Embracing Our Muslim Neighbors

Paul de Vries is an exclusive CP columnist.
Paul de Vries is an exclusive CP columnist. | (By CP Cartoonist Rod Anderson)

The relationships between Muslims and Christians remain complex. On the one hand, we certainly understand Jesus' command that we love our neighbors as ourselves, and we want to express that love our Muslim neighbors. A great expression of our neighborly love is our passion that our neighbors come to know Jesus. Now that they are in America, our neighbors have some freedom to study the Bible and hear the Gospel. And we do not want any biases on our part to interfere with the attractions of the amazing grace of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

On the other hand, even the American Muslim community poses many barriers to the Gospel or even having an interest in the Gospel. These barriers include being kicked out by their families and being abused by others for affirming the Gospel. Besides, their holy books, the Quran and Hadith, still say that we "infidels" should be killed. Of course, your neighbor is most probably not into creating terror for you or your family. After all, only 0.01% of Muslims are or want to be terrorists, according to a 2009 State Department sponsored estimate. There is only a one in 10,000 chance that your neighbor is one of those radical Muslims!

It is well known that most of the countries with great persecution against Christians are Muslim dominated countries. In a recent report, eight of the ten countries with the worst persecution against Christians are Muslim. Christian populations in the Middle East have been under especially hostile attacks, to the point of literal genocide against Christians – as recognized by former Secretary of State John Kerry. We all feel deeply about the fate of our brothers and sisters who are killed or forced to leave their homes and possessions while escaping with their lives because of their faith in our Lord Jesus. However, this profound concern and compassion for our brothers and sisters under severe Muslim persecution makes our love for our unsaved Muslim neighbors all the more precious and powerful – and especially strategic, as I will now explain.

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For many centuries, evangelistic outreaches to Muslims have been deeply frustrating and mostly unfruitful. Many factors have hindered the Spirit's work in drawing Muslim people to the amazing grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accepting the Gospel is a capital crime in some Muslim countries. In America, Muslim people can be completely disowned and disinherited by their families if they turn to Jesus. Besides, the lying propaganda against the Gospel has certainly made it mark – including awful false claims that Christians believe in three gods, and wildly deceitful distortions of the gift of Godly liberty.

Nevertheless, in the last two decades, and especially after 9/11/2001, hundreds of thousands of Muslims have come to Jesus – more men, women, and children have received the amazing grace of the Gospel than during all the centuries of Islam before then. So, what is now breaking down the barriers that hindered the Gospel? There are many factors – but here are three major patterns.

First, Jesus is appearing in the dreams and visions of many Muslim men, women, and children. They are then drawn to Jesus and want to know him more. In fact, the biggest hindrance to the growth of the Gospel in America is that many Muslims who have met Jesus in their visions and dreams do not know any Christians who can answer their questions! They may live or work next to Christians, but those Christians have "hid their light under a basket," and have made their life commitments to Christ a secret. Who then can guide our neighborly Muslims who have met Jesus in their visions and dreams and want to meet the living Jesus?

Second, contemporary technology has helped make the truths of the Gospel more acceptable. It is not easy for leaders of totalitarian Muslim regimes or imams of local mosques in America to block access to the truths of the Gospel. Thankfully, it is now far more complicated to restrict access to the Bible and God's teachings anyplace in the world. However, are there Godly people nearby who can ask, as the proverbial Philip asked, "Do you understand what you read?"

Third, with international and internet access to especially gory details of horrific violence in the name of "Allah" committed against civilian populations, many Muslim men and women have become deeply disappointed if not profoundly disgusted with the "fruit" of their faith in Allah. If "belief in Allah" makes people do such atrocities, sensitive Muslims are more open to spiritual alternatives. However, do they have loving friends or neighbors who are ready to show them a better way to live?

These three factors, please notice, have one very significant common element. Whenever Jesus is using (1) dreams and visions of himself, (2) Biblical knowledge and information, and (3) disappointment or disgust with a false religion, he still calls on those who know him and believe in him to make the introduction. And whether we suffer from unfounded fears of Muslims, ignorance of their searchings, or a false sense of our own personal privacy – the love that our Lord Jesus Christ desires us to have for our Muslim neighbors will empower us to overcome our hesitancies and to serve.

This love-empowered overcoming, by God's amazing grace, is essential in our time. May the Lord God give to each of us (1) the needed wisdom (2) to embrace his love and grace and (3) to channel it into the lives of the Muslims near us. And this Biblical attitude is being promoted and taught by a great conference in New York City, my town, on November 4, 2017. For more information and inspiration on this approach, and on the conference, please see the Heart for Muslims website.

And may we each grow as faithful ambassadors of our Lord Jesus in our own changing times.

Dr. Paul de Vries is the president of New York Divinity School, and a pastor, speaker and author. He is a specialist in Biblical hermeneutics and ethics and a life-long advocate of Biblical activism.

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