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Conversation with Muslims about Christ -- Booklet 8
SHOULD EVERY MUSLIM WHO BECOMES A CHRISTIAN DIE?
If a Muslims is able to overcome these dogmatic hindrances, then a different kind of problem arises, if he wants to become a Christian: Sharia Law prescribes that he must be executed if he does not repent and embrace Islam anew. What practical steps can we take in helping a Muslim accept Christ in spite of this fact and what other challenges does a Christian from a Muslim background have to face as he follows Christ. Learn how do be prepared for and how to respond in such circumstances by reading this booklet.
Should Every Muslim Who Becomes a Christian Die?
The apostle Paul confesses with all those who converted from Judaism and Islam to Christ: For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered (Psalm 44:22), but, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8:36-37).
The apostle of the nations confirmed this confession by his death when he was beheaded in the year 63 A.D., just like James, the brother of Jesus, who had been killed a year earlier. Peter, too, is said to have been crucified upside down in Rome in 64 A.D. The risen Lord gives some of his followers the privilege of participating in his suffering (Romans 5:3-5; Philippians 1:20-23; 2:16-17; Colossians 1:24; 2 Timothy 2:10-13; 1 Peter 4:16.19).
Dying, as Paul writes, is a complex term, just as overcoming comprises all fields of thought and life of the justified ones. Converts from Islam should give up their former culture and the spirit of their religion step by step, as they grow in faith until they are fully integrated in Jesus Christ and his church.
I. The Spiritual Victory Over The Islamic Way of Life
Whoever talks to Muslims about Jesus Christ and his salvation can find that there are three steep barriers to surmount by any spiritual counselor who wants to tackle the main problems of Islam.
● Christ, the son of the living God
He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:12)
It is neither wise nor helpful to start a conversation with a Muslim by insisting at once that Christ is the Son of God, because many Muslims misunderstand this expression as a biological fathering by Allah through Mary, and react negatively to it.
● The cross of Christ
● The authenticity of the Bible
These three obstacles are not merely intellectual problems that could be cleared by logical proofs and fitting arguments in the Islamic style. Here we find anti-Christian seductions and collective chains which can only be loosened by grace in the power of the Holy Spirit. Prayers – with faith that these prayers will be heard – is just as important in outreach among Muslims as is a testimony in humility and truth, guided by the Spirit. The love of Jesus Christ, however, remains the language that penetrates the darkest prison.
● Overcoming the Islamic concept of God
● Who is Allah?
● Our Father in heaven
The difference between Islam and Christianity is as great as the difference between Allah and the Father of Jesus Christ. The conversion of a Muslim will lead sooner or later to a separation and then rejection of the heartless, arbitrary Allah, until the seeker is saved by falling into the outstretched arms of our Father in heaven.
● The change
● A cultural and religious trap
● What does grace mean?
In the gospel, however, grace means, first, forgiveness of all guilt! Jesus freely grants us righteousness, because he suffered and died in our place. Often, lowly, sick, old and sad people grasp this grace of God faster than the rich, the strong and the beautiful, who remain spiritually empty. ”Blessed are the poor in spirit!” (Matthew 5:3). In addition to justifying grace believers receive the gifts of grace, which are the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). A convert must learn that material riches, secular values, worldly honor, ”being right” and possessing power are often contrary to the spiritual filial gifts we received from our Father in heaven.
● Sin or sinner?
Real Christians know that they are sinners and lost when they compare themselves with the goodness and holiness of their heavenly Father. ”Nobody is good except God” (Matthew 10:18). We are full of faults, failures, lost and condemned in our human nature. No human being is good in himself. The perfection of our Father proves our guilt (Matthew 5:48). Our sins and trespasses come out of a bottomless rottenness. Only the grace of Jesus Christ is our hope. His blood cleanses us from all our sins, and His Spirit builds a new creature in us. If a Muslim does not recognize his rottenness in the light of God he does not know that he is a hopeless case, but continues to think that he does not need a saviour or a sacrifice in his place!
● Predestination or election?
