Prior to telling the story of the Good Samaritan, a religious lawyer asked Jesus a probing question: “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus had previously stated that the law is summed up by loving God and loving our neighbor. Then Jesus illustrates the principle with the story of the Samaritan—the only person who helped the man who was beaten and stranded.
As we reflect on this familiar story, the details can move us away from the main point. It is easy to focus on the people who passed by or to draw attention to the Samaritan, yet completely forget the key question: “And who is my neighbor?” The lawyer answered the question correctly: “The one who showed him mercy.” What was Jesus’ response? “You go, and do likewise.” What is Jesus’ saying for us today? “You go, and do likewise.”
Muslims are in desperate need of mercy today—not only mercy from God, but also mercy from you and me. Do they deserve God’s mercy? Perhaps we should ask ourselves the same question: “Do we deserve God’s mercy? “No” is the resounding answer to both questions!
The dynamic of Muslims living in America has caused a variety of reactions from people inside and outside the church. Again, we must be careful as we determine our appropriate response. Do we need wisdom and spiritual discernment as we approach these new neighbors? Absolutely! But if we look at the words of Jesus, we are reminded to “love our enemies” whether they are real or perceived. And in regard to our neighbor (whether literal or individuals in our surrounding communities), this story reminds us to love them and show them mercy!
One of our Global Initiative trainers encountered a Muslim right here in the United States. I want to share with you of his encounter with Nabeel.*
“Forgiveness of sins, I love that thought,” reflected Nabeel, as we sat across from each other over some delicious Middle Eastern cuisine. We were hosting a meal for our ESL class, and I had the privilege of sitting next to this inquisitive man who was brimming with questions about the Christian faith.
That evening, we covered topics such as the inspiration of Scripture, the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and a host of other deep theological issues.
With every answer I gave, more questions came. But this was not an interrogation meant to trip me up, as if I were a goalie, diving to the right and then to the left to block an onslaught of shots coming my way. These questions were born out of a genuine curiosity, and I felt more like a wide receiver who was catching some great passes and running in for a touchdown. In other words, it was like we were working together, and the Holy Spirit was calling the plays.
The climax of the conversation occurred when I mustered the courage to ask Nabeel a question. While others chattered around us, it was as if we had been off in a corner in our own world. Having answered his questions, I asked him, “Nabeel, what would happen to you if you decided to become a Christian?”
My Muslim friend pondered that question for a moment. Then, predictably, he said, “Well, my family would disown me and maybe even kill me.”
I expected that answer, but I was not prepared for what came next. “But,” Nabeel continued, “if I was convinced, I would do it anyway.”
I sat stunned for a moment at his candor and openness. Finally, I replied, “I will be praying for you, Nabeel, that God would show you the way.” Since then, I’ve been able to interact with Nabeel several times and have given him a Bible.
For many Muslims that we’ve interacted with here in America, there is a great curiosity about the Christian faith. Before coming here, our Middle Eastern friends had never met a Christian and had never been inside a church. Now, they are experiencing both. Nabeel’s attraction to the notion of being forgiven of sins typifies the thinking of many Muslims, for in their faith, there is no assurance that their sins have been forgiven. As one Muslim friend from South Asia told me, “If I ask Allah to forgive me, maybe he will, maybe he won’t.”
As Christians in America, we have a great open door to have spiritual conversations with our Muslim friends. Many Muslims are curious about Christianity, and the Holy Spirit is leading believers to share great truths with the people of Islam. This is of vital importance because every Muslim deserves to hear the Truth about Jesus.
Friends, let’s reach out to the Muslims whom God has permitted to become our neighbors!