May 06, 2014
What To Do With Muslims
By Brittany Tedesco
It’s one of those stories told around the dinner table nearly every time I visit my in-laws. My husband was in the third grade and came home crying because a bigger boy in the class had hit him. “Don’t you ever come home crying again!” his father barked. “Next time he tries that, you hit him here,” he said, pointing at his nose. The story then leads into all of the fist fights my husband got into in middle and high school. Apparently he never lost a fight, a bygone trait of which his dad is still proud.
Being able to control one’s enemies is as American as apple pie.
But it doesn’t really jive with the whole “turn the other cheek” command Jesus gave to His followers.
Who are our enemies, by the way?
If you would’ve asked me that a few years ago, I probably would’ve said Muslims.
To be perfectly honest, I’ve been troubled by the influx of Muslims into my country. I’ve shaken my head disapprovingly while driving past a mosque being built in my parents’ quiet suburb in Texas.
Like most people, I’m well aware of the terrorism that radical Islam can breed. Many Christian Aid-assisted ministries have fallen victim to this terrorism.
I read a book by a former Syrian Muslim, now living in the U.S., who examines the origin of Islam. She explains how it was birthed out of a survival mentality of kill or be killed. Camps of Bedouins who lived in the desert, where food and water were scarce, knew that they needed to raid and plunder other camps in order to survive. After all, at any moment, they could be raided. In this harsh and unforgiving environment, a religion was formed to affirm and approve the raiding and plundering.
The author cautions Americans to be wary of Muslim immigrants because of their “raiding” mindset. After moving to America, she was horrified to find a Muslim friend damaging goods at a grocery store. The reason, her friend told her, was because the store owner was a Jewish man.
“These are our enemies,” I thought as I read this. “We have to protect ourselves from raiders like them.”
But didn’t Jesus say that if someone forcibly takes your shirt, to give him your coat as well?
Don’t misunderstand me. I'm not suggesting that it will all get better if we just pretend it isn't there. But I am reminded of the Scripture passage that states “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” Ephesians 6:12.
Are Muslims really our enemy? Or are they simply people like you and me, but caught in the trap of Islam? I think we would do well to set our fears and baggage aside, and engage with them.
A friend and coworker climbed into a taxi at the airport recently and, instead of becoming engrossed with her smart phone, decided to engage the driver: a Muslim man from Pakistan. Her friendliness encouraged him to share some of his beliefs and she, in turn, was able to share her faith. When he dropped her off at her destination, he thanked her for teaching him many things about Christianity he never knew.
“Engage with your Muslim neighbors,” a former Muslim woman from Egypt recently admonished us in staff meeting.
It’s a matter of hospitality.
Upon returning from a trip to Central Asia, a mostly Muslim region, our Development Director told us about the incredible hospitality he experienced. While walking through a village, his traveling companion challenged him to knock on any door, assuring him that he’d immediately be welcomed inside.
Skeptical, our Director accepted the challenge. Not only did the family upon whose door he knocked welcome him inside, they set a meal before him and dropped everything to sit and talk with their new guest. When it was time for him to depart, they sent him on his way with a bag of raisins they’d been drying in the sun.
Our Director could have been a person with ill intentions. He could have had a weapon or been a thief. He could have had a raiding mentality.
But still he was ushered into their humble home, without suspicion, and treated as an honored guest.
If these villagers without Christ can put aside fear to engage with a stranger, so can we.
Besides, “the Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1