All too often, Christians associate only with other Christians. If they share their life in Jesus at all, they tend to do so with the link-minded.
But a new book reveals how important it is to reach out in love to those we may perceive as different from us, or even feel uncomfortable with, including Muslims.
In her new book, titled The Imam's Daughter, Hannah describes her upbringing in the north of England in a Muslim neighborhood. Like all Muslim children, Hannah was taught that she must submit to Allah's will.
But Hannah hid a terrible secret from her school friends: Her father-the respected local imam-was sexually abusing her. He told Hannah she was dirty and worthless, that she'd never be good enough for Allah. Hannah longed to run away, but the only people she knew well were fellow Muslims who would return her to her father. A suicidal Hannah wondered, why was life so dark and abusive?
When Hannah was 16, she began attending Sixth Form College. On her first day, she met Mrs. Jones, the school counselor. Mrs. Jones began to gently share Jesus with Hannah, but Hannah refused to believe that God was anyone but a cruel, avenging being who laughed at her misfortune.
And yet, it was Mrs. Jones whom Hannah turned to when she discovered a frightening secret: Her father was planning to take her back to Pakistan to marry her off to a cousin.
Mrs. Jones immediately took Hannah into her own home. Life in Mrs. Jones' home was a whole new world for Hannah. She wasn't beaten when she made mistakes. The Jones family openly expressed affection with one other, and with Hannah. A few weeks later, as the Jones prepared to go to church, Hannah asked if she could come. She wanted to know more about this God who led people to invite a stranger of a different race and religion into their home to protect her and love her.
Hannah was amazed to see people praying for the needs of other people around the world regardless of their religion. If this love came from God, Hannah reasoned, perhaps she should get to know Him. Christmas Eve, she asked Jesus to come into her heart. She was filled with a sense of God's presence and love.
When Hannah's family got word of her conversion, they showed up at her house with 40 men armed with knives and hammers. They beat on the door, screaming that they were going to cut her throat. Hannah was forced to go into hiding. In time, she moved away and married a man who was also following Jesus. She began a ministry to Muslim girls who are threatened with violence and even death if they refuse an arranged marriage.
You know, Hannah's story is a reproach to those among us who view Muslims as "the enemy," and prefer to have little to do with them. But The Imam's Daughter, besides being a great read about a brave young woman, shows us that we need to reach out to everyone, including Muslims, to show them the love that God has for them through Jesus Christ.
That gift of love-something we are commanded to do-may ultimately lead them into God's eternal kingdom.