Wednesday, January 22, 2014

An Authentic Christian Witness Among Muslims

Millions of Muslims are waiting to hear an authentic Christian witness,” concludes Fouad Masri on his Indianapolis website. With that in mind, I suggest exploring some ideas of Carl Medearis, the catalytic Christian peace-maker for Christian-Muslim relationshipss. Current global events suggest nothing could be of greater importance. In terms of Christian missions, I see nothing currently that is more challenging.

I am currently re-reading/studying the book: Muslims, Christians , and Jesus, by (you guessed it) Carl Medearis (Bethany House/2008). Medearis actively promotes and builds understanding relationships between Christians and Muslims. While I would like to further explore his ideas for sharing Jesus, I offer another thread today.

mcj_products_Carl MedearisI was first challenged about 1980 when my friend Roland Gani, an Egyptian Christian, shared his perspectives with the church I served. Gani gave me a new appreciation of a Palestinian perspective on Israeli-Palestinian politics. Since then, I have read—pursued--other resources. Only recently, I engaged in an intensely interesting and challenging conversation with a local medical doctor--a devout Egyptian Muslim.

I am not at all surprised when Carl Medearis suggests there is “so much fear of the unknown Islamic faith that all Muslims are often blamed for the violence of the few.” Medearis refers to the 1953 CIA overthrow of the Iranian president and establishing the power of the Shah of Iran. The West saw this as a balance of power to offset Russian aggression but Iranian Shi’ites saw it as an unwelcome intrusion of Western influence in the last remaining Shi’a Islamic nation.

Khomeini overthrew the Shah, stormed the Embassy and shattered American stabilization. We viewed that as absolute hostility. Iranian Shi’ites saw it as recovering their nation and rejecting western influence. We now know Western Power helped establish Saddam Hussein in power (again a balance of power) and we helped empower Afghan freedom fighters (aka Osama bin Ladin) (again maintaining those political powers of the West vs the East—US vs Russia).

Lacking space to fully discuss this, I offer these observations: (1) Western influences often created their own relational problems; (2) Muslims often become confused and self-conflicted political pawns used mostly for the advantage of the powers that be; (3) Infidels inhabit sacred areas of Muslim society; sometimes to help, sometimes to hinder; and (4) through it all, Muslims see an intentional, even if misunderstood, undying loyalty on the part of the West (U.S.) to the nation state of Israel (which only further complicates it all by perhaps taking it too far).

American Christians need to beware of western diplomacy and politics. Moreover, we need greater sensitivity to what we do share in common with the Muslim world. Writing in God Almighty (p. 8), Lester Fleenor (deceased Egyptian Church of God Minister) acknowledges, “Allah is simply the Arabic word for God; it is used by Arabic-speaking Christians as well as by Muslims. Allah is not the Muslim God per se”, although each differs at several major points. Fleenor further suggested that persons claiming faith as Christians but promoting materialism, selfishness, and immorality are themselves living and promoting a wrong concept of God (p. 12).

Muslims and Christians, being monotheists, each believe there is but one God and each believes God is sovereign. Muslims believe in the five pillars that define them as Muslims: The Testimony, The Fast, Giving, Prayer, and The Pilgrimmage. Christians believe in some form of each of these, although with varying degrees of emphasis.

Medearis finds “there is a growing number of Muslims around the world who maintain their cultural identity as ‘Muslim’ but choose to align themselves with the spiritual and moral teachings of Jesus, becoming his disciples while becoming what [the word] ‘Muslim’ truly means: submitted to God” (p134).

May we not regard a different approach as either ignorant or simplistic; nor do I want to challenge the right of an Israeli state. However, I agree with Medearis when he protests: “I do not hold a side when it comes to geopolitical distinctions, and I do not believe that any person has the right to bomb, shoot, burn, or defile the people and/or presence of another culture in order to gain religious or political dominance. War is always a tragedy. Surely no one who bears the name of Christ would consider calling for the destruction of Muslims, since it would seem contrary to so much of what Jesus commanded” (p. 127/italic for emphasis).

From Warner’s World:
An authentic Christian witness begins with the summary Jesus gave of The Law and Gospel: love God supremely and love your neighbor as yourself—especially if you live next door to a Muslim …

I am

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