My Muslim friends
I want to share something that I haven't shared with too many people because, to be honest, I was a bit fearful of backlash. Having said that I am convinced that this is a significantly important issue and one I hope more people will understand and embrace, and I am convinced that its importance far outweighs any animosity someone might offer up. One of the most fascinating, and disappointing, things I have seen from the church in quite some time is the incredible anti-Muslim sentiment coming from our Christian ranks, particularly since 9/11. Now, don't misunderstand me, I believe in the exclusivity of Jesus. I am convinced that John 14:6 is accurate and that our faith in Jesus Christ alone provides salvation. I am in no way trying to minimize the very real differences that exist between Christianity and Islam. At the same time, however, I am convinced that our faith requires of us humility towards God and man, it requires of us that we love all people, and view all humanity as people with incredible value. With that in mind it is concerning to me that so many Christians seem to view Muslims as if they were the enemy. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that humanity is not our enemy. Our struggle is not against each other. With that being said, even if Muslims were our enemy Scripture is abundantly clear that our call is to love our enemies, and to pray for them. Regardless, then, of whether you view Muslims as your enemy or not it would be a denial of the practice of our faith to treat them poorly, to fail in any attempt to be gracious to them and to live out the call of Jesus Christ to love them. I am committed to living out the Gospel, as I share it with all people and I am convinced that few will respond to our Gospel message if we are combative and attacking, while many may be interested if we humbly share the truth of the Gospel in love, within the context of relationship.
With this in mind, I began a while ago to try and connect with some in our Muslim community here in St. Joseph. I have visited the local Mosque on a couple of occasions for their Friday prayer service, and we have enjoyed the presence of at least one of my Muslim friends at our worship service as well here at Frederick. These attempts have led to some great relationships with some Muslim men here in St. Joe. I found out that the Muslim men I have met are each a picture of hospitality. One of the exciting, and unique, aspects of our relationship has been the opportunity to share my faith with them. They have given me the freedom to clearly share what I believe to be true about Christianity. In return I have gladly given them the freedom to share with me what they believe about Islam. In fact, it has been eye opening to learn about their faith from someone practicing that faith. While there is certainly much we can learn from others who have studied various faiths, I have been surprised at just how much I have learned by studying from those who are immersed in the faith itself.
A strong influence in my life, particularly in this area, has been my friend Bob Roberts. Bob has been living this same type of commitment for a long time now. His teaching and encouragement have really helped open my eyes to the practice of authentic relationship, without sacrificing truth, with those who I may have disagreements with, even significant disagreements. Bob has helped me to see that this type of relationship can honestly exist without the need to compromise, or worse, sacrifice my faith. Recently I heard from Bob about an event his church, Northwood Church, is hosting in November. The event is entitled the "Global Faith Forum". The event will feature speakers from a variety of faith backgrounds, each sharing about their specific faith. We'll have the opportunity to learn about Islam from Muslims, atheism from a Communist, Judaism from Jews, and so on. It is definitely a unique event, and one which may not often, if ever, be able to be repeated. The event includes some pretty significant names from a variety of fields. I'm pretty pumped about attending and learning as much as possible. If you are interested in living out the Gospel, and sharing the Gospel, to those of other faiths I would really encourage you to consider joining us in Ft. Worth November 11-13. You can click here to register.
I am hopeful that a movement is beginning, particularly among conservative Evangelicals, who are embracing a commitment to live out the Gospel and in doing so to live in peace with those who disagree with us. I am obviously hopeful that more and more will believe in the Gospel, will trust in Christ, and I think we are going to have to see this kind of faithful, loving engagement for that to occur more and more. It's my hope, and more specifically my prayer, that God will push many of you reading this to embrace this same type of commitment. I can promise you that it's a fun ride!