Thursday, November 5, 2015

Dealing With Change

Then he(Jesus)opened their minds to understand these many Scriptures.  Luke 24:45

Over the decades in ministry among Muslims I have noted that making changes is quite difficult for many of them. Upon arrival in the West they are confronted with unfamiliar weather, multiculturalism, religious pluralism, new holidays, new ways of disciplining children, an unfamiliar form of government, enforced traffic rules with no partiality, gender parity and respect, bribery not allowed, and certain social freedoms not publicly expressed in their countries. Initially, or even for many years, changes can make them feel insecure. Changes may affect women more than men, but not necessarily.

Since newly arrived Muslims are being confronted with so much newness they often look for the familiar. It is not uncommon for them to use the same kind of drapery, blankets, furniture, carpets, tea cups, satellite TV programs, gold jewelry and fashion which they used back in their homeland. The vast majority continue to eat exactly the same food, at the same time of day or night. They look for people from their communities to be their friends or “family”.  That truth was recently confirmed looking at Jamila’s photos of an outing to the beach. Five families from their community went. They erected a tent, spread out carpets in it, held a traditional tea ceremony inside it with the fancy teapot and small glass tea cups, took their prayer rugs along to say their prayers on the sand, cooked big pots of food over wood, and made their flat breads from scratch. The photos showed the women all dressed in their finest colorful clothes as if they were at a wedding.  All this while scantily clad people were nearby playing in the water and eating sandwiches.

When asked if freedom or safety is more desirable my women friends will often respond: to be safe. Freedom allows changes to happen.  Safety usually stays within the confines of stability. Confusion or chaos is extremely distressing for Muslims and even whole nations. The more Islamic a nation is governed the more difficult it is to live at ease with political, social, and religious change, even though it may be desired and even demanded.

Then missional Christians enter their lives and try to introduce new religious information. They may be curious, suspicious, or reject anything new. One gauge to ascertain whether a Muslim might be open to hearing about our faith, read a Bible, visit church, or to become a follower of Jesus is by observing their eating habits. If they are open and trusting to eat unfamiliar food it is possible they will be open to new spiritual food, too. If they are closed or reluctant to eat new physical food the chances are they might be initially closed to new spiritual food. It is not always true but it is surprising how often it turns out to be a sign. This symbolic speedometer gauge often determines how quick or how slow Christians can share. We would like to step on the accelerator but the Spirit knows what speed it will take. He will open their understanding at the right moment.

Dear heavenly Father, it is reassuring that You know what speed it will take for my Muslim friends to process the Good News.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.