on Wednesday, June 21st.
It’s hard to over-estimate the significance of this observance for faithful Muslims. Many will gather in mosques and in homes for both organized and private prayer. There will be special Quran readings, introspection and fervent seeking of God.
Given the importance ascribed to this night and the intensity of the spiritual situation, can I suggest we pray for Muslims particularly leading up to and during the Night of Power? Ask that as they seek, they would find the abundant life Jesus said he came to bring.
I’ve posted a document online called “Night of Power Prayer Wall.” Can I ask you to go there and quickly jot a prayer or two? Even if you’re not the type of person who usually comments, the rest of us will benefit from seeing your prayer and joining in it together. Click here to post your prayer and read what others are praying.
Do you ever just need to curl up in your own space, pull the blinds and shut out the world? Me too! I hope that doesn’t reflect poorly on our parents!
Other times I’m fascinated by the people around me. In fact, I’m writing this morning from the airport in Houston and am wondering, “Who are all these people? These different colors, sizes, backgrounds. . .lives? Where’d they come from? What are they living for?
I want to encourage that sense of wonder about the people of the world. I want us to cultivate curiosity.
My friends Jessey and Jeff say, “Relationships are the beginning of peace.” And curiosity can be the beginning of relationship.
Can I invite you to cultivate curiosity regarding Muslims? Imagine, or actually notice, some Muslims and ask yourself:
What do they think of when they think of home?
Were they born here or far away?
If far away, what was it like to get here?
What languages do they speak, do they hope to learn?
What are their concerns for their kids, their parents?
How do they feel when the news reports someone shouting, “Allahu Akbar,” then killing a bunch of people?
Would they like to have four wives or is one really more than they can handle?
What work do they do and is it harder for them to get a job than me?
What do they think of when they think of God?
Cultivating curiosity doesn’t solve everything between Muslims and Christians, but it’s one starting point.
If you want to bounce curiosity out of your head and onto the street, grab a copy of this cultural scavenger hunt. You and some buds will have a ball working on it an ethnic part of town.