What Jesus Would Say to Our Muslim Neighbors
(September 19, 2017)
The world lost a wonderful man last weekend. Nabeel Qureshi, an ex-Muslim turned Christ follower, succumbed to stomach cancer at the age of 34.
Qureshi published three books, including Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity. Qureshi also worked with Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias. (Read his loving tribute here.) Qureshi used his radical conversion from Islam to Christianity to show the depth and transforming power of Christ’s love. He was salt in a world void of flavor.
This summer, I started following Qureshi on Twitter, encouraged by his passion for Christ. In a world that tells us truth is an ever-moving target, Qureshi stood firm on the Living Hope he’d discovered. He describes the moment he encounter this Hope in his book: “I could not put the Bible down. I literally could not. It felt as if my heart would stop beating, perhaps implode, if I put it down.”
Perhaps what is most encouraging about Qureshi’s testimony is his about-face while growing up Muslim. Devotees of Allah don’t casually leave their faith. Rather, they are ousted from everything – family, culture, and connection. For Qureshi, and others like him, following Christ involves great sacrifice.
Qureshi’s life, and his death, unearths an honest assessment of my heart: I’m confused about how to truly love my Muslim neighbors.
That statement isn’t politically correct. Some may argue it’s not even Christ-like. So be it. Sometimes the best way to work through the dark parts of our hearts is to hunker down with the Savior who knows us. He sees me as His child, but also as a frustrated and sometimes disheartened work in progress.
Perhaps I’m not the only one.
As Qureshi’s life demonstrated, there’s a delicate tension between being loving Jesus fully and loving others. When I’m alone with my thoughts and the Word, God breaks my heart for a world that is dying without Him, and that includes Muslims. Other times, I’m overcome with anger towards the Islamic Extremists who indiscriminately kill people. Then those two extremes simmer to an irritated indifference for those who practice what they say is a peace-loving religion, yet refuse to speak out against such attacks.
Some of that frustration is born out of a misguided Christian approach that offers this less-than-helpful tidbit: “Love them.”However, “love them” is often applied as a lazy catch-all phrase for “Live and let live”or “stop being a hater” or “ignore it.”
My thoughts always come back to how Jesus summed up His mission: Love God, and love people. Once we know this, we must ask what that love looks like to the 1.2 billion Muslims who walk the earth today.
Perhaps the time has come to stop avoiding the heart of gospel and share with our Muslim neighbors something else the Savior told us to do.
All the talk about love and respect and walking a mile in another’s shoes is meaningless unless we’re willing to confront the world, and fellow believers, with the truth. We can no longer continue to sidestep Christ’s mission. We can’t tiptoe around political correctness and allow this country’s infatuation with Islam to slowly strangle our freedoms and tarnish our Christian witness. We can’t naively assume that being nice will lead others to Christ. We can’t throw fellow believers under the bus for questioning the violence tucked away in the Koran or the pattern of Islamic extremism. We can’t continue to drive a wedge between believers who are struggling with this the same way I am.
Jesus’ call to Muslims is the same as it is to us: Repent. Then once we do, we take things a step farther.
• Suit up (Ephesians 6:10-20). Make no mistake, we are in a battle. It’s a spiritual battle Jesus warned we would confront. The apostle Paul encouraged fellow believers to arm themselves carefully before engaging. In Ephesians 6 he wrote, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” The hate, intolerance, and vitriol we see daily runs deeper than what’s on the surface. It’s the symptom of the spiritual battle that’s going on inside all of us. Satan is working overtime to confuse, manipulate, and drive wedges. That’s why we need to dress accordingly.
• Pray (Romans 8:26). The kind of prayers needed aren’t halfhearted attempts muttered as we drift off to sleep. It’s an intentional time set up with the sole purpose of praying for our Muslim neighbors. Unlike the freedom Christians experience, Muslims are enslaved under oppressive rules, especially women and children. Islam’s main tenet states to serve their version of God and kill all infidels (translation: that’s you and me). We must cry out to God to show wisdom to the men, courage to women and children, and ask that evil be confused, undone, and destroyed. When you’re at a loss, Paul encourages us in Romans 8:26: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
• Fast (Matthew 6:16-18). Jesus encouraged his followers to skip meals to focus their time in prayer. When stomachs gurgles from hunger, it’s a reminder to turn to God. Can you give up one meal a week to say a pray of protection and freedom over your Muslim neighbors?
• Read and discern (I John 4:1-3).Spending time reading the Bible is key. The book of James says when we ask for wisdom, we’ll receive it. For us to effectively pray for and relate to our Muslim neighbors, we must also know what’s going on in our world. How do you gather news? Be aware most major news outlets are on a mission to play up Muslim goodness and downplay Christianity. Also, which religious leaders, writers, and speakers do you follow on social media? Many of them are becoming wishy-washy when it comes to spiritual truth. They should not get a free pass from us simply because they describe themselves as “Christian.” Whatever news or teachings you consume must be critically assessed, then run through the Jesus filter.
• Stop apologizing (Romans 8:1-14). So much progress gets stopped in its tracks because we choose to remain stuck in the past. Whenever the issue of pushing back against Islamic extremists comes up, someone sputters, “But Christians! The Crusades! Look what you did!” (Fun activity: spend time researching what actually happened during The Crusades). Stop it! You don’t need to apologize for something you did not do. The Crusades are not your fault. Slavery is not your fault. World War II is not your fault. Stop saying you’re sorry. Also, stop playing the victim. Quit bringing up ancient history that only serves to deflect and blame, not heal. Red herrings like this demean everyone and prevent us from moving forward.
• Be open (Galatians 5: 13-26). None of us have all the answers. Paul wrote that the poor reflection we see now will become crystal clear when Christ returns. What is God trying to say to you in your times of prayer and fasting? Is He asking you to open your eyes? Extend more grace? Shut up? Speak up? Correct? God will always stretch us beyond what’s comfortable for the sake of His Kingdom.
• Lean on each other (Galatians 6:2). Although our relationship with Christ is ultimately left up to each of us individually, we’re not meant to journey this life alone. Who is a good sounding board? Who can you share your fears? Who will offer gentle, yet truthful guidance to keep your thoughts and feelings in check? Keeping things to ourselves can fester then turn into ugly actions. Let’s get those thoughts, feelings, and frustrations out in the open where they can be more easily managed.
• Trust (John 16:33). It may seem like the world is spinning out of control, and to an extent, it is. Our security rests in the fact that God always, always does, and always will hold this world in His hands. His spirit is working in ways we can’t always see or understand. We must trust that no matter what happens in the battle, we can know confidently that He will win the war.
Nabeel Qureshi did not mince words, and we shouldn’t either. Love God, love your neighbor, and speak the truth. A friend who refused to let niceness pass for Christ-likeness chose instead to speak truth into Nabeel Qureshi’s life more than a decade ago. Now, Nabeel is dancing with his Savior