Tuesday, April 12, 2016
ABRAHAM, MOHAMMED AND JESUS
One of the great things about our little house church family is that we’ve had numerous opportunities to host Muslim students in our gatherings together.
It all began a few years ago when one of our members – who was an ESL [English-as-a-Second Language] teacher at UCI – started inviting a few of his Muslim students to join us on Sunday mornings. Eventually a few others in our house church – who also taught ESL at another local school – began to invite students, too. Pretty soon it became a fairly common thing for our house church to welcome Muslim students from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and other Middle Eastern countries. We’ve also had Chinese students join us who were part of a Healing Light cult, and occasionally a few Buddhists here and there.
Traditionally, our idea of church isn’t about outreach. Primarily we tend to see the gathering as something that committed followers of Jesus do to see and experience Him in their midst. But as we started to welcome students who were Muslim into our fellowship we started realizing that we didn’t need to change very much about what we do. We still sing about Jesus and focus on Jesus and share scriptures and testimonies about what Jesus is doing in our lives. All of that is exactly the same.
What we do change in the event that we have Muslim guests that morning is to not serve pork, and we avoid placing our Bibles on the floor, and we try to respect their sensitivities whenever possible. Of course we know that they don’t believe that Jesus was crucified, but we do. So, we don’t abandon talk about the cross, but we might shift our emphasis more on the resurrection life of Jesus we’re enjoying, or focus more on the teachings of Jesus that are all about forgiveness and mercy and compassion for everyone.
This past Sunday morning we were very blessed to have Abraham [Ebrihim] and Mohammed join us, both from Saudi Arabia.
They sat quietly during worship, and even recorded a few of our worship songs on their iPhones. They listened as we each took turns sharing what the Lord Jesus had been showing us during the week, and they observed us as we shared scriptures for one another and how we prayed over one another for specific things. Then they allowed us to pray for them. Mohammed had recently injured his shins in an accident. We asked if we could lay hands on him and pray and he agreed, so we did.
The best part, honestly, was when we shifted to the meal time. That’s when we sat down on the floor together – “Saudi-style” – around the coffee table and shared the meal. We listened to them share stories about their homeland. We talked about where to find a good Saudi restaurant in Orange County. We laughed together, shared videos with one another, and then we listened as they played drums for us in their traditional style.
It was a simple, yet beautiful testimony of shared life together. No one tried to argue theology. No one compared religions. No one attempted to say that their version of God or of Jesus was the right one. We just enjoyed being together and we shared a sweet time of human connection where Jesus was honored, and welcomed, in our conversation and fellowship.
Hopefully we’ll see them again soon. But if not, we are still blessed to have been given the opportunity to show them the love of Jesus in a very tangible way. We let them know they were loved and accepted and welcomed – not because they agreed with us on theology – but because they were beautiful people who were dearly loved of God.
If they do return, we might have to carefully navigate a discussion about Jesus. If so, my hope is to begin by asking them to share with us what they know of Jesus from their scriptures and to take the time to listen and affirm those things we have in common about Him [which is way more than most of us realize].
We might need to meet one-on-one with them, or in smaller groups, where we can have a more thoughtful dialog together, but again, agreement on theology is not our requirement for fellowship or love. Our main goal is to take hold of Jesus with others who are seeking to know Jesus more fully.
Our hope is that we can keep our eyes on Jesus and continue to place our hope in Him to introduce Himself as we remain obedient to Him.
I’ll keep you posted!