Evangelism is intimidating. Many of us find it difficult to start talking about our faith in an unfamiliar crowd. In my circles, politics and religion were usually “off-limits” so as to avoid arguments. But when someone gives us an opening, we are called by Christ to jump in.
Such an opening is upon us.
If you are a regular reader, you know I define evangelism as more than talk. It is action and example. Missions and charity are good expressions of Christian love.
But the biggest evangelical tool each and every one of us has is ourselves. Our daily actions speak volumes about us. We should strive to be kind, calm (even in our passion for Christ), forgiving, and respectful. We want others to realize that we have something special.
Then if someone asks why we are like this, we can say it’s because our God loves us and tells us to love everyone else, too.
When I think of this I remember one night when an accident happened in front of my house. The car wound up on the lawn of the convent next door. It was raining very hard. When I left my house to check on the driver, he was standing outside his wrecked vehicle.
One of the sisters from the convent came out and offered to bring him inside and get him a cup of tea. The man shuddered a bit and nervously said, “Oh! I’m not Catholic.” She smiled kindly and said that was alright. The man hesitated again and said, “but I don’t want to become Catholic, either.” The sister giggled a bit and said “no guarantees on that, but I can promise a dry towel and tea.”
Now I don’t know what this man’s faith was or if he had any faith at all. I don’t know what he heard or thought about what happens in convents. But he seemed genuinely surprised that the invitation for tea was still open after he expressed his concern.
A much larger version of this scenario is happening right now. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Muslims are showing up in crisis centers and refugee camps from Syria, Iraq, Nigeria and other countries.
Most of these Muslims are moderates whose faith is somewhat rattled by what their fellow Muslims are doing to the Christians, Jews and their own Muslim families. But when they arrive to see who is reaching out to help them, their faith is completely shaken.
Samaritan’s Purse, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, Open Doors USA, Christian Aid and many more Christian organizations are right up front eager to help. Their efforts are vital. They bring food, water and medical attention. They provide children’s services like school classes and immunizations. They help find missing relatives. They wash and replace clothes and shoes. They provide security and a moment of relief.
And they are having conversations.
“They are killing all the Christians. Why did you come here? Aren’t you afraid?” they say. According to a Samaritan’s Purse volunteer, this is a common sentiment expressed by grateful, but often incredulous Muslims who show up in her camp.
Daniel Shayestah was a radical Muslim by the time he was nine. All his life he was been told that Christians and Jews are evil. He was taught that “Islam is the winner. Islam is the best, without any deeper logic about it. Many times I cried out to Allah “I want to kill Christians! I want to kill Jews”.
In 1979, he was instrumental in the overthrow of the Shah of Iran and helped put Ayatollah Khomeini in power. More recently however, his politics landed him in jail. After an amazing escape, he wound up in Turkey.
For some reason, he decided to take a Comparative Religions course in Istanbul. He was “amazed and shocked to see that Christian values were superior in every way.” Shayestah now is a committed Christian and speaks out about all he discovered and the threat of radical Islam.
The Muslims in the refugee camps are getting a more practical demonstration of why Christianity is the Way. Many lifelong Muslims have had their eyes opened to see that Christianity is not evil.
When one volunteer matter-of-factly told a refugee he was there because “Jesus Christ loves you and he commands that I love you. Where else should I be?” the refugee fell to her knees in tears. Even as Islamic State demands that Christians rebuke their faith and convert to Islam, untold numbers of Muslims have converted to Christianity in the refugee camps.
It gives me hope that when all is said and done, Christianity will return and thrive in the Holy Lands.
Meanwhile, what can we do? First and foremost, we can pray. Pray for all the refugees- the Christians, the Jews, and the Muslims. Pray just as hard for the volunteers and soldiers who put themselves into the situation to bring some respite to these people. Pray for the future of Christianity, not just in that region, but worldwide. Then get to work.
Do you have a Muslim neighbor or coworker? If they seem a little private or distant, what is your first thought? What if a non-Muslim friend started acting like that? Would you think she was a terrorist? More likely, you would wonder what was wrong; and as a good Christian, you would try to coax it out of her.
So here’s a thought. Why don’t you invite your Muslim neighbor over for coffee? You may need to leave a note in their mailbox or on their desk. When you ask how they are doing, don’t be surprised to find that they are scared and/or a little sad about how a few radical extremists affect the perception of Muslims.
How many Catholics hesitated to profess their faith when the issue of pedophile priests was in the headlines? If your neighbor asks why you invited them for coffee, say that you are just a little concerned about them. If they push, tell them how your faith makes you want to check on people when they seem out of sorts. Ask if you can pray with her. If not, tell her you will remember her in your private prayers anyway.
She may not convert, but she will know the love of a Christian and that is a start.
Let’s turn the Radical Islamic movement around on them. Let’s be Christian and reach out to Muslims however and wherever we can and introduce them to true, loving and caring Christianity. Let Christ reign!