Reaching out to Muslims in an ISIS-charged culture
In a world where Islamic “beheading videos” garner worldwide attention on a near-weekly basis, it is easy to view Muslims with feelings of only fear or contempt. And while Christians should oppose the Islamic belief system for the false religion that it is, believers must remember that Muslims are people who desperately need Jesus. Christians must have compassion on the 1.6 billion souls that are ensnared by this evil system. The story of A.J. illustrates what God can do in the life of a Muslim when Christian love and the truth of the Gospel are kept at the forefront.
A.J. was a friendly, twenty-something immigrant from a predominantly Muslim country, who worked at a sandwich shop my wife and I frequented. He would sometimes sit and talk with us as we ate. We eventually discussed our faiths. As might be expected, traditional Christian beliefs about the authority of the Bible, Jesus' deity and the Trinity didn't resonate with his Islamic beliefs.
We invited A.J. to attend a missions conference where I was scheduled to speak on the topic "A Christian Response to Islam." Would he come? Let's face it, in the years since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, discourse on Islam has only gotten more and more emotionally charged. So when I saw A.J. enter the auditorium, I prayed silently, then proceeded to analyze the historical underpinnings of Islam (gleaned from Muslim scholars) as well as flawed Muslim views about Jesus and the Bible.
In the weeks that followed, A.J. and I continued talking. I'll never forget the day he called and said, "Alex, I'm ready." A.J. and I met that afternoon, reviewed the gospel message one more time and prayed together as he received Jesus as his Savior. Witnessing A.J.'s journey to faith in Christ, I saw the Lord use several key conversations to open his heart. They included discussions about:
Jesus' claims about salvation, which were confirmed by an unparalleled degree of proof. Christ physically rose from death, thus confirming who He was and what He taught. I reminded A.J. that Muhammad's teachings were not accompanied by any supernatural confirmation and, in fact, the Muslim prophet himself said he did no miracles.
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity, clarifying that it is not a belief in multiple gods. (The shirk, or "the assigning of partners to God," is blasphemous to Muslims.) Christians agree there is only one God (Deut. 6:4; Isa. 43:10-11) and not three.
Compelling data affirming the trustworthiness of the Bible.
Muslims have a level of respect for the Bible, though they believe the New Testament is not trustworthy because the original documents allegedly have been altered over the years. I explained to A.J. that the New Testament is accurate and can be trusted; no one can point out the alleged "changes" or when they were supposedly made because the corruptions simply aren't there.
The English wording of John 3:16 regarding Christ's incarnation.
Whether a version reads that Jesus is God's "only begotten Son" or "one and only Son," point out that this verse does not imply that God had physical relations with Mary, as Muslims believe. The original language asserts that Jesus is, literally, "of the same nature" or "essence" as the Father.
The uniqueness of Christianity in that Jesus is a loving and sinless Savior. The Koran's suras 40:55 and 48:1-2, teach that Muhammad was a sinner. Because Jesus possessed both full divinity and sinless humanity, He was qualified to die sacrificially and capable of rising by His own power.
The fact that Christians have an intimate, personal relationship with Jesus and great joy knowing they are secure in Christ (John 10:28-29). Gently remind Muslims that where one stands with God is the most important issue of life—more important than culture, family background or social customs.
Becoming friends with A.J. taught me several practical lessons about reaching out to Muslims here in America. The three most important steps in evangelizing Muslims are pray, pray and pray. It's also critical to remain friendly, humble and to avoid an air of superiority. Be patient. That may include explaining certain truths numerous times.
Seeing A.J. come to Christ cultivated within me a deeper commitment to pray for the salvation of Muslims. His testimony also reminded me of God's ability to penetrate the human heart … even one brought up to resist the "errors" of "infidels" like us.