I remember once overseas when a Muslim friend invited me downtown to an English class.My husband also taught a gospel-based English class, and I wanted her to go to that, and see me as a friend.So, I went with her.
When I got here, I was taken aback.The lady teaching the class immediately started attacking Jesus and the crucifixion and resurrection, never breaking once in her determination to prove that what she assumed were my beliefs wrong.All the while she barely stopped to take a breath or allow me to get in a word edgewise.
I remember how horrified I was; how could I let her say those things about Jesus?“If only she knew the truth about Him, surely she wouldn’t be able to say those things,” I thought.How could she attack him?
When we left the class, my friends apologized to me profusely.They were so sorry that she never allowed me to reply, and they were appreciative that I treated their teacher respectfully regardless of how she treated me.
I learned a valuable lesson that day.
I learned how NOT to speak to a person of another faith from the way this lady spoke to me.
First, I learned to tread carefully when speaking about the most venerated leader of another person’s faith.Jesus is incomparable, and Jesus and Mohammed are NOT the same.I know things about Mohammed that are terrible and true.But I remember how it felt to have her attack someone I loved so dearly, when she didn’t even know Him, and she didn’t know me.I remembered thinking, starting a conversation with a Muslim with derogatory statements about Mohammed is not going to get me very far.I was so deeply offended that I was unwilling to listen to anything else she had to say.This is not what I want to happen when sharing the gospel with someone.I want the person who’s talking with me to want to listen to me.
Next, I remember the raised voice and the authoritative and attacking tone.She was going to get her message across no matter the cost to me. There was no love and understanding there, as far as I could tell.There were no questions for me. There was only the machine-gun fire style of rapid attacks on my faith.I never want to leave someone feeling that way.Do I want to be in a shouting match with a Muslim?I do not.When I speak to someone of another faith, I want to be able to speak gently, in a way that wins them to Christ, not merely in way that just tries to prove that I am right.
I also remember that she never let me speak.She didn’t ask me about my beliefs, and she never gave me a chance to answer any of her comments. I was left with a definite impression that she meant to pour information on me, but she never seemed to mean to listen.We can show them respect and care for people of other backgrounds by simply listening well to them. One delightful thing I learned overseas is that most people from the majority world are very open to speaking about their spirituality.It’s not a problem to ask someone from the majority world about what they believe; on the contrary, they often carry symbols of their faith on their body, whether it’s jewelry, headwear, tattoos or other markings.Most majority world people are happy to explain what those things mean to them, and they are often very hospitable and delighted to share about their own cultures.These conversations about cultures and faith practices can lead to bridges to sharing the Gospel. All I have to do is ask them, “What does your bracelet mean?What does it mean to you?” Or I can ask, “Why do you have this picture in your taxi?” The important thing is not necessarily to find the textbook meaning behind the tattoo or bracelet, but what that item or talisman means to the immortal soul in front of me. If I am aware of ways of starting conversations with people around me in friendly and meaningful ways, our conversation could lead to a friendship, or even to the Gospel.
Now, not every Muslim I have met has talked to me the way this teacher did.Again, my friends who had invited me were very embarrassed at how their teacher behaved.In the end, however, I think it was a good opportunity for me to think about how others feel about the way I have talked to them. It’s important for us to know the what the Gospel is.It’s also important for us to represent the Gospel in a way that does not present unnecessary barriers to belief.Her conversation with me helped open my eyes.She allowed me to understand how my listeners feel.As good sharers and good listeners, we may be able to lead people to the truth.