How We Do it Matters

To mask or not, to promote order or defund the police, to conserve the environment or protect commerce: We better not sit on the sidelines, seek middle ground, or talk about nuances, or we will be lumped in with the rest of those people. Polarized much? Need I add Muslims and Islam to your powder keg of turmoil?

In our ministry through Encountering the World of Islam, we help evangelical Christians root themselves in Christ’s love, empowering them to share the love of Christ with Muslims. This, like red state/blue state, MAGA, BREXIT, BLM, COVID19, the WHO, and even science, can be extraordinarily charged. Over the years, we have been accused by many different sides: “If you won’t take a public stand for the truth against [those people], then you must be [fill in the blank: weak, fearful, passive, compromised, subservient slaves, scum]." This is the message from our brothers and sisters in Christ.

When I am speaking to a Muslim, secular, or non-Christian audience, I often use relational, diplomatic language, using emotional intelligence (EQ) to help people understand and manage their responses, because interacting about charged issues can naturally stir up our emotions. The theory is that people who possess mature EQ not only regulate their own emotions but also are able to understand and influence the emotions of others. With this understanding, they can enjoy greater success in life: less polarization and more peace, love, and happiness. Even though I sometime use similar means, a sense of irritating social correctness wells up in me: I have very strong opinions that are central to who I am, and I want to persuade others to agree with me.

In fact, I am not constrained by weakness, fear, passivity, compromise, social correctness, or even my wife cringing. When I use language that sounds like conciliation, it is for an utterly different reason: I am to exemplify the fruit of the Spirit, Christ’s likeness. I do preach the truth of Christ’s kingdom, demonstrate justice, participate in my society, use my God-given rights, and vote. But how I do it matters:

Dear Keith, for the love of God, don’t use your freedom in Christ to coddle yourself, your opinions and point of view; rather serve people who don’t look like or agree with you with humble love. For the entire biblical message is achieved in loving your neighbor as yourself. If you bite and devour others, watch out or you will be destroyed by these others. So, though it may not feel good when you act like Christ, as you aren’t gratifying yourself, communicating the heart of the gospel depends on you doing so.

For when you do indulge yourself in demanding your way, you desire what is contrary to the Spirit, and you are in conflict with others. So you are not to do whatever you want. If you are led by the Spirit, you are not a slave to your obvious selfishness, hatred, discord, resentment, fits of rage, arrogance, dissension, factions, bitterness; and the like. Be warned that if you live like this you will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is found in your grateful sacrifice for others in reconciliation, tolerance, kindness, decency, fidelity, gentleness, and restraint. Against such things even you can’t argue. We who belong to Christ Jesus have murdered our desires for what we want to govern. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become arrogant, provoking, and resentful toward others.

Galatians 5:13-26, Spirit-amplified version for Keith