Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Friend of Muslims

And I, the Son of Man, feast and drink, and you say, “He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of the worst sort of sinners!”  Luke 7: 34

We were invited to a party at a low-income Muslim home. Before we rang the doorbell a group of Muslim refugees from another house came outside to greet us. It was a motley group of Muslims who were also invited to the party.  Many had broken messed up lives.  Some of them lived on the fringes of what my culture would consider a socially unacceptable lifestyle.  Something about them was so loveable. We enjoyed our meal together even though there was an obvious lack of material possessions. There was an opportunity to declare we are followers of Jesus. The evening felt strangely refreshing.  So often we mix with Muslims who are focused on religious rituals and practices trying to prove they are good pious Muslims and defenders of Islam. We have friends among them, too, but our party people, that evening, had an unpretentious transparency about them.

“Do you have friends – real friends – among Muslims, Joy?” a Christian man asked me.  I was not quite sure if his question came from a concerned checking or just curiosity.  “Yes, I do,” I replied. “We are not of the same spirit and do not pray together in the name of Jesus but some of them are my good friends.” Oh, to be like children who see past color and religion.
It is an amazing statement for me to make because once upon a time I could never have uttered such. But God has done a work of grace in my heart and given me a compassion and love for the Muslims he has put on my path. It is one thing to witness to Muslims out of a conviction to correct false teaching and another thing to intentionally search them out, love them, bless them, want them as neighbors, or even hard to believe….enjoy their company!

Jesus was accused of being a “friend of sinners” – a broad meaning of those who were marginalized, misfits in society, deemed socially unacceptable or had questionable reputations. He intentionally socialized with them. As a result Jesus was criticized, insulted, and accused of loving “those kinds of people”. He was not out to become popular with them but to let them know there was hope and forgiveness of sins available through Him. He was for them, not against them.  Still is.  Friend of sinners is one of the 134 names and titles of Jesus. Don’t you just love that title? He is my Friend, too, because I include myself in being “one of those.”  I yearn to introduce my special Friend to Muslims.

Like Jesus experienced we, too, may be accused, insulted, questioned, misunderstood, or criticized for being a friend to Muslims both by non- Christians and Christians. “I don’t love Muslims,” a Christian lady bluntly remarked. “I stay far away from them,” she added.  “How will they believe that God loves them if you don’t love them?” I asked her. She had not thought about that before.
Dear heavenly Father, what a remarkable example Jesus was and continues to be in being a Friend to us sinful human beings. I need a Friend like Jesus.  Amen.