In the epistle to the Ephesians (chapter 1:3-4) Christians can read that our heavenly Father has elected us in Jesus Christ to live a holy life before Him, in His love, in order to be conformed to the image of His beloved Son (Romans 8:29-30). This election does not cover us like a suffocating shroud, but it activates us so that we love, praise and serve with zeal and uprightness. It is our Father who predestined us in Jesus Christ, and not a tyrant-god full of capriciousness! His basic program is seen as early as in Genesis 1:27 together with its spiritual expansion in Matthew 5:48 and John 14:9-11.
● Truth or lie?
Jesus said: ”Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’, ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37). Jesus himself is truth (John 14:6). The Holy Spirit is truth (John 14:17; 16:13). Our Father in heaven is truth (John 4:24). His word is truth (John 17:17). A convert must – like us – learn to be true! Love without truth would be a lie, just as truth without love would constitute spiritual homicide. We must learn to speak the truth with love, and to combine the service of love with the truth of the gospel.
● Polygamy or monogamy?
Christ confirmed monogamy as having been ordained since creation (Mark 10:6-9). The apostle Paul confessed that a wife shall subordinate herself to her husband, but the husband should sacrifice himself for his wife, just as Christ sacrificed himself for His church (Ephesians 5:21:33). The subject of a Christian marriage is not who reigns, but who loves and serves his partner more! As great as the difference is between Allah and the Father of Jesus Christ, so great is the difference in the understanding of marriage and practical family life in the two religions.
● Teachers at school
In a Christian environment, a good teacher is a fatherly friend who tries to lead his pupils to their own understanding, thinking, analyzing and synthesizing. His personality can form the pupils more than his teaching. He does not sit on a throne above them, but stands among them. Christ said of himself: ”The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). The idea of faithful service penetrates all Christian fields of life, rather than the desire to reign. This demands a complete turnaround, not only in the lives of the converts from Islam, but in any person, because the desire to be right in pride is deeply ingrained in everyone.
● Hard labour and social care
In the Sudan militia sometimes surround villages in the south, shoot the men and take the women and children as slaves. The law of slavery in the Qur'an and in the Shari'a has yet to be abolished. Muslims understood themselves as a class of lords. Animists should be killed or made slaves. Jews and Christians can exist as ”protected” second-class citizens and are allowed to serve their Islamic masters (Sura al-Tawba 9:28-29).
Christ, however, lived among us as a servant. He is humble and gentle. He worked as a carpenter, and not as a trader. Jesus called penitent fishermen to follow him, who were used to hard work. Christ does not appoint lords, but servants. Our God is gentle and full of love. He who follows him will be conformed to his likeness. A believing employer will care for his employees and will not exploit them. Socialism could only grow where Christianity has prepared the way for it.
● Is democracy anti-Islamic?
But Jesus said: My kingdom is not of this world. I am a king. For this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears me (John 18:36-37). A Muslim must learn to understand what Jesus said to Peter: Put your sword back in its place, for all who take the sword will be taken by the sword (Matthew 26:52).
He who comes to Jesus will be changed: The proud will become humble, the lazy industrious, the fanatic meek, and a dictator in a family can become a servant of all. Faith in Jesus changes us into the likeness of our Father in heaven. When we pray: ”Hallowed be thy name,” this request should cause a spiritual revolution in our hearts, in our churches and in individual converts. A spiritual change is imperative for anybody who wants to become a mature Christian. It can only be realized in the power and the love of our Father (Romans 5:5) through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
II. Remaining in or separating from the family?
People in the Middle East and many Muslims in general do not function as individuals first. They are closely connected to their families by blood, soul and custom. They live as ”we” together with their relatives in line with the same principles, the same religion, and in a mutual responsibility for one another. Many were married or chosen for higher studies, or entered into influential positions in the government by the decision of the clan. Without his family or clan the individual in the Orient is nothing and feels lost.
In big cities a person lives lonely and detaches himself slowly from the bonds of his clan. So the Orient today is moving away from the ”we” to the ”I”. Muslims are becoming individuals. But their relations with their village are still stronger than their being absorbed in a great city.
A person in the Orient has not yet fallen to the level of a nonentity in the masses. He does not regard himself as a number. He has not yet slid down into being nameless like many in the Americas and in the industrial countries of Europe. He is still a member of his clan.
Many evangelists should be slower in calling individual Muslims to make a decision for Christ, because they are not yet an ”I”, but live as part of their ”we”. Not only have their own hearts to decide, but the other members of their clans have their say.
● The clan – the greatest obstacle to a conversion to Christ!
