It was the type of opportunity about which one can only dream and pray to come to pass. A group of exchange students from more than two dozen countries visited Northland Church in order to have a 90 minute presentation and Q&A about Christianity and Jesus. They came as part of a program, supported by The State Department, with the intent of encouraging dialogue that leads to mutual respect and a lowering of tensions around the world.
There were a few things I hoped to accomplish with my time. One was to help them understand that what tolerance really means is that I respect you as someone made in the image of God and treat you with dignity, even if I disagree passionately with what you think. In the past there was a common cultural ethic that said, treat one another with respect, engage people with different ideas, debate those ideas, and seek truth in the process. The current understanding of tolerance says, you cannot tell anyone that your ideas are right and theirs are wrong. But the end result of that new tolerance is to not pursue truth and disrespect and marginalize anyone who claims their ideas right and others wrong. We need to get back to a place where we can say what we think, agree and disagree with others, respect them as people, and never attack the person, only the ideas.
Second, in light of that understanding of tolerance, here is what I believe about Jesus, why I follow Him, and why I think He is the only way to Heaven. It was a delight to hear the questions that students asked regarding Jesus, why I thought He was the only way to Heaven, what place I thought Mohammed had in God’s plan, the Bible vs the Quran, and a host of other questions. Even though my answers clearly showed that I disagreed with much that Islam teaches, they loved the open yet respectful honesty of the answers.
Third, in the midst of our dialogue, questions and answers, I wanted them to see in real life the tolerance I just told them about, so they could actually experience someone who disagreed with them yet loved them. You see it is one thing to talk about tolerance and respect and dignity, but it is another thing altogether to demonstrate that in the real life tussle of questions and answers over difficult topics that are passionately embraced.
Not only is this type of understanding and tolerance needed between Muslims and Christians, it is even more needed among Christians of various stripes and theologies. We can’t really expect to engage, in a respectful Christ-like way, people who do not follow Christ, if we are unable to do it with people who identify themselves as Christ-followers.
7 thoughts on “Talking to 80 Muslim Students about Jesus”
Amen. That’s all there is to say to that. We have got to have some more tolerance. Myself included.
Respect, dignity, love are the roots. Tolerance is just the evidence of love, dignity and respect. Well-written and lived. Thank you Dan.
Wholeheartedly, passionately agree. Thank you for the example and for sharing it here.
Tolerance boils down to putting on the new man, as Paul described it. “Our Lord never tolerates our prejudices— He is directly opposed to them and puts them to death. We tend to think that God has some special interest in our particular prejudices, and are very sure that He will never deal with us as He has to deal with others. We even say to ourselves, “God has to deal with other people in a very strict way, but of course He knows that my prejudices are all right.” But we must learn that God accepts nothing of the old life! Instead of being on the side of our prejudices, He is deliberately removing them from us. It is part of our moral education to see our prejudices put to death by His providence, and to watch how He does it.” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, Oct 23.
I am a Christian who was raised in a Christian home with very fundamental conservative ideas. I left church in my late teens and turned my back on Jesus. Years later I met a Muslim man and fell in love. I converted to Islam. I was not coerced or pressured. It was my choice. We have been happily married for nearly 10 years now. I had many problems with teachings in Islam because I still had the incorruptible seed of Jesus planted in me from my youth. But my experience with my Muslim husband and his family have been the richest experiences of my life. They are wonderful people. They are humble, faithful, generous and loving. Some of the very best people I have ever known. A little over a year ago I was watching a short clip of a Christian minister and the love of Jesus enveloped me. I had been having stirrings in my heart for months before this. Jesus had been knocking at the door of my heart. That weekend when this happened to me the presence of the Holy Spirit was in my house. It was tangible.My husband witnessed this, my children witnessed this. There was a calm, a peace, like we were all waiting for something to happen. My husband knows this was real, and that this was God. But being a Muslim, he does not accept that it was Jesus. I gave my heart to Jesus that day and I will ever belong to Jesus. I am HIS. And the incredible thing is that my love for my husband and children has exploded. I can’t contain it! I have told my husband this can ONLY BE Jesus. I have not been inside a church for over 20 yrs. He knows I did not fabricate this experience. He knows that I have not lost my mind (in fact I had been mildly depressed before this). And he sees the change. How do I deal with being married to an “unbeliever”? It’s easy. Jesus loves my husband like crazy and so do I. I don’t do ultimatums. I don’t judge. I don’t condemn. I told my husband I trust God to speak to his heart. the bible tells me my husband is being sanctified because of my belief. Don’t pressure someone! this is between them and God. Sometimes we just need to butt out…Good stuff Dan! I’m so thankful I stumbled onto this blog.
Funny I should be leaving this post on Valentine’s Day. I was just thinking to add how we are to love others. When we are trying to build a bridge to people from other faiths, I think it’s good to look to I Corinthians 13:4-8. This is read regularly at weddings as a model for marriage but it’s also very important to remember in all our relationships. Love is…to be patient, kind, not envious, not boasting, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking, not quick to anger, etc. How many people have we offended and turned away by not showing respect?
Love keeps no record of wrongs and rejoices with truth. How many times have we pointed to a long list of things we find wrong in their religion instead of validating some of the truths in their faith? Some things we both share?
Love protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres and never fails. How many times do we get frustrated and give up on the person? How many souls have we written off? We persevere with love. We trust God to speak to their heart. Love never fails!
That is a very fine line, and a difficult one to walk. I am in the employ of a few Muslims, and while our discussions have always been respectful, and tolerant (the kind that doesn’t give up the truth for pacification, but that respectfully holds its ground) it is a difficult thing to live day in, day out. Right now I’m on “maternity leave” from my housecleaning side business, and so I am enjoying a welcome break from the onslaught of ideas. It is something different to practice this kind of tolerance at a conference, but to do it daily, does chip away at your strength. Such a fine fine line, and SO difficult to walk!