Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Time for Everything

“There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven. A time to be quiet and a time to speak up." Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 7b
I walked into my Muslim friends’ home and immediately noticed a large beautiful porcelain doll, all dressed up in a Victorian white lacy gown, standing on a corner coffee table. I remarked how beautiful the doll was to which Ibtisam jokingly replied, “She is Ibrahim’s second wife.” Shocked and not knowing where to take the awkwardness I jokingly asked what her name was. She had no name. “Does she talk?” I asked. “No,” Ibrahim answered. “She’s on her honeymoon.” Hmm…this is weird and perverse. Where do I go with this futile conversation? I wondered.
 Amina, a devout Muslim young lady, and I were talking about what it meant to be a “good Muslim”. She shared how the best Muslims she had met were converts to Islam. “Joy, the transformation in their lives from their former bad lifestyles is amazing!” Amina exclaimed proudly. Should I take this conversation further or leave it? I wondered.
Once I spoke in a church and showed a picture of two women dressed in black niqab face veils. I asked the congregation what they thought of the picture. Two ladies, former prostitutes, now saved, immediately replied, “They are very pure.” Should I challenge that statement? I wondered.
Often I have heard Muslims talk about the virtue of modesty in dress for their women and how they don’t wear shorts, swimming suits, and low cut tops, etc., like Christians do. Help, Lord! How should I respond?

There are countless conversations about political views, assumptions, and conspiracy theories brought up by my Muslim friends. Suddenly I find myself in the middle of heated debates. Should I be quiet or speak up? After decades of ministry I have concluded that it is usually futile to get very engaged in such conversations. I have also found myself seeking the voice of the Spirit how far I should get involved in talking about religious objections and misconceptions. At what point should I be quiet? 
I often find myself engaged in some uncomfortable conversations. They are largely uncomfortable for me – not for the Muslim. And they are uncomfortable because I don’t want to hear those things. I certainly don’t want to face the fact that there may be some truth in some of the statements expressed. Other statements can be outrageous and untrue. Inwardly I debate whether I should continue the conversation or direct it to another topic…should I challenge untrue statements made, rebuke distasteful jokes, apologize about the representatives of Christ who are revealing too much of their bodies, or what? I could forever be defending, correcting, or rebuking something said.
I have learned it is not necessary to always make a reply or a defense when these uncomfortable statements arise. There is a time to be quiet and a time to speak.  I can just let the words pass and pray for the Spirit to guide our conversation into something more life-giving. Satan sometimes uses these situations to steer us away or distract us from sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. This is why we need to keep our ears tuned to the voice of the Holy Spirit and heed His instructions. If He says, “Speak up,” then it is according to His wisdom but if I am filled with such a lack of peace and awkwardness it may be the Spirit trying to tell me that there is no benefit taking that conversation further. I’ve trained my ears to hear the voice of the Spirit. It has been amazing how He truly directs me in uncomfortable conversations.
Dear heavenly Father, help me to follow the example of Jesus who sometimes kept quiet and sometimes spoke up.  Amen.