If anyone wants to evangelize Muslims he should visit the family of an interested seeker if possible, and not separate the individual from it. Parents and relatives should see that the new friends are reliable and honest people. It is important to avoid distrust since sects, parties, fanatics and gangs also try to attract individuals.
You read in the Qur'an that a Muslim should not make friends with Christians or Jews because those won't leave him in peace until he becomes like them (Sura al-Ma'ida 5:52.57 et al). But at the same time you read in the Qur'an that the Christians are the best of the Muslims' enemies because they sympathize with them and are not arrogant (Sura al-Ma'ida 5:82). Experience shows that in most cases an entire clan will not agree to be evangelized. Nevertheless we should try, even if only in five to ten per cent of the cases an entire household will be won over to Jesus when you approach the clan. It really happens sometimes!
● The painful breaking free from the clan
As soon as it becomes evident that a youngster or adult seeker is seriously interested in Christ and His Gospel, the uncle is usually asked to talk to the person in question, to call him back into conformity with the clan, to warn him or even to threaten him, if he does not definitely promise to leave the blasphemous unbelief of the Christians.
If such a warning by the family does not have any effect, a series of small but increasing penalties is put into action. The pocket money is stopped, clothes are hidden, school attendance is interrupted, there are beatings, tension and quarrel in the family, letters are withheld, or the postman is bribed not to deliver the letters to the 'culprit'. His friends and teachers are informed that they would put pressure on him, physical injury through severe beating is the penultimate measure. Girls are locked into small rooms without food and water, daily beatings enforce their unconditional submission. In extreme cases a person is reported to the police with false accusations, which can bring merciless torture until it becomes clear that the crime is ”only” religion and not smuggling, homosexuality or treason. Threats of death should be taken seriously if they come from one's own family members. All this is carried out with hate, bitterness and fear. The apostle Paul writes: ”Indeed, we face death all day long, but in all those things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
● Everlasting life has no end
In Bangladesh a foreign missionary had found access to a group of teenager boys aged 16 to 18. Some of them accepted Christ. The enthusiastic missionary advised them: ”Go home and tell your families that Jesus has given you eternal life!” Nur ul-Alam was obedient, went home and said to his father: ”Daddy, Jesus has given me eternal life!” The father stared at his son and asked: ”Who has given you what?” The boy answered: ”The son of Mary has put his spirit and his love in my heart.” The father then called for his older sons: ”Bring the bamboo sticks!” and ordered them to beat their brother until the evil spirit would leave him. Nur ul-Alam later said: ”They beat me until they were tired.” Then his father came and asked: ”Are you now free from the foreign spirit that has entered you?” The son answered: ”Dad, the eternal life in me is eternal. It will not leave me.” Then the father called his brothers: ”Bring the knives!” They tore the clothes off his body and cut crosses in his skin, from the neck down to his legs. When the boy stood in front of them bleeding, the father came again and asked: ”Are you now free from the spirit of eternal deception?” But the boy answered in tears: ”Dad, you can kill me. But I will live in eternity. The new life in Jesus never goes out of me.” Angrily the father ordered his older sons: ”Bring salt and pepper!” They rubbed hot spices into his skin from head to foot. He screamed in pain. They cried with him because they wanted to save him from hell. They could not endure the procedure any longer and left him lying in the salt and pepper and left the room. After a while the boy was able to escape into the night, he threw himself into the river to wash the spices from his sores, found a small boat and punted to the missionary's house, knocked on the door and waited.
When the man opened the door and saw the blood-covered boy before him, he was shocked and said: ”It is better for you not to enter my house because they are surely after you. Go on a few kilometers to the house of a faithful family of our community, they will take you in.” The boy, marked with many crosses, had to go out into the night alone!
Missionaries should not exploit young converts as multipliers with western methods, but must understand their environment, feel and suffer with them and take responsibility for them.
● Wisdom and faithfulness are necessary
A convert should not leave his father's house because of tensions and pressure. If he is thrown out by the front door he should enter by the back door. No-one loves him more than his parents! His active silence, his eloquent service and his reverence for his parents often speak more clearly than words which could generate hatred and anger. However, as soon as his life is in danger, the responsible spiritual counselor, the group or the church to which the convert belongs, must take him in, protect him and stand up for his rights. But in offering such help they must beware of harboring under-aged people, since the law does not allow it.
