Sunday, January 25, 2015

What I Have Learned From Muslims

"….Love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke10:27b

Nowadays we hear so many negative messages about Muslims.  Media plays a large part in forming our opinions and impressions about Muslims and Islam. We often are not able to differentiate between Islam and Muslims.  Recently I watched an Islamic teaching TV program where the guest speaker was responding to the backlash of opinions and impressions voiced by non-Muslims. I could pick it up that it is not easy to be a Muslim in the West right now. The guest speaker shared how many Muslims feel confused, hurt, angry, discouraged and frustrated because their religion is being equated with terrorism which she did not consider synonymous. Muslims and non-Muslims are becoming more polarized and keeping their distance from one another. I tried to put myself in the guest’s shoes.  I was at least thankful that I have come to know many Muslims over the past four decades. It sure makes a difference when you know Muslims personally. I do not have to agree with the whole religion, which I don’t, but I can love the Muslims God has put on my path.  Not everything I have observed is positive yet they have taught me some very good things.

My Muslim friends have taught me about:

· warm and generous hospitality especially to strangers.

· community probably more than anyone else.

· modesty in dress. I feel they carry it too far, nevertheless, they do uphold the virtue of modesty.

· the high value placed on virginity(at least for females) before marriage.

· a sacrificial lifestyle; especially in regards to caring for their children. I wish they could implement wiser boundaries in living sacrificially but nevertheless they do know how to sacrifice which is sometimes difficult for my culture to live out.

· femininity. My culture is losing sight of its mystique.

· being an independent woman is not everything it is made out to be. It is not 100% bad or wrong to be dependent on a husband – again, within wise boundaries.

· feeling comfortable speaking with all generations; not just my own age group.

· a few things about prayer even though there is need for them to understand the direct connection between Jesus and the Father.  I am attracted to the way they kneel and raise their hands before God.  It is noteworthy how they always worship before giving their requests; unlike us who usually have a long list of urgent needs.

· simple funerals and lamenting. They fully enter into grief and recover quicker I think.

If you would get to know Muslims the way I have you might be surprised you could actually learn something positive! It really helps in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ when I can see some good in them. For more on my thoughts check out the Discoveries page on my blog.

Dear heavenly Father, open my eyes to see the good in my Muslim friends and neighbors. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Introducing Repentance to My Muslim Friend

Prophet David:  “Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin.”  Psalm 51:2
When I was a child it felt terrible getting caught cheating on a test, lying, stealing or bullying.  I knew those things were wrong and was filled with remorse about them but mostly because I got caught. It had not sunk in about having a sinful nature which needed a change. Repentance was certainly not understood. It would be some years before I went past just knowing what was right and wrong to being able to see my true sinful condition and put repentance into action. I did not hear much explanation about repentance nor was it clearly manifested in church services from what I can recall.   

When we were in Pakistan a Muslim man, whose son was brought to our hospital for treatment, came to Ed one day and confessed his sin and was unusually repentant. He had not been caught. The Holy Spirit convicted him about murdering his wife. He became a transformed man in Christ. Over the decades in Muslim ministry it has been rare to witness people actually repenting of their sin. Remorse has been common when caught.
One day I was visiting Fatima when the subject of sin came up. Earlier that morning I had read Psalm 51 about David who confessed his guilt and sin, repented, and found cleansing. He is my teacher concerning repentance. I asked if I could read what he said and she agreed. I prefaced it with the fact that David had done something terrible and was plagued with guilt. She wanted to know what he did. I told her that I did not want to go into what he did but rather read about his confession of it, his repentant spirit, and his desire to be forgiven and made clean. She was surprised that a prophet would sin and have a big repentance time. By this time I had learned not to get bogged down with the Islamic understanding that prophets made “mistakes” but were impeccable. I steered the conversation to recognizing my own sense of guilt and shame as a result of sin, needing to confess my sin to God, being broken and repentant, and then discovering the joy of forgiveness and cleansing. David shows me how to repent.  I shared with Fatima about the first time I understood my sin and repented of it. It was such a painful experience but ended in transformation. She was shocked. As most people do and especially Muslims, we just hope in God's mercy and try to pay for our sins. First we have to clearly understand sin if we want to see our friends come into repentance. So, that day, Fatima and I looked at the beginning of sin and the consequences of it in Genesis 3 where disobedience, guilt, shame, fear, hiding from God, broken relationship with God and each other, and blaming another are all addressed. Adam and Eve got caught but we don't actually read about repentance. Often we want to jump to the cross where forgiveness is found but we need to pause for awhile on the subject of repentance so that the cross will become more valued. That is why I like to spend time on Psalm 51.
 It can be helpful to share our own experiences of  recognizing our sin, confessing it and then describing what repentance looks and sounds like for ourselves. After that we can move on to how we have found forgiveness, cleansing, and freedom from guilt and shame through Jesus. The prophet David teaches me how to repent by his example and his words. He did sin, did get caught, was filled with remorse but then came into repentance and ultimately into cleansing.
Dear heavenly Father, thank you for giving me clarity about repentance from David's example. In Jesus’ name, Amen.