Many are asking the question today, “How can Christians overcome their fears of Islam?” Complicating this question are recent events such as the controversy over the proposed mosque being built near ground zero and the controversial threats of burning Qur’ans, both stories making headlines in the world press.
A dilemma we may be facing at some point in time is this: where does our ultimate allegiance lie when there is conflict? Is it to America and our democratic values and freedoms or to the Kingdom of God? It may not be an easy choice if we have to choose only one. Many have believed in the past that we could mesh both together, but today we find ourselves living in a fast-changing and more diverse society. Muslims are our neighbors, and as followers of Christ we do not have a choice whether or not we should love them. Even if we consider them to be our enemies, we are still commanded to love them. Important questions then become “What does it mean to love Muslims?” and “How do can we practice genuine agape love?” There will be reward for our efforts because scripture tells us that love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8).
Shifting demographics today create a new paradigm for Christians in the west and we must decide anew how we will respond. Will we follow the example of some of our predecessors and attack Muslims verbally through polemics and debates, resort to physical attacks and wars (e.g., the Crusades), and continue to isolate ourselves into different camps (as in the Middle East and Europe today)? Can we really be salt and light if we are divided communities that only talk at each other and never to each other? We can suggest another option, an approach which can change the world one relationship at a time.
The approach is simply this: let’s get to know Muslims on a personal level. As human beings created by the same God, we all have so much in common, and the best way to overcome fear and misunderstanding is to find common ground. This doesn’t have to be complicated and can start with going where Muslims live or work, patronizing their businesses, visiting the local mosque, and developing friendships with them. By building relationships we can learn about each other’s worldview and daily lives. Muslims are real people who value real friendships. Perhaps we’ll even learn about their fears as we share our own. As we live out our lives for them to see and be a part of, we will be able to demonstrate to them by our actions what it means to be true believers and followers of Jesus. Most Muslims have never met a true follower of Christ.
So how do we overcome our fears in response to Islam? The answer to this question challenges us to the core of our faith. Jesus is still calling us to seek the Kingdom of God above all else. When we decide to obey and follow Him, he will help us to overcome our fear and fill us with love for our neighbors, whether Muslims, Christians, Jews, or atheists. He is still in the life-changing business. With God’s help, we can learn from the past, find his way to respond to Muslims in love, and see His Kingdom come among Muslim peoples.
Note: Encountering the World of Islam classes allow students to contemplate tough issues and questions such as these over a 12-week period, while getting authoritative information in the textbook readings and through weekly teachings by experienced speakers. The course includes a field trip to the local mosque, which is one of the most rewarding experiences for many of the class participants. Classes are also forming overseas. To find a class near you or for more information, go here.