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WORLDVIEW: In-your-face approach won’t win Muslims; sharing Jesus will

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Declaration recently spotted on a T-shirt at a mall food court:

“Abortion is murder.

Homosexuality is a sin.

Islam is a lie.

Some issues are black and white.”

If this statement is intended to make the T-shirt wearer feel good about the rightness of his views, it probably succeeds. If it’s intended to change anyone else’s mind or heart, it fails miserably.

Take it from a longtime pro-lifer: The fastest way to end a conversation about abortion before it even begins is with a frontal assault. If you want to shout your opinions or express righteous anger, have at it. But don’t expect to convince anyone who’s unconvinced.

The same goes for the “Islam is a lie” approach. It’s not “hate speech,” but it’s also not a very effective way to initiate a discussion. Would you introduce yourself to a Muslim on a street corner in Cairo with that line? I don’t recommend it. It’s a guaranteed riot starter in the 45 or so countries with Muslim majorities. It won’t work in Atlanta or Dallas, either, if you want to get past square one in communicating the truth in love.

Isn’t communicating the truth in love your goal? If not, you need to examine your motives in the light of Scripture and God’s spirit.

Muslims, like most people, don’t respond well to in-your-face confrontation. They do respond to friendship, love and — at the right moment — the good news that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior of all people.

And it is news to most Muslims.

While we’re talking truth and lies, the notion that Muslims automatically reject the Gospel is one of Satan’s biggest falsehoods. The fact that so many Christians believe this lie — or fear testing it — is a global tragedy. Most of the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims simply haven’t heard the Gospel in a way they can understand. When they do, God begins to reveal Himself.

“Tolga,” a university student, recently wrote to the producers of an evangelistic radio program that is broadcast in several Muslim cities: “Today I heard your show for the first time. The program explaining the life of Christ is rather intriguing to me, but my head’s all mixed up. Some of the things you’re teaching differ from what I’ve been taught all my life. I’d like to be better informed, but I don’t know how. I’d like it if you could help me.”

Christian broadcasters and Bible distributors in the Muslim world can show you thousands of similar letters.

“Ali,” another respondent, wrote: “I’ve been listening to you for two years. I’ve tried to write you before, but I’ve just been too frightened. When I am writing you my hand trembles with fear. I really love you and I am truly alive. My family and my neighborhood are fanatical Muslims and I can’t speak these words to them. I hope this doesn’t sound really weird to you….”

It doesn’t sound weird at all, Ali. You are discovering the God of love and mercy. One day He will give you the strength and courage to share this wonderful news with your relatives and neighbors.

That’s what more than 3,500 Muslims who have become followers of Christ are doing in a major South Asian city. When asked why they decided to follow Christ, group representatives cited three factors: the “guarantee of heaven,” the fact that Jesus Christ is not just a prophet but God’s anointed Messiah, and His healing power. When asked if God had revealed these truths to them through the Koran (Islam’s holy book), the New Testament or their personal experiences, they responded, “All three.”

The same is true in the United States, a magnet for Muslim immigrants from all over the world.

Guven, a Muslim from Central Asia, came to the United States to pursue post-graduate studies. A pastor at a church that prays for Muslims befriended him and supports mission work in Guven’s home country.

The two discussed their religious beliefs. Like so many Muslims, Guven rejected the idea of a God in three persons, the resurrection of Christ and the authority of the Bible. But the two stayed in touch, and when Guven’s teeth began to ache, the pastor contacted a Christian dentist who performed a root canal on Guven without charge.

The grateful student decided to visit the pastor’s church a few times, strictly as a courtesy. But the more he went, the more alive the worship songs, the pastor’s words and the Scripture seemed.

“What made the most sense was the personal relationship” with God, Guven later said. “This is amazing.”

Eventually, in the quietness of his heart, Guven invited Christ to be his Savior and Lord. When he told the pastor and his congregation, they stood and applauded for joy. Next year he plans to return to his home country with a team from the church to share the Gospel with others who are hungry for God.

“I know it’s a challenge, but I pray God makes me ready for this, too,” he said, acknowledging the risks of taking the Good News to his own people. “Everyone has to go through trials, and this is going to be mine.”

What are the odds that Guven would have opened his mind and heart to Christ if the pastor had shown up on his university campus one day wearing a T-shirt declaring “Islam is a lie”?

Don’t get so caught up in defending truth that you lose the chance to share truth with the people around you who are desperately seeking it.
Erich Bridges is a senior writer with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board whose column appears twice monthly in Baptist Press.

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  • Erich Bridges