Monday, August 14, 2006

When Witnessing to Muslims... Get Personal

I received the following in response to one of my recent "Witnessing to Muslims" posts:

Please disband the United Nations or move it to Beijing and remove the veto powers so a democratic U.N. emerges. The passing of this resolution is sickening.


Now, my head went all over the place for a moment. Do I really want to defend the U.N.? No, probably not. Do I want to think through the strange juxtaposition of Beijing and democratic? Hmmm... no, I don't think so. Have I time to try and figure out which resolution is in question? Not really.

So I'm left with a choice... to post or not to post the comment? That is the question.

I decided not. But the snippet above illustrates so well my experience in speaking with many Muslims, particularly Arab Muslims. The conversation almost always takes a hard turn toward politics and foreign policy, usually lamenting or lambasting the U.S. and the West for their anti-Muslim, anti-Arab efforts in some place on the news.

The task for me, for all of us engaged in such a conversation, is to remember from which nation we come. If we're Christians, our concern for U.S. or U.K. foreign policy is vastly secondary or tertiary. This world is not our home; we belong to the peculiar nation of Christ. We're Christ-ians, and remembering that our allegiance is to the kingdom of heaven will keep us from choking in political smoke screens. And hopefully it will help us to make things personal.

Our real concern is the person standing before us. Every Muslim man, woman, and child is made in the image of God. Their lives are of infinite worth as image bearers. And every Muslim man, woman, and child that we encounter is made to worship God. And yet, every Muslim man, woman, and child that we talk with is lost in their sin, alienated from the God they are to worship, and facing the dreadful day of judgment without God and without hope (Eph. 2:12).

In our evangelistic efforts we must press these truths home. We must wait patiently until all the political air is let out of their lungs and then redirect the conversation to the central issue: what will they do with their sins? How will they be saved from the wrath of God that is coming against all sin-sick men, women and children who reject Jesus?

Most Muslims will be eager to agree that God is holy and just, that he will punish the wicked. What most Muslims fail to realize is that in their sins they are the wicked. Most Muslims have a shallow view of sin, thinking of sin as "mistakes" or "faults" of some generic sense that may be dealt with simply by "repenting" and asking for forgiveness. They fail to understand the gravity of sin, their own personal sin by failing to recognize that sin is a rebellious, frontal assault against the holy God of the universe who will bring all men to account. They fail to realize that even the smallest sins alienate men from God and that approaching Him is not as simple as saying "I'm sorry" and calling for a mulligan. Atonement must be made. True repentance, the kind that turns from sin and toward God through faith in Jesus Christ, is absolutely essential. And it is only on that basis alone that forgiveness is possible.

In our witnessing to Muslims we must cut to the chase. We must make it personal. We must insist upon the heinous seriousness of sin and the clear and present danger they are facing.

Having established the reliability of the Bible, press these revelations into the conversation. Take your Muslim friend to the Ten Commandments (Deut. 5) and to Jesus' exposition of the commandments (for example, Matt. 5:21-22, 27-28, 38-48) and press them to examine their own lives in light of God's perfect holiness.

Nothing is gained from endless debates about politics. It only engenders strife. And nothing is gained by abstract discussions of religion, a sort of interpersonal interfaith discussion between friends. Work, depending on the aid of God's Holy Spirit, to expose their hearts before God. Knowing the severity of God, let us persuade all our Muslim friends to face the mirror of their own sins and see themselves the way God sees them: made in His image but like us scarred and ruined by their sin.

1 comment:

Steve Chan said...

Brother Thabiti (please forgive me if I am not addressing you as you would like), I heard of you for the very first time only this morning as I read John Piper's summary of his sabbatical these last few months, during which time Brother John wrote a foreword to a book associated with you. So while inquiring about you on the internet, I am so pleased to see that through your heritage Christ has given you a heart for discipling Christians out of the Muslim world. I would not be presumptuous to impose upon your time, but I thank God that he has raised up men like you to do what Jesus would do if Jesus was physically here on this planet. Last month I returned from a mission trip to Niteroi and Cabo Frio, Brasil, but last year I joined my church's mission trip preaching Jesus in the State of Assam in northeastern India, where almost all of the natives are Muslim.

We had joined a couple of indigenous Christians in the capitol city of Guwahati, where our focus was to move around Nowgoan, India, to introduce Muslim villages to the person of Jesus, and to distribute copies of the Book of Luke in the native language of Assamese. So we used sura from the Qu'ran to show that good Muslims are told to obey the commandments of Moses and the teachings of Jesus. We told them how for about 1500 years the followers of Jesus did not have access to the Bible to read in the common language until Martin Luther translated it into the German language for reading by Germans. And the same by William Tyndale to translate it into the English language.. Similarly, for almost 1500 years most Muslim have been unable to read the Qu'ran, which is almost exclusively printed in Arabic. When the local imans came to dialogue with us, we would have the imans read to the villagers the texts from the Qu'ran concerning Moses and Jesus. Then the villagers would ask the imans why the imans never before had taught those portions of the Qu'ran. I don't know if we did things the "right" way, but we did all that we were asked to do and we trust that God will use it to His glory and fame.

The Muslim community continues to weigh on my heart as I see the harvest to which God is seeking laborers. I will be reading your posts here to learn more about Muslims based upon your intimate knowledge of the same. May our Lord Jesus Christ bless you richly as you live for His renown. Blessings to you, Steve