Partners in marriage will be threatened with divorce if they believe in Christ. Falling away from Islam is one of the few cases when a woman can demand divorce. In that case the children belong to her alone. If a husband divorces his wife because of her belief in Christ, she loses all rights to her children and can be driven from the house. We can hardly imagine what some mothers suffer for Jesus' sake in the Islamic world.
● Escapes and detours
But one third of the Muslims vent their hatred when one of their clan members turns to Jesus. They must punish him in order to save him, or else, they try to destroy him. For both parties it is painful when one of them becomes a Christian, but only a few are fanatical enough and prepare to kill a renegade.
Nowadays new believers in real danger do not wait too long, but run away before they are killed. They hide with friends or escape to countries under assumed names.
A convert who is not yet an independent ”I” and lives in the ”we” of his clan wishes to lead his closest relatives to Jesus when he has received the spirit of Christ's love after his conversion. But that exactly is their reason for rejecting him and hating him all the more (John 16:1-4). Nevertheless new believers cling by faith to the testimony of the Apostle Paul who challenged the prison warder, ”Believe in the Lord Jesus, so you will be saved – you and your household” (Acts 16:31).
Should we not spare the converts this suffering? Again and again believers ask: "If turning to Jesus causes such pain, isn't it more merciful to let Muslims remain in their own religion?" If one argues in that way he has understood neither Muhammad nor Christ. In Islam there is no salvation, no assurance that sins are forgiven, no redemption, no peace, no Holy Spirit, no life everlasting. A Muslim without Jesus Christ is lost and spiritually dead! The Son of God alone was able to say, ”I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). There is no way to the true God apart from the cross! If you want to keep converts from suffering you are like Peter who wanted to keep Jesus from going to the cross (Matthew 16:22-23). The severe answer of Jesus applies to all those who want to keep new believers from suffering.
Our Lord clearly says, ”Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for me and the Gospel will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life" (Matthew 19:28-30; Mark 10:29; Luke 18:29). Jesus even goes a step further and says, ”Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:37-38; 16:24-25; Luke 9:23-26; John 12:25).
It is easy to speak or write these words to others, but it is very hard to endure them. Therefore it is our plain duty to accept all believers who are persecuted for Jesus' sake into our spiritual family and care for them until they can care for themselves.
At the time when a convert is advancing spiritually and is breaking away from the ”we” of his clan, he faces special temptations which he has to overcome, although still a beginner in faith.
● What is the true revelation?
The convert therefore is confronted by the question: Which book holds the true revelation and which one is a hoax or a lie? That question need not come from outside. It rises within him, from the heart. We should not give neat answers. He himself must recognize the truth, in order to be able to withstand the attacks of his clan and his friends. We must accompany him in prayer, to guide him to helpful passages in the Bible, to think with him in all his difficulties, until he himself recognizes through the Word of God: The Bible alone is the true Word of God! It is full of life and power. The Qur'an is misleading, it is a forged revelation and the product of an anti-biblical spirit.
● Unforgivable sins
Everyone is cursed who adds another god to Allah (Sura al-Tawba 9:29).
Everyone who leaves Islam and becomes a Christian is cursed three times (Sura al-Baqara 2:161).,
The wrath of Allah falls on the one who kills a Muslim on purpose, without a reason for revenge (Sura al-Nisa' 4:93).
Whoever invites a Muslim to Jesus, at the same time calls him to commit two unforgivable sins, which in Islam correspond to the sin against the Holy Spirit in the Gospel. If a Christian would be asked to blaspheme against the unity of the Holy Trinity, he would not contemplate but indignantly refuse it. The inner obstacle which a convert must overcome is similar. He must voluntarily sin against something that was sacred to him before, in order to gain Christ and eternal life. We should never press him to make a hasty decision, but should accompany him with prayers and counseling, and help him to get deeply rooted, assured and comforted in the Gospel (Romans 8:14-16; 1 Corinthians 12:2-3).
For Islamic ears there are several warnings in the Qur'an to the effect that everyone who breaks off from Islam will lose the merits of his good deeds and have nothing to show at Allah's judgement that could balance out his sins (Suras al-Kahf 18:105; al-Zumar 39:65; et al.). But Christ assures him: "My grace is sufficient for you! Your deeds are not enough to justify you anyway. My shed blood is your righteousness!"
