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Loving Our (Muslim) Neighbors

Chuck Colson

BreakPoint with Chuck Colson -

The conversation in the online chat room was both vicious and violent. "For every American killed in the terrorist attacks," one man raged, "we ought to kill a hundred Muslims."

Emotions have been running high since September 11—but even so, there’s no excuse for such vitriol. Yes, we want those responsible to be pursued and punished—but we should not confuse the innocent with the guilty. And among the innocent are over 6 million Muslims who live in American neighborhoods—and now live there in fear.

As Christians, we know that God often brings good out of evil. And one great good he may bring out of this unwanted war is a greater openness by Muslims to Christianity—but only if we attack hatred with love.

One man who believes this is Ashton "Tat" Stewart, director of the Colorado-based Persian Ministries for World Witness. Stewart has spent a lifetime ministering to Muslims. As we battle bin Laden, Stewart says, the entire Muslim world is watching to see how we treat the Muslims among us. Instead of joining the Internet animosity and radio ranting, he says, Christians ought to seize the moment: We have a tremendous opportunity to model Christian love to Muslim neighbors.

How do we go about this?

First, Stewart says, we need to reach out in friendship. In the current climate, this might mean crossing the street to ask how a Muslim family is doing or visiting a mosque to express friendship. We might invite Muslim friends into our home for a meal. "What many Christians don’t realize," Stewart says, "Is that just being a normal Christian is a radical witness to many Muslims." Their law is oppressive; they aren’t used to love.

After building a bridge of friendship, the next step is to expose Muslims to what Stewart calls "kingdom realities." This might include praying in their presence, inviting them to a Bible study, or giving them a New Testament in their own language.

We should also be prepared to explain basic Christian beliefs, and familiarize ourselves with Islamic teachings. Moderate peace-loving Muslims are horrified by bin Laden’s horrific attacks. They can easily be turned against him and perhaps they will then question how Islamic teaching could condone such violence. They need to see in us the love of Christ.

According to Stewart, many Muslims lack inner peace, and do not experience genuine, unconditional love; they don’t understand true spiritual freedom. This means we might present Christ as the peace-giver who truly loves them and brings them freedom.

Finally, before we invite a Muslim to follow Christ, we must understand the cost we are asking him to pay. Conversion may mean a complete loss of family, friends, career, and culture.

Stewart is right. As America embarks on what may be a lengthy war, we must seize the opportunity of the moment. The faith of many Muslims is crumbling as they see the horrors some radical elements in Islam are capable of. If Christians offer unconditional love to their supposed enemies, Stewart predicts, "In the next few years we may see mass turnings to Christ."

But it won’t happen if we respond to hatred with even more hatred. Instead, we overcome evil with good—as Paul commanded. We must out-shout angry American threats with quiet Christian compassion. And we must meet terrorist lies with the transforming love of Christ.

Radio Transcript No. 011019

2001 Prison Fellowship Ministries. All Rights Reserved.
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