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.