Thursday, August 10, 2006

When Witnessing to Muslims... Renounce Fear

Perhaps the greatest challenge to effective gospel outreach to Muslim friends and neighbors is fear. It’s sometimes a subtle fear that appears in our assumptions (“they won’t be interested” or “it’s useless trying to reach out”) and sometimes appears in more visceral ways. But fear pervades our interactions with men and women who practice Islam.

But God did not give us a spirit of fear or timidity but of power, of love, and of self-discipline (2 Tim. 1:7). This truth needs desperately to be remembered when evangelism and Muslim are used in the same breath.

There are four fears that most Christians tend to experience when it comes to sharing the Gospel with Muslims.

1. Fear of Terrorists

Let’s face it; a great number of us think “terrorist” or “potential terrorist” when we see an Arab, in general, and an Arab Muslim in particular. The images that inform this fear are plentiful: images of 9/11, of bearded men with head scarves, of angry Arabs protesting cartoons, of masked militia wielding automatic weapons and rocket launchers, of young Arab boys throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks at tanks, of dreaded suicide bombers maiming and killing bystanders and civilians.

The almost daily deluge of these images fills us with suspicion and fear and causes us to hesitate in sharing, lest we talk with an actual terrorist and somehow end up on their “hit list.” This fear blinds us to the person’s great need of a Savior by focusing us on ourselves, our vain lust for security and safety. So, what if the person is a terrorist? Aren’t we better of rejoicing at the prospect of speaking with a terrorist and by God’s omnipotent aid actually seeing them converted from such hate-filled darkness to the joy and love-filled light of Christ? The Christian’s “war against terror” is the warfare we wage to spread the gospel to all—including folks we fear might be terrorists.

2. Fear of Muslim’s Knowledge

We often carry in our minds the idea that Muslims are thorough in their knowledge of the Qu’ran and its teaching. We fear that our discussion will turn into an embarrassing display of their superior knowledge and our weak understanding of the Bible.

The truth is that most Muslims are rather ignorant of the Qu’ran’s teachings, depending heavily on the interpretations of clerics and tradition (rather Roman Catholic and Jewish in that sense), and even more ignorant of the Bible. We need not fear what turns out to be another stereotype. We will more often meet Muslims who claim in sweeping terms, “The Qu’ran teaches…” or “There is a Hadith somewhere that teaches…”. Rarely will we meet men and women who have any specific reference or developed theology in mind.

So, our task is to hear and heed the call of scripture to “study to show ourselves approved” (as the KJV renders it), to be “a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). As we do so, any fear of what a Muslim knows will be replaced with confidence in the word of God which does not return void but accomplishes its purposes.

3. Fear Muslims Don’t Convert

A third stereotype or misconception is that Muslims do not convert from Islam to Christianity. That’s hogwash! And moreover, when we buy into that fear or misconception, we actually deny that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile (Rom. 1:16), and yes, the Muslim too! I am exhibit A (my testimony), and there is an innumerable host of others. Spend some time reading and listening to their testimonies and know that the Lord’s arm is not shortened that He cannot save!

4. Fear of Offending

And then there is the fear of offending our Muslim friends and neighbors. We worry way too much about this one. When listening to a conversation I was having with a Muslim man, my wife pointed out to me that he had no qualms about telling me how blasphemously wrong he thought I was and how he felt no hesitation at proclaiming his own point of view (theological, political, cultural, etc.). She was correct, and that has almost always been my experience in discussing religious matters with Muslims—they aren’t shy at telling you what they think is right or wrong.

Christians need more mettle. We need to “man up” and share the Gospel Truth about Jesus without fear of man, without fear of offending, and with the passion and certitude that recognizes that their and our eternal destinies are at stake when it comes to believing the truth about Jesus (John 17:3, 7-8). We need a holy recklessness that throws our overly cautious and fear-laden civility to the wind to declare, proclaim, defend, announce, herald, assert, affirm, state, show, persuade, argue the fact that a holy, sin-hating, sin-judging God is opposed to men who love darkness rather than the light, whose deeds are evil and therefore worthy of eternal condemnation, that this same God sent His Son, born of a virgin, perfect in obedience, to die a criminal’s death in our stead, and raised Him from the grave conquering our sin and death and now calls all men everywhere to repent and believe in Jesus!

Let it rip with the kind of love that risks social awkwardness in favor of eternal fellowship with God the Father and the Risen Lamb! When witnessing to Muslims… renounce all fear in the name of Jesus!

4 comments:

Evers said...

If I may add another reason to put aside fear, I'd paraphrase Christian apologist John Mark Reynolds in saying that we have nothing to fear because what we hold to is true in the most important eternal sense. In other words, if we really believe that we believe is Truth, there is no cause to fear; because what they believe is false and will lose out in the end. It is not one mere philosophical viewpoint against another. It is Truth against a lie.

Rev.J. Theodore Helms said...

Dear Fellow Elder, I have just returned from a seminar on Islam in Columbia, S.C. and was very encouraged by the teacher and other students who are or are going to be missionaries to Muslims. Several students told of Muslims coming to Christ in of all places, Iran. The gospel is getting into Iran through television and radio and as one of the missionaries said many Muslims are turning to Christ.

Our teacher is Pakistani and became a Christian in 1973; he is a former Muslim. He was very animated in his teaching and excited about being able to teach future missionaries about Islam. He began one of our classes by quoting 2 Tim.1:7.

God bless you, brother, in your work in the Caymen Islands.

B and B said...

Amen, Amen, Amen to all that, Thabiti.

Britt

Anonymous said...

Thabiti,

Can you share a post outlining what such a conversation would look like? What sort of objections might a Muslim have to Christianity? What are some good responses? What do I need to be prepared for, exactly? I've been told that the Koran encourages believers to read the New Testament, is that true? Then again, do I really need to know all the ins and outs of what they believe before I share the gospel? I guess not...

Thanks!!!
Rachel