By John Hawke
Let’s try a simple exercise. What’s the very first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “Muslim?” No, not the guarded answer you’re now scrambling to come up with five seconds later; the very first one you initially thought.
I asked 20 of my missions-minded friends for their immediate responses to that question. I should point out, these are godly men and women who love Jesus and have roughly 2.5 centuries of combined missions experience of sharing God’s love with the unreached.
Out of these 20 responses, everything essentially boiled down into 3 answers.
- Hijabs (head coverings) = 30%
- Middle East = 10%
- Terrorism/violence/militant/anti-American = 60%
There’s obviously a ton we could unpack from those responses. Why are so many of them based on fear? How have different life experiences shaped those beliefs? How do political ideologies and media consumption shape this discussion? How does age? How does the Bible?
But rather than do any of that, I want to look at an answer that no one gave, myself included.
“God loves them.”
I think we often miss the enormous theological weight and impact of that sentence, especially when it has to do with our (perceived) “enemies”.
This concept of God loving Muslims is so foreign to our current cultural climate, that I don’t think we can emphasize this point enough. So I encourage you to slowly read that sentence again and let it really sink in.
What would it look like if that was our initial thought? “Muslims? Oh yes, God loves them passionately.”
I think our dialog and understanding would radically transform from a place of fear and distrust to one of grace, hope and love.
It’s still not usually my first thought (or second…) when I think about Muslims. But I want it to be.
“That’s all good, John, but what does this all have to do with me? And what about everything that Christians need to know about Muslims?”
Thanks for asking! I hear that lists make for compelling blog posts, so here’s my comprehensive list:
The Most Important Things That All Christians Absolutely Need to Know About Muslims
- God loves them.
End of list!
Obviously, that’s a little tongue-in-cheek.
Yes, it’s important to know and understand other people’s values and beliefs.
Yes, we need to contextualize the message of the gospel and find relevant ways of demonstrating God’s love.
Yes, we need to build trust through loving relationships and God-honoring friendships.
And yes, this can be incredibly difficult.
But for many of us, we need to learn to crawl before we send a rocket to the moon. And focusing on the truth of God’s love seems like the perfect place for us to start.
So I’ve got two related challenges during our month of prayer for Muslims.
- Spend some time earnestly praying that East Asian Muslims would come to know God’s overwhelming love for them.
- Pray that you personally come to know God’s overwhelming love for them, as well.
Of course, we don’t just stop at the knowledge of God’s love for others. Rather, it’s the beginning. As God continues to transform our hearts, we’re empowered to radically declare and extend Christ’s love to those our culture would try to deem our “enemies.”
That’s my vision for the American Church. And that’s a sort of love that would change the world.
Looking to go deeper?
For great information about Muslim faith, culture and beliefs from a Christian perspective, see the 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World blog.
John has almost a decade of missions experience at OMF (U.S.) as a mobilizer-data analyst-coder-teacher-writer. His passions include running, satire, coding, board games, mobilizing the American church and medium-length walks on the beach.
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