As always, I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in one of Dan’s group blogging projects. Initially I had asked Dan for a different chapter assignment.  Apparently my reply to “Dan only” was against group blogging protocol and the chapter I requested was given to another.  That was fine with me as I feel that God’s hand works mysteriously at times and sometimes the message we are looking for isn’t always the message that is given to us.  Sometimes we hear it, sometimes we don’t. Heck, sometimes it hits us a month later. 

Anyways, I always look at these group blogging opportunities as a moment to stop and listen for the “personal”  message.  Stop Subverting the Message was the chapter that I ended up with.  First, let me say that I enjoyed Mr. Robert’s book immensely.  There is a timeliness to it that spoke to me.  Beyond the chapter’s message of witnessing to Muslims, the writing had a greater relevance to me. 

So on to my chapter………in Stop Subverting the Message, Mr. Roberts shares his thoughts on witnessing to Muslims and sharing the “Great Commission.”  The notion of Muslim religion, the Nation of Islam and many things in the Middle East tends to strike fear in American’s hearts.  Americans tend to think ethnocentrically and it has become instinctive for us to fear the things that we know little of. We tend to know little more than what the pundits on TV offer or the IPod teaches us.  In our world of sound bites and short attention spans, we have people who proclaim terrorists based on name and region.  McCarthyism for the 21st century. What do you think of when you hear the word Muslim?  Terrorist?  Jihad? 9/11 attacks?  There is a certain amount of tacit fear involved with Muslims.  While nearly a third of the world professes Christianity, more than 20% of the world follows Islam.   

As the Middle East is the epicenter of many religious cultures, including Christianity, Judaism and the Muslim faith, there is a certain incongruity between the peaceful nature of all three religions and the continual turmoil and unrest between these groups.  Mr. Roberts shares his thoughts on the relationship between Palestinians and Israelis.  We are taught as Christians that the Jewish people are God’s chosen people.  Choosing not to take sides, Mr. Roberts recognizes that we are all the same in God’s eyes.  He states “God has no longer confined his redemptive work to a single nation……God wants every nation and people group to be reconciled to him…..”  It is our job to share the word of Christ and to be the witness for God to all people.  Mr. Roberts shares his vision of bringing the word of God to all cultures and people of the world.    The way to another’s heart is through understanding.  To create a dialogue with someone who has a deeply differing perspective on religion, we must work to “… resolve differences with respect and courtesy…”    

I work in customer service.  Anyone who has ever worked in customer service is familiar with the credo that “the customer is always right.”  The credo should read “the customer is always right, even when they are wrong.”  What that really means is it’s all about perspective.  To understand others, to come to an accord and open yourself to sharing ideas…..one must go about this with respect and courtesy.  In customer service, no one ever wins in an argument with a customer.  But by adjusting your perspective, you can come to a place of respect and understanding.  It’s as much about the delivery as it is about the message.  Let our actions move people more than our words.   Imagine the opportunities that perspective could afford us?  If we look at people who differ from us ideologically and write them off, are we really serving God to the best of our abilities?  Should we only save the save-worthy? 

Mr. Roberts asserts that “end time speculation about Muslims has covertly influenced American politics for decades.”   Fear based opinions that perpetuate prejudice.  To overcome prejudice and preconceived ideas, Mr. Roberts ventured to Afghanistan shortly after the 9/11 attacks, in early 2002 to perform some humanitarian work.  While traveling, he spent time with a group of Imams.  By integrating himself into their day to day living, he found himself praying alongside them and engaging them in deep conversation.  By showing respect to their ways and culture, Roberts was able to share the word of Christ.  While the words may not have touched the imams, his respect allowed him to “Live out our lives in front of them as a witness to God’s love.”    

As Roberts identifies the Muslims of his past as previously fear inspiring, but now provoking his Christian love and fellowship, shouldn’t we likewise consider the people whose ideology differs from our own and embrace them?  Imagine the possibilities?  As mirrored against today’s political landscape imagine the inroads that could be made by addressing adversaries with respect and coming to them with understanding, bringing the word of God in a loving manner.  How many times have you seen political demonstrations with signs calling for God’s wrath against sinners?  It brings to mind the protests against same sex marriage.  While I don’t advocate the sin, Christ teaches us to love the sinner but abhor the sin.  Hey, we are all sinners in God’s eyes.  While words have an impact, our actions are much more telling.  Robert’s offers the question, what is the difference between a fundamentalist Muslim jihadist calling for a holy war and a televangelist calling for the bombing of a Muslim nation?   

Shouldn’t we try to move someone’s heart with love and Christ-like actions instead of hateful signs and derision?  Imagine the possibilities?  We have Christians living side by side with Muslims?  Republicans reconciling with Democrats?  Cats living with Dogs?  McDonalds and Burger King drive-up windows intertwined.  Where it really gets difficult is moving past the specter of fear.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear of things changing and where that might carry us. 

Only understanding can overcome fear.   How can Christians and Muslims relate to each other?  The first thing that popped into my head was Rodney King.  Rodney King became the flash point for civil unrest and racial tension back in the early 90’s.  An unlikely spokesperson for peace, Rodney simply said “Can’t we all just get along?”    

Working side by side and creating an atmosphere of respect and truly illustrating the riches that God provides his people is the start.  The loving manner in which we share those gifts is the start of creating the “Great Commission” that Robert’s references.   

One of Robert’s contacts in the Middle East is Evangelical Palestinian pastor Bishara Awad.  Awad’s mission is engaging the entire Middle East for Christ.  By not focusing on a specific group, the message is spread universally.  Robert’s and Awad recognize that Christians in the Middle East are not only challenged with bringing the word of God to Muslims, but also to the Jewish who don’t recognize Christ as the son of God.  Engage all.  Engage the known, engage the unknown.  Stop subverting the message.   

When we stand up for the Lord and share our hearts with others, in spite of our fears, that is when we truly serve the lord.  Ultimately it is our role to engage ALL people for the Lord, not just the people who look like us, talk like us and believe the way we do.  Robert’s and Awad began by creating humanitarian missions together that would employ both Muslim and Christian, working together towards a common goal.  What are you going to do?   

As I juxtapose that with the current political landscape of America, I see the same culture of fear.  Are we listening to messages from false prophets?  Is the message that you are listening to perpetuating fear and distrust?  Do we discount people who don’t look like us, think like us or act like us?  As we work to accomplish things, are we driven by fear?  In all things we do, are we sending a message of love?  Do our actions convey Christ-like love?  Whatever your political affiliation, stop subverting the message!  

In conclusion, Roberts asks

Do you have friends who are of a different religion?

Look at the Non-Christian places of worship in your area…..is there a way that you can reach out to these groups?  In what ways can you serve people of other religion?

Have you seen speculative theology and political bias undermine the Great Commission?

Inform yourself.  Open yourself up to other cultures with respect and humility.

Let your witness be conveyed in not only your words, but in your respect and actions with others.   

Thanks Mr. Roberts for your inspiring words. 

Thanks Dan for the chance to share my thoughts.

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[real-time connections] chapter 10: stop subverting the message

by Mike Kress time to read: 8 min
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