The birth of a Caucasian girl last week in an Amsterdam suburb has made me reflect on our rapidly changing Europe. Her parents’ apartment overlooks a Muslim elementary school. Their Muslim neighbours are celebrating Ramadan. This little girl will grow up in a very different environment from that of her parents’ childhood. And she will need a whole different set of social skills.
This little girl happens to be my first grandchild: Jette Sofia Fountain.
While both her parents grew up in rural Dutch settings with almost no contact with Muslims, Jette belongs to a white urban minority among Amsterdam’s children. For her the sight of veiled women, arabic script, and dark skins will be a normal daily occurrence.
The truth is, such sights are becoming normal wherever we live in western Europe today. That means we all need new social skills. Relating to Muslims is no longer a mission task for specialists. It is something we all need to learn.
This year’s 30 Days Prayer booklet, a guidebook for praying through the Ramadan season, offers helpful ideas on how to build friendships with Muslims, and introduce them to Jesus. (See www.30-days.net)
Contrary to what is often thought, it is possible to lead Muslims to Jesus. Witness to Muslims needs to take into account the context of Muslim culture and religion. The message is the same, the means of proclaiming it is different.
Here are some guidelines the booklet suggests to help us in this task:
1. Pray for Muslim friends and acquaintances. We are, of course, totally dependent on the intervention of the Holy Spirit.
2. Have a specific goal. Our goal should be to make the message understandable and accessible to our Muslim friends.
3. Be open to personal and human contact. We must love Muslims sincerely through kindness and respect in our relationship with them. Genuine friendship is the context for sharing our faith. As with all true friendships we need to take time to understand, appreciate and help our Muslim friends.
4. Be patient. While we can speak freely of our faith from the beginning of our relationship with a Muslim, we should keep in mind that most Muslims will need to hear us many times before they even begin to consider believing in Christ. Don’t be discouraged by objections.
5. Explain the gospel in a very simple manner. Use words and terms understandable to Muslims. Explain the Christian meaning of terms such as sin, prayer, God, Son of God and faith. These often convey another meaning for Muslims.
6. Give your friend a New Testament or a Bible. Reading these books give Muslims new perspectives on Christianity. Encourage a regular reading of the Gospels in particular.
7. Emphasise God’s perfect holiness. God calls for righteousness. People are generally unrighteous and in slavery to sinful attitudes. Neither education nor moral teaching can change this situation. People need a new birth.
8. Speak of God’s interventions in our own lives. Tell of His faithfulness, His love, His justice, His provision for us and how He speaks to us.. Muslims do not understand God as one who gives and keeps promises. Our testimony of a real and active faith is very important.
9. Answer objections with kindness. Don’t get carried away into passionate discussions.
10. Be discerning if our Muslim friends express a belief in Jesus Christ and the Bible. In one sense Muslims do believe in Jesus and the Bible; however, their faith is very different from what the Bible teaches us. They do not believe that it is possible to be in a real relationship with God as we believe. Jesus said that eternal life is to know God (John 17:3). It is not just knowing certain things about God, but to know Him personally.
11. Focus on areas of agreement to begin with. Affirming our common beliefs helps Muslims to listen to us with greater openness.
12. Have a simple and clear way of presenting Christ. Take a passage of the Bible; for instance, John 5:24 and Romans 6:23.
13. Relate stories, especially about the life of Jesus and other men and women mentioned in the Bible.
14. Use literature & films. Keep an assortment of Gospels, the “Jesus” film, CDs and DVDs available in various languages.
15. Seek them out. Don’t be afraid to visit them in their homes and invite them to your own home. If you invite them for a meal buy your meat in a Muslim butcher shop or serve fish. Don’t offer alcohol.
16. Witness to the same gender. Extended witness across gender lines is culturally unacceptable, even by correspondence.
Some don’ts to heed i
•Don’t attack the person of Mohammed.
•Don’t criticise the Qur’an.
•Don’t engage in politically-sensitive issues, e.g. championing Israel.
•Don’t insist on Jesus as being the Son of God. Later, when they have read the Bible or the gospels, you can give them the necessary explanations.
•Don’t engage in argument. You have little chance of convincing Muslims by reasoned argument or Western logic. Avoid getting into discussions which push them to defend Islam.
God created us in His image. We can reflect the Trinity by our manner of communicating, by our friendship and our shared love. We are not called to fight Islam-but to make every effort to make Jesus known!
I pray my granddaughter will grow up with these skills as her second nature.
Till next week,
Till next week,