● Sentenced to death
Most Islamic states, however, do not carry out the execution of the converts! Universal human rights oppose the Shari'a. Therefore liberal Islamic states refuse to execute that Islamic law. They point to the one single verse in the Qur'an which speaks of the ”death” of a convert only, but not of ”executing” or ”killing” him (Sura al-Baqara 2:217). ”Allah will judge him and will let him die one day, the government does not have the mandate to kill him”, some legal advisers state.
Fundamentalists among the Muslims however think differently. They demand the total implementation of the Shari'a at once and the execution of every single renegade without mercy. For that reason new believers in Christ accused of untrue suspicions, are imprisoned, examined, tortured, and their release is held back for months, until eventually foreign politicians or presidents put in their word to get them set free. When they were in prison, some of them were promised: if you again confess the Islamic creed twice you will be released at once. One imprisoned mother replied, ”I prefer to remain arrested with Jesus Christ instead of looking after my children without Christ.” When the father, for his children's sake, confessed the Islamic creed twice, they laughed at him and told him, ”You only pretended to have accepted Islam again for your children's sake. In your heart you remain a Christian. So you will not be set free.”
Most Christians in the West and in Korea have no idea what it legally means for a Muslim to become a Christian. Where a liberal state does not kill the apostate, his fundamentalist clan is obliged to wipe the disgraceful spot off their name and to kill the 'godless' character. In Saudi Arabia and in Iran, as well as in Pakistan and in other conservative Islamic states, the death penalty is publicly carried out with proven apostates. The former King of Morocco, Hassan II, once questioned by a delegation of Amnesty International, answered: ”In our country we have the basic law: Allah, the king and the country. When somebody comes and maintains that there is a better religion than Islam, we have to examine him at the hands of medical specialists to see whether he is still right in his mind. If this is the case and he goes on propagating his unbelief we have to punish him.”
● Are all Christians Muslims?
Those false prophets know neither Islam nor have they considered the decisive words of Jesus and the Apostle Paul. Islam is an anti-Christian spirit (1 John 2:21-25 and 4:1-5) and represents a wrong revelation through a fallen angel (Galatians 1:8-9). Muslims are bound in a collective spirit and need to be released through the power of Christ. If you think you can evangelize Muslims without the crucified Son of God you will be judged by the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:32-33; 16:23-25; Romans 1:16-17; 1 Corinthians 1:18-24 et al. The late Sudanese President Turabi exploited these two verses from the Qur'an and officially announced that all Christians in Sudan were Muslims and that Christian men could marry Sudanese Muslim girls. In doing that he followed the footsteps of Balaam who advised Balak to identify his people by mixed marriages with the Israelites. Thus the customs of the clan would swallow up all Israelites within a few years (Numbers 31:16; 2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11; Revelation 2:14). Turabi was condemned by Saudi-Arabian religious jurists for his anti-Islamic approach.
● Contextualization – an error?
In Egypt, a contextualizing missionary won an officer of the secret service for Jesus and assured him that he could remain a Muslim and be a Christian at the same time. The officer found this idea thrilling because that way the doors to both social classes were opened to him. He won numerous Muslims for this syncretistic way. But one and a half years later he felt that he was neither fish nor flesh, neither a good Muslim nor a true Christian, and demanded to be baptized in another church. Afterwards his colleagues from the secret service accused him of having fallen away from Islam and punished him with all the tortures he had used before to bring back renegades to Islam. But he remained faithful to Jesus and was able to escape abroad with the help of friends.
A little while later the entire contextualizing group blew up and landed in prison. The daily newspapers wrote angrily with mocking headlines: ”Christian wolves in Islamic sheepskins try to seduce ignorant Muslims!" Foreign families in custody were set free by the embassies of their states some weeks later and were expelled from Egypt.
Those well-meaning, credulous friends perhaps never noticed that mission among Muslims is understood as seduction and as a breach of peace. According to the Qur'an this offence is more severe than murder (Sura al-Baqara 2:217). Whoever creates trouble in a country can be killed or crucified. Also, the amputation of one of his hands and of the opposite leg may be inflicted on him, or he could be expelled from the country (Sura al-Ma'ida 5:33). According to the Qur'an and the Shari'a, mission is a capital crime. The seducers as well as the seduced should be sentenced to death, whether they acted as tentmaker-missionaries or lived as Muslim-Christians.
