Monday, September 6, 2010

Love My [Muslim!] Neighbor?

I have been wondering lately what it means to love my neighbor in a world where Muslims are feared and demonized.

A good friend was kind enough to add me to an e-list that discusses this very thing in the interest of building peace between Christians and Muslims and Jews.

Often the discussion focuses on world-scale things, like foreign policies and dialogues between world leaders. But one participant blew me away with a brief list of practical things he does, as an everyday Christian, to be a peacemaker in today's ever evolving world.

With Jared Holsing's permission, here's what he wrote on the e-list:

What do each of you actually do, on a daily basis, that does not require funding, that does not depend on prior connections, that doesn't require the organization or mobilization of people in your direct employment in your organization, etc.? I'm talking about your life in your town where you raise your kids?

Here's what I'm doing as a small pebble here in Falls Church, VA, U.S.A.:

--I assume the best of my Muslim friends and of Muslims in general, taking them at their word and taking their statements as genuine reflections of their honest beliefs (rather than assume they are just being politically correct or hiding some sinister beliefs that I am told "they" all believe).

--I attend my local mosque, as a Christian, every Friday night, to sit under Imam Shaker's teaching from the Qur'an (Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church/Seven Corners) in order to hear directly from him what he actually teaches my neighbors. This is also a great context for making new friends.

--I treat the mosque like a place where I am welcome, and I feel free to come and go like a regular person

--I read the Qur'an to understand personally and first hand what it actually says and then ask Muslim friends or the Imam when I have a question. (FYI, I also read the Bible on a daily basis.)

--I attended an Iftar at the mosque where I met a new friend, Tammam

--I invited Tammam and his family to my home for a meal (we're setting up a time within the next 10 days)

--I try to read widely from many sources and perspectives attempting to see the world through others' eyes (a Muslim-Christian virtual library could be a nice online resource to help regular people by directing them to good resources)

--I comment on facebook and engage in sustained dialogue with my non-Muslim friends, seeking to be a voice of love-for-Muslims in their lives

--I go out of my way to build friendships with Muslims in my neighborhood and at work (Nabil, Asif, Ali, Mirza, Emad, Emaam, Habbiba, Rizwan, Abdi, etc, are some of my friends)

--I ask questions of my Muslims friends to better understand their lives (about holidays, theology, music, family, fasting, politics, poetry, culture, hopes/fears and so on).

--I share the love, forgiveness and assurance of salvation I have found in Jesus Christ and enjoy an open dialogue with them about this. I also strive to make the shape of my life line up with the example of Jesus (thoughts, attitudes, values, etc).

--When my Muslim friends suggest books, articles, videos, etc that I ought to watch/read, I follow through and learn as much as I can. I engage in an open and sustained dialogue with them, assuming that: we both love God; we both are grateful for the tradition in which we have been raised; we both have questions; and we both have found answers that we each find deeply compelling. This is a conversation among friends.

I'm sure that this description is shamefully limited. I'm sure that God will continue to expand the ripple of my pebble. BUT I am convinced that the volume of the Rock of Gibraltar is tiny compared to the cumulative mass of all the grains of sand on the shores encircling the Mediterranean. There is a part of me that thinks all these "initiatives" that we start/join are very important, but they are still only a few big rocks. They make big ripples compared to small pebbles... but what if we mobilized all the pebbles?

In his personal email to me, Jared, adds:

Jared compares himself to a pebble making little ripples, as opposed to others whom he regards as “big rocks” able to make big ripples. Compared to Jared, I am a fleck of sand who has not yet made a ripple or even penetrated the water's surface. I only drift along wishing the currents would take directions other than they do.

I think that has to change.

Please pray for me that I will rise to God's calling in regards to loving my Muslim neighbors. I don't think I can do it in my own power or without his help. But I do know it is his command. And I do think I want to be what Jesus defined a child of God to be (Matthew 5:9, cf James 3:18).

I will pray the same for you.

Then, let's get busy, with God's help, loving as Jesus would!

By the way, I have never felt that this type of engagement with Muslims needs to be based on a tacit agreement to pretend like we agree on everything or that all roads lead to God. My personal engagement with devout Muslims, including Imams, has always been based on a mutual understanding that we do not believe all of the same things--though there is a very substantive core that we do agree on. We do not need to patronize each other or compromise anything essential as a prerequisite to simply enjoying a meaningful relationship and deep conversation about God, his revelation and how that impacts our lives.

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