Have you ever tried sharing Christ with a friend, only to feel dismayed or discouraged at seeing them go in the “wrong direction”? You can probably relate to this scenario. An EWI alumna shares her experience with a friendship formed through completing her assignment of meeting a Muslim: Becoming More Muslim
How should we feel about our Muslim friends embracing their faith all the more? Our usual response to someone becoming “more Muslim” tends to be discouragement, but why is this? It seems that somehow we perceive Muslims to be further from the gospel than other people who aren’t following Christ. Is there really evidence of this? It might surprise us to learn that many Muslims who come to Christ actually point to their faith in Islam as an important step toward faith in Jesus. For us, it’s tempting to see our experiences with Christ as prescriptive. In other words, we think, “This is how I heard the gospel, so this is the way everyone must respond to the good news.” This is a pretty serious assumption, though, and one that fails to recognize how much we see our faith and Scriptures through our own cultural lenses. Muslims are not like us, so perhaps our expectations for them should also be different.
If we are feeling discouraged or disappointed with our Muslim friend’s choices, it might be helpful to take a moment and think about our expectations. What exactly is our hope for our friends who have yet to encounter Christ, and what should their journey to discovering Jesus look like? Is it possible that the glimpses of truth found in other religious systems could prepare and point someone to the Way, the Truth, and the Life?
The fact that a person doesn’t have complete truth doesn’t mean that he or she is on the wrong path. It could be that such people are pointed in the right direction, but just haven’t gotten there yet. The decision to practice one’s faith more devoutly often reveals a deepening desire to connect with God. If your heart stirred to know God more, wouldn’t you first go through the channels that you know? Instead of trying something new, wouldn’t your first efforts include practicing familiar rituals with greater fervency? Seen in this way, a person’s return to his or her faith could be a sign of growing faith and hungering to experience relationship with him more.
As we become more aware of our expectations - which might not be as much biblical as they are cultural - we’ll need to make room in our minds for someone’s relationship with Jesus to look rather different from our own. How many of our cultural ideas of Christianity play into what we think should happen with our Muslim friends? Perhaps God desires to draw them to Jesus through Islam. Can we imagine God working through another religious system to reveal himself?