Monday, April 6, 2015

Relating to New Sisters in Christ

Paul:  As apostles of Christ we certainly had a right to make some demands of you, but we were as gentle among you as a mother feeding and caring for her own children.  I Thessalonians 2:7

Nuri shared how she was “going crazy” with all the pressure, demands, expectations, and checking coming from certain Christians about how she should live the Christian life, go to church regularly, and how to properly discipline her children. She had been taken under their wings but now she was beginning to feel closed in and “owned” by them because they continually gave her generous gifts and money which in turn made her feel obligated to them. To talk about her pent up feelings or to put boundaries in place had never been allowed as a Muslim. She just had to submit. No doubt these Christians have meant only good and are trying their very best to take care of this new believer but Nuri needs more breathing space to grow and flourish in her new faith.

The above description of Nuri is a composite of a few believers I know who have come out of Islam. It is true that many of them have experienced spiritual monitoring while Muslims.  Most of the ones I am acquainted with talk about being controlled by someone in their family or community when they were Muslims. There were many spoken and unspoken demands and expectations of them. They had to fit in right, act right, dress right, pray right….or else they could expect some rebuke or backlash. They were usually attracted to Christ because they sensed there was freedom and breathing space. As Muslim women they had not usually cultivated a habit of going to the mosque for Friday prayers so when they gave their allegiance to Christ going to church was a new habit to learn.  A huge shift takes place as a new faith and lifestyle develop. I have tried to encourage my sisters in every way possible to make church attendance a habit so they can grow and have teaching and fellowship. It seems to work best  when done gently and by example; not by pressuring and checking up which can easily produce a sense of condemnation that they are not pleasing certain Christians enough. They can get stressed out, give up, or run away. They usually have not learned any other way to get peace of mind than to cut off from people who put the bar too high.  It can be delicate!
Not every believer experiences pressure from Christians. I know believers who are flourishing beautifully with mentors who are modelling by example and with gentleness.  There is accountability to a degree but not “ownership” of the believer. They have been given plenty of space to develop and to learn how to make new choices, form new habits, and learn from mistakes. This is organic spiritual growth. Such believers display a joyful free spirit.

Personally it has always been a challenge to find the right balance between demanding and nurturing. It was true for me in parenting days and it continues on in discipling. I am still learning. Parenting is a great school for learning how to disciple.

Dear heavenly Father, please help me to understand how to best nurture believers.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.