Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pentecost 20: something different

Today's readings were Genesis 16:1-16, Romans 4:13-18, and Luke 24:36-49. However, in place of the sermon on this particular Sunday at the particular church we attended, a convert from Islam who is now preparing for the pastoral ministry spoke. During the service:
  • He was born in Kurdistan, part of Iraq (96% Muslim intersecting with 80% Arabic), beginning the Islamic equivalent of catechesis at age 7, as is typical. Interestingly, his first exposure to religion was hearing his friends, at age 5, talking about Easter. However, he soon learned plenty about Islam because there is no separation of religion from either state or schooling.
  • The more he learned, the more he became skeptical, eventually reading so much philosophy as to become an atheist. This lasted until Hussein invaded, forcing him to evacuate toward Iran along with his neighbors. A turning point occurred when God lowered storm clouds to protect him as he climbed out of reach of the guns of Hussein's army. Subsequently, he escaped to Iran (twice!), got some job experience with a cheese factory, and was granted political asylum in the US.
  • Once in the US, he ended up in Wisconsin, where he studied the Bible with a pastor, later comparing it in hindsight with the Quran. What stood out at him was the conditionality of Islam - Allah grants believers paradise only if they do good works and give all to him. Christianity is the exact opposite - God gives us all things and unconditionally has mercy. Christianity is also surety incarnate - since God did it all for you, your salvation is certain.
In the fellowship hall afterward:
  • The first step to evangelizing a Muslim friend is not evangelism. It's friendship. Make friends slowly and in-depth, avoiding religious conversation unless s/he brings it up.
  • Once you are good friends, ask about his/her religion.
  • After you listen, "Now let me tell you about what I believe." Start with the basics: Law (a pane of glass shattered by one pebble) and Gospel; knowing Christ from what is written about Him in the Bible; showing the depth/precision/long-range-ness of Old Testament prophecy; showing the utter reliability of New Testament eyewitnesses; knowing that Christ became man because man sinned, and He is the only perfect substitute.
  • Interestingly, one could use the Quranic statement that Jesus was the only prophet who never sinned (i.e. was perfect) as a logical step to show that He is divine (if someone does not sin, that someone is equivalent to God, whose distinguishing mark in this respect is holiness).
  • Some things must be taken on faith. If we could prove everything about Christianity, then it wouldn't be worth not believing in (not that it isn't!). Example: Trinity. Muslims generally think of it as 1 + 1 + 1, which logically does not equal 1. But, since the Trinity is in fact not three separate gods, it is rather 1 x 1 x 1, which equals 1.
  • Keep in mind that taqiyya is frequently used in Muslim evangelism. One can't necessarily trust that something your friend tells you is actually true. Hard words, yes.
  • Christianity is the only religion wherein man cannot save himself. God reaches down.
Soli Deo gloria.

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