I have been invited to meet with a local Muslim leader today and I must say, I am looking forward to this. I will be meeting with him in his house to for a chat about misunderstandings between Christians and Muslims.
This all came about after receiving a letter mailed to Columbia Church of Christ from a local Muslim community. The letter stated that the Muslim community would like to make themselves available “to answer any questions and misgivings about Islam.” I answered the letter because I thought it might also be a chance to answer some questions and potential misunderstandings about what Christianity is (or…what it should be).
Besides my own personal curiosity, I answered this letter because it seemed like this was an opportunity that God was calling me to. In many ways, I feel somewhat unprepared because this is something new for me and I am not entirely sure what to expect. Thus, I do feel a bit ginger but I will go with the promise of Jesus, that he is with me always (cf. Matt 28.20).
In many other ways, it seems as though God has been preparing me for this. First, I am a follower of Jesus. My faith in Jesus is neither naïve, shallow nor untested. I firmly believe that Jesus is Lord and know why I believe. Second, although studying all things that relate to Christian and Muslim relationships has not been the most pressing interest, I have attended a couple of conferences and read a few books on the issue. Most recently, I read Lee C. Camp, Who Is My Enemy: Questions American Christians Must Face about Islam‒and Themselves and right now I am reading through Miroslav Volf, Allah: A Christian Response.
I don’t know exactly what will come out of this meeting and others that will hopefully come. As I believe that all people are being called to place their faith in Christ, the ideal result would be a conversion to Christ. However, my purpose in accepting the invitation to meet is not evangelistic. I want to simply begin by listening and understanding, being hospitable, and loving God by loving my neighbor as myself even though, in this particular case, my neighbors do not share my faith in Jesus. I also hope that this might bring about a better understanding of each others faith in a way that would help us both, and our respective faith communities, to live in peace as neighbors.
As a Christian, I know that just as I do not want to be defined by the actions one Christian group, I can neither judge all Muslims by the actions of a particular fundamentalist/extremist Muslim group. One concern I have going into this meeting is the way some Christians have made judgments on Muslims without ever having sat at a table for conversation with a Muslim. I believe, as Christians, we dishonor Jesus when we pass judgment on people (individuals or groups) without having sat at a table with them. Jesus welcomed to the table and sat with those whom his religious community regarded as sinners and the unclean. We should do the same.
Please pray for me, for the Muslim leader I will be meeting with, and the faith communities we serve and have influence upon. In the words of Jesus, “Our Father…let your kingdom come, let you will be done, as it is in heaven also upon earth” (Matt 6.9-10).