Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Unconditional Love of God

"And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is."  Ephesians 3:18

I didn't grasp that God loved me until I was a missionary at 28 years old. Shocking, but true. I want it  to be my own ever expanding personal discovery and to proclaim it more clearly and boldly to my Muslim friends.

Many Muslim women, as I felt previously, do not know if God loves them. If they do believe that it is difficult for them to grasp that God loves them unconditionally. They have been brought up to believe that life is about doing the will of Allah – being obedient to his commands. Allah loves(approves of) good people but does not love bad people. They are never sure whether they are good or bad in Allah’s sight - hopefully good. They are cognizant of the dreaded scales(meezan) and fear judgment, punishment and hell. They hang their hopes on Allah’s mercy which they hope they will achieve.

Today I tried to explain to Mahnaz that God loves her unconditionally. She replied forlornly, “I hope so.” A fire started burning within me and I prayed silently, Oh Lord, please help Mahnaz to understand. Open her eyes. Filled with compassion I said, “Mahnaz, God loves you very much. You are special to him. He wants to protect you and help you. He sees your tears. Jesus has taken all the punishment for your sin upon himself on the cross.” I talked at length about God’s love and had her read Ephesians 3:17-19 in her language. She looked at me with longing eyes wishing that He would love her. For her, God’s love is always dependent on whether she has been a good enough wife or mother, prayed enough, fasted enough, done enough good deeds, or sacrificed enough.

We should never tire of telling our Muslim friend that God loves her unconditionally.  Use the Bible to verify your words. If you don’t have your Bible handy you could memorize some key verses about God’s love and recite them to her. Ask her how to say “God loves Mahnaz”(apply real name)and "God is Love" in her heart language. When you pray with your Muslim friend emphasize those truths in your prayer. Don’t be surprised if you catch her crying. The Spirit is moving and touching her in the deepest longings of her soul. Don’t rush to close up your prayer. Let her soak in the experience of God’s love. You are on sacred ground.

Valentine's Day is approaching. Why not share God's love with your Muslim friend? Sometimes I sing Jesus Loves Me to my friends. Afterwards I ask them, "How do I know God loves me?" Usually they still don't know how to answer that. "Because the Bible tells me so," I reply. They will not know from the Qur'an that God loves them unconditionally. It is also helpful to explain that no prophet(Moses, Abraham, etc.) loves me but I know Jesus loves me because He is alive and gave His life for me to be forgiven.

Dear heavenly Father, please help us to grasp Your unconditional love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Hijab

“And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s judgment.” Romans 5:9

Is there any word that produces more emotions or provokes more response than the word “hijab”? The head covering isn’t merely a cultural fashion or political statement. It has deep religious meaning to it.  Many Muslim women feel they are kept protected by it, makes them feel pious or righteous, believe it will ensure Allah’s blessing – insha’Allah, or perhaps guarantee them a better chance of heaven in the next life; especially if hot weather brings added suffering in wearing it. Without it they are left feeling unprotected and worthy of judgment from both man and Allah. They believe that Allah has decreed women should wear it and they desire to please him. It makes them good Muslim women. The cloth produces an  Islamic identity much like circumcision does for the male. Many women in western democratic countries say they do not feel oppressed or forced to wear it. Many say they feel free and choose to wear it. However most do not feel free to remove it for good and know they will suffer shunning or suffering from family or community members.

Recently I listened to a former Muslim woman give her testimony. She was pressured by other Muslim women to wear the hijab. She complied but continued to feel that Allah was angry with her. The hijab didn't bring peace. She still constantly worried about her children. Women criticized her for not wearing it strictly enough. The hijab would determine fortune or misfortune it seemed. Eventually she decided to go without it because it had not brought her the peace she was searching for. Immediately she fell into even greater fear that something might happen to her children or she might not get a job because Allah would punish her for not wearing the hijab. Praise the Lord her story continues of how she found protection and blessing in Isa al Masih, the Savior – not the hijab - and today she is following Him. She has discovered that God looks beyond the hijab and sees the heart. He is her protector and Savior, not the hijab. Her salvation and eternal destiny rest solely on the atoning sacrifice of Isa al Masih and not the hijab. Today she has found real peace and knows that God is love.

Before Karima arrived in Canada she wore a head scarf which was enforced as law in her homeland.  She never ventured going outside without it from the day she was married. A strong belief lodged that she was pleasing Allah by wearing it and if she went without it bad luck might happen and she would no longer be a Muslim which would produce severe judgment from Allah. On the very day of arrival in Canada her husband ordered her to take it off which left her greatly shaken. Muslim women began to ask her if she had become a Christian. But at that point she didn’t know anything about Christianity. Today she has come to know about and trust in the blood of Isa al Masih to save her and make her righteous. She knows wearing a hijab - or not wearing a hijab - is not what saves her soul. Her true identity doesn't come from the hijab, a piece of cloth, but in a relationship with Jesus as her Savior.

When I was growing up in Somalia I wore a scarf. And when I lived in Pakistan I wore either a duputta or a chadar when going outside. In church I wore a head covering. But it did not make me a good person. A head covering does not have that power. The real reason a woman wears a head covering is to protect females from the carnal lustful looks from men. The blood of Jesus is able to change both men's and women’s hearts.

Dear heavenly Father, Thank you for the precious blood of Jesus which saves me. Amen.