16 Dec “Christians and Muslim Immigration” by Dave Gadoury, Senior Pastor
Recent proposals for dealing with immigrants in America have resulted from the tragedies of terrorism. The subject was already gaining prominence for economic and cultural reasons, but new concerns have raised the stakes in this conversation. The issue has shined a spotlight on American attitudes towards the presence of immigrants in our midst, and of Muslims in particular.
In this season of terrorism, it is easy for followers of Jesus to get caught up in the environment of fear, suspicion, and conflicting calls for action. As I have thought about this, I have asked myself, “In what ways should we who follow Jesus stand out as different in a time like this?”
There is legitimate debate about the role of government in protecting its citizens, about the best tactics for preserving our national security without surrendering our democratic values, and about the best practices and policies related to immigration. We can and should have different thoughts about these questions.
However, as we think about the Muslims in our midst, there are three simple truths that must be uppermost in our minds, despite the various voices that we hear:
1. Muslims are loved by God.
We see our neighbors in a completely different light than others might. We know that God’s son died to set them free. We know that each Muslim was created by God to know Him. And we know that each Muslim is a person who needs to hear the gospel. This knowledge should give us a completely different attitude towards the Muslims who are among us as neighbors, co-workers, and people we meet.
Rick Love was on target when he wrote this: “Since 9-11, too many people who call themselves “Christians,” as well as genuine followers of Christ respond to Muslims out of fear, suspicion or anger rather than love. The threat of terrorism, negative stereotypes of Muslims, and ignorance has caused the church to shrink back from Jesus’ commands to love and to make disciples. Instead of actively loving Muslims, too many Christians merely reflect the prejudices circulating through the media, which only increases polarization.”
2. Muslim presence is an open door.
There are currently 1.8 Muslims living in America today. Regardless of how they got here, the reality is that they represent an open door for the Gospel. Many of them originated from countries in which proclaiming the gospel is difficult if not impossible. That they are here is no coincidence. God has brought to our shores those who need to hear God’s word and to be able to see first hand the difference that Jesus makes in the lives of his followers. They are not likely to be won by aggressive, confrontational evangelistic approaches, but by bridges of friendship and genuine respect opening doors to deeper conversation.
Of course, standing in the way of those relationships are the barriers of suspicion, fear, and misinformation. It is easy to see ourselves as threatened victims rather than as risk-taking ambassadors for the Savior. But as others have pointed out, most Muslims are in greater danger of radical Islamic terrorism than are the followers of Christ.
Dr. John Azumah has pointed out that the number of Christians subjected to violence from jihadist extremists pales compared to the much larger number of Muslims who have been targeted. While both individuals and governments must remain vigilant, we should not let fear control us as we let our lights shine.
3. Fear and suspicion are overcome by grace.
Time and time again we have learned that the grace of God both enlightens and empowers us. It enlightens us so that we can see in people and circumstances what others cannot see. We are able to envision others experiencing the same transformation that his grace has brought about in us.
His grace also empowers us. His indwelling presence can give us what we don’t have in our own strength: love for others who are not like us, courage to become their friend, and discernment to know when to act and when to speak.
What do your neighbors see?
It is a special opportunity to have around us people that we are called to love and serve who are at the same time distrusted, feared, or held in suspicion by others around us. It certainly could represent an open door for ministry to a Muslim neighbor, friend, or acquaintance, but many of us will not have this opportunity. More importantly, it could be our special moment to demonstrate to the people in our circle of influence that our attitude and outlook are not the same.
Can people in your world see that you have a heart like Jesus?