Now that you’re exhausted from reading articles about either our impending doom from ISIS’s infiltration of the United States or our moral mandate to receive Muslim refugees from war-torn parts of the world, I’d like to call your attention to another idea.
It’s not a new idea, but one so old, I think we’ve forgotten both its significance and its relevance.
God loves the foreigner. So much so that He desires His people to embrace immigrants and to show them the courtesy that He has mandated in Scripture, so that they may in turn embrace Him as their Savior and Lord. The resulting impact on foreign fields where missionaries cannot go (think scary places like Syria and Iraq) would be tremendous.
Don’t believe me? If you’re a Seventh-day Adventist, perhaps the authoritative pen of Ellen White may give you pause.
God in His providence has brought men to our very doors, and thrust them, as it were, into our arms, that they might learn the truth, and be qualified to do a work we could not do in getting the light to men of other tongues. (Review and Herald, July 25, 1918)
This statement is taken from a larger dose of strong medicine from the compilation Christian Service. In a chapter entitled “The Home-Foreign Field,” White laments the fact that “there has been a slothful neglect and a criminal unbelief among us as a people” (Life Sketches, p. 212) and that, as a result, “we have been asleep as to our duty in regard to getting the light before those of other nations” (ibid., p. 213).
God’s People at the Crossroads
Consider the historical stream into which this counsel is given:
In the Old Testament, God called His people out of Egypt to live in a small territory which happened to be the crossroads facilitating trade between three continents. Moses encouraged the people to be obedient in the land that they were to possess, so that the passerby would learn of their God and exclaim, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people” that serve an ever-near God who rules in righteousness (Deut. 4:5-8, NKJV). It was this place where God’s people would set up the sanctuary—a working model of the plan of salvation. The Messiah would be born on that very soil. Truly, God intended to fulfill the words that He spoke to Abraham, that through him all nations would be blessed (Gen. 22:18).
Through self-righteousness and exclusivity, God’s people of old failed in fulfilling their destiny, and the pagan passerby remained largely unreached. When Jesus came to the earth, He sought to reboot the failed mission to reach the nations of the world. It was when the city of Jerusalem was filled with Jewish visitors from across the then-known world that Jesus died on a cross. Fifty days later, the ascended Intercessor poured His Spirit out in power upon the waiting disciples. As Peter stood to proclaim the resurrected Christ, once again the audience was composed of individuals from at least fifteen different regions. In order to make explicit the good news of the gospel, God ensured that each one would hear in their own language (see Acts 2:5-13).
Out of the Mission Field, Into Our Arms
Could it be that Jesus wants to apply the same strategy in mission today? Millions of dollars are being invested in uprooting, relocating, and reestablishing missionaries around the world. These sacrificing workers spend months acquiring cultural and linguistic proficiency, and years investing in relationships that will bear the weight of the gospel. This important work should continue to be done, but we should not leave other aspects of the work undone.
Yes, the Internet is a part of this important work of taking the gospel to the nations. So are satellite television and radio. But so are you, as you kindly reach out to people in your community who are very different than you. People who have taken refuge in your community at great risk to themselves so that their children will not have to live in a warzone. People to whom the warmth of friendship and Christlike love will make all the difference in the world.
You don’t have to move to the other side of the world, selling your possessions and leaving your beloved family and friends behind. You don’t have to learn a new language. You don’t have to become accustomed to a new climate, strange foods, and a lack of toilet paper.
But the mission does require love. Sacrificially, expecting nothing in return. And for some of us—indeed, all of us—that is the hardest thing of all.
5 Tips for Sharing Christ’s Love with Muslims Near You
So what can you do to be a blessing to Muslims in your corner of the world? Consider the following ideas:
- Acquire knowledge. Familiarize yourself with Muslim beliefs by reading a general primer on Islam. You might even consider visiting a local mosque, letting someone know that you’re simply there to learn about their beliefs. Seek to understand how they understand their own religion, and avoid looking at it through a Western political lens, which can often confuse the issues.
- Look for opportunities to show kindness. If you’re relating to refugees, this could include inviting them over for a simple meal, helping them with their English skills, or assisting them in running errands. Keep in mind that the most powerful form of service is the expression of mercy without strings attached—something that Ellen White repeatedly refers to as “disinterested benevolence.” Your kindness is not simply win them over to a new religious identity, but rather to reveal Christ through your life.
- When getting to know a Muslim, theological differences may come up early. Resist the urge to enter into a theological argument. Remember that initially focusing on the “most objectionable points of our faith . . . close[s] the ears of those to whom these things come as a new revelation” (Evangelism, p. 141). In Adventist-Muslim relationships, good opening topics tend to be centered on healthful living and biblical lifestyle. These expressions of Adventist identity can be a powerful tool for building bridges. Topics surrounding the divinity of Christ and the Godhead can be sensitive. Don’t be afraid to talk about these things, but take care not to alienate a person before a trusted friendship can develop.
- Remember that not all professed people of faith are spiritual. Don’t expect a person to be eager to talk about spiritual things when their religious expression may be more cultural than anything else. Pray for God to lead you to a “person of peace,” an individual who is hungering and thirsting after righteousness. And pray that God will make you a person of peace, too.
- Don’t get impatient, but instead think in terms of long-term mission. Most Muslims are hypersensitive to the fact that Christians are trying to convert them. Spend significant time in prayer, asking God to give your new friends revelation through dreams, and wait for His Spirit to awaken spiritual interest and hunger. Pray for wisdom in knowing what to share or not to share, and ask God to give you grace as you make yourself available to His work.
Are you allowing rhetoric to paralyze you with fear, or overprotective nationalist tendencies to cripple your influence on those who are perhaps most susceptible to receiving our message? Hear the words of God’s messenger: “Wake up, wake up, my brethren and sisters, and enter the fields in America that have never been worked” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 36).
What God did by setting His people in the midst of the unreached, He is again doing today by bringing the unreached to us. The opportunity we have to reach the world is unprecedented. Let’s not let fear destroy the influence of love and the spread of the gospel to every kindred, nation, tongue, and people. Especially when the nations are right here in our neighborhoods.
[Photo: FreeImages.com/Antje Ickler]