Written by Sam Logan
Monday, 05 August 2013 00:00
Why would we want to build credibility among Muslims?
Well, there are short and long answer to that question. The short answer is all I will try to provide here.
The fundamental reason we would want to do this is that Jesus deserves their praise, just as He deserves the praise of every single part of Creation. Of course, we know that only the Holy Spirit can cause a heart to want to worship and honor Jesus and that, in one sense, therefore, even “preaching is foolishness.” But we still preach and we still work to prepare the best sermons we can and we still deliver those sermons with energy and enthusiasm. God’s absolute sovereignty does not eliminate our responsibility to be the kind of channels for the Spirit’s work that the Scriptures call us to be.
Many passages of Scripture describe the kinds of channels that we should be – wise but gentle (Matthew 10: 15 – 17), well-prepared (I Peter 3: 14 – 16), loving (I Corinthians 13), consistency between our message and our lives (James 3: 13 – 16) and “all things to all people” (I Corinthians 9:22). Of course, there must never be any compromise with the truth but Jesus, Peter, and Paul knew that and none of them, in giving the commands above, was suggesting the slightest such compromise of the essential Gospel message. But they were teaching us that the qualities of the messenger matter. And all of the qualities mentioned in the cited passages (and in many more such passages) involved “credibility.” How we live has a significant amount to do with whether those to whom we are speaking even listen to us.
Living biblically before Muslims is, therefore, critically important if we really do want them to bring to Jesus the honor and worship and obedience which He deserves. I will mention here just three (of the many) things that such living might entail.
1) Oppose injustices committed against Muslims. I will say this even more strongly – oppose injustices against Muslims as vigorously and publicly as you oppose injustices committed by Muslims against others. The July 1, 2013, of Time Magazine included (pp. 42 – 45) an article which described attacks on Muslims and Christians by Buddhists in Myanmar. In addition to my service at Biblical, I work with the World Reformed Fellowship and the gruesome details of the Time article were personalized in an e-mail which I received from one of our members in Myanmar and which I posted as a “News” item on our website (http://www.wrfnet.org/). Loud and vigorous denunciation of the violence against Muslims in Myanmar would in no way compromise the essential Gospel message. But it would go a very long way toward giving us credibility with the Muslims with whom we share that Gospel message.
2) Find ways of expressing appropriate support for Muslim communities. The key word, of course, is “appropriate.” Such support must never compromise the essential truths of the Christian faith but, then, that is true of any support we give to projects involving non-Christians. At the end of the street where Susan and I live is a small neighborhood park. This park is used by all kinds of folks in our area, not all of whom have a discernible Christian identity. It is biblically appropriate for Susan and me to work with ALL of our neighbors to make sure that park is clean and safe. How can we do something similar with those who are clearly Muslim (and whom we want to come to the point of worshipping Jesus)?
Let me get specific (although that is always dangerous!). When a Muslim community in New York City announced plans to construct a mosque near the site of the World Trade Center, “building credibility” with our Muslims neighbors would have been dramatically enhanced by Christians giving their support for that project (I told you that getting specific was dangerous!). Perhaps some Christians had solid and genuine biblical reasons for opposing that location for the mosque and, if so, those reasons must be honored. But there would have been other ways of “coming along side” the Muslim community in that situation and becoming the kinds of channels the Scriptures command sometimes requires us to be creative in such efforts. However one regards the particular instance of the mosque in NYC, if we want to be credible witnesses to Jesus in the Muslim community, we must find ways to work toward the kind of behavior toward Muslims which the Lord commands His people to demonstrate toward their Babylonian captors in Jeremiah 29:7 and which Peter commends to the Christians living under Nero in I Peter 2: 13 – 15.
3) Where appropriate, seek the advice of Muslim leaders on religious matters. There’s that word again – “appropriate.” There are many religious matters on which it would be INappropriate to seek the advice of Muslim leaders. But the Muslim community faces some of the same challenges which the evangelical Christian community faces, especially in the area of sexual sins, and asking for advice from an Imam in responding to those challenges would NOT be inappropriate. Asking for advice does not necessarily mean following that advice. But seeking counsel from Muslim spiritual leaders will communicate to them that we want to hear them and if we really do want to hear them, the chances are just that much greater that they will, at some point, be willing to listen to us. Once again, it is a matter of being the kind of credible messengers that will assure that rejection of our message will be cause by the scandal of that message and not by the offensiveness of the messenger.
I have focused in this blog on building credibility among Muslims. But if these comments have any value at all, they have value with respect to whatever non-Christians we are seeking to win to Christ. Knowing Jesus and His infallible and inerrant Word is of primary importance in Christian life and ministry. But “primary” does not mean “only.” The qualities of the messenger really do matter, no matter whom that messenger is addressing.
Sam Logan is Senior Counsel for Major Gifts at Biblical. He also serves as the International Director of the World Reformed Fellowship (www.wrfnet.org). He is an ordained minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and is President Emeritus of Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia).. He is married to Susan and they have two sons and two grandsons. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/samuel-logan