A witness of Christ who dresses as a Muslim and pretends to be a Muslim but actually is a servant of Christ, is considered legally to be a renegade Muslim, according to Islamic law, and is subject to the death penalty. In addition he is branded as hypocrite, defrauder and heretic. According to the Shari'a he can be killed on the spot, without a verdict.
A Muslim often does not know the detailed laws of his Shari'a. Whoever serves among Muslims should not lead seekers to Jesus too fast and superficially. Above all, they should not be baptized too early. A young believer should know what it means to become a Christian. Spiritual maturity is more important than attractive reports of the many baptized. Quality should come before quantity!
If anyone thinks about these different steps of how individual Muslims come out of their Islamic society, clan and family, he can understand that a convert can indentify himself with the words of the Apostle Paul:
For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. But, in all those things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:36-39)
III. The Integration of Converts Into Existing Churches
Integration into existing churches appears often as the most sensitive part of the three great problems which people from Islamic origin, who follow Christ, may suffer. Most Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant churches in Asia and Africa, and sometimes even in Europe, are not inclined to accept new believers from Islam. A variety of reasons for this decision can be listed as follows:
● Sometimes Muslims await financial help and are ready to change their religion like a T-shirt for the sake of some money – but superficially, and only as long as the money lasts. ”Whose bread you eat, his song you sing!” That principle is valid in the world of Islam, too.
● Now and again a girl, believing in Christ, brings along a young Muslim to be baptized, so that she can marry him. They know that a mixed marriage is not welcomed in their society. Such an intention may be proper on both sides, but the clan, the law and society are against it. This kind of 'conversion' is often dishonest, and can cause a lot of trouble.
● According to the Islamic regulations for minorities any kind of missionary work among Muslims is forbidden to native Christians (Suras al-Baqara 2:217; al-Ma'ida 5:33). A parish which tolerates evangelism amongst Muslims by ”one” of its members should be punished and eventually shut down. We can understand that priests, pastors, and bishops pay careful attention so that no member of their parish will participate in any evangelistic work among Muslims openly or by mandate of the governing body of their church, because in that case their church could be closed by government.
● Some foreign or national evangelists teams occasionally take interested Muslims to a local parish so that the pastor should baptize them and take in the new believer. Then they are surprised that the responsible elders show no interest and refuse to accept the newcomer. That is understandable, for an outreach team should not work without the knowledge of some elders, who further their service and support it. Those elders should be informed beforehand, so that they can support the services of the active group by their prayers and would be prepared to accept the new believers into their families to protect them from all attacks, and guide their further steps.
● A bird wanting to lay an egg builds her nest first, not the other way round! All friends who are prepared to do evangelistic work in Islamic countries should first build prayer groups within or outside the existing churches, which support the ensuing services, needs and responsibilities. If one gathers such prayer groups he will see more fruit in the long run than an adventurous type who soon will leave the field again. There are a few people in all churches who are in favour of outreach among Non-Christians. You must pray to find them.
● The fellowship with the community
Of course, Muslims use a different vocabulary in everyday life than most Christians and, if they use the same words, they carry different meanings. They dress and behave differently from Christians so that the natives quickly notice the differences. Both parties feel the invisible wall.
The first thing a convert needs is trust, understanding and love! Believing, praying brothers and sisters should come and meet him, talk to him, invite him to their homes and make him feel: You are one of us, we belong together! But such an invitation should not be made by a family where there are marriageable girls, because in that case the invitation would be misunderstood.
The parish, however, ought to be the nest where a re-born convert can feel at home. The fellowship with those who follow Jesus is the new ”we” for him, which he seeks and which he needs after being expelled from his clan. The parish is his new family apart from which few can survive. It is as important to prepare the community to accept converts, as it is to actually reach out.
Elders and pastors should not encourage nor allow the new believer to give a testimony of his faith from the pulpit or from elevated desks. It would be counter-productive to make a convert seem great and important - he would soon burst like a blown-up balloon. He should be given small services in the community and responsible tasks in the group, so that he feels that he has been accepted and treated like others. Like us he is a justified sinner by the grace of God.
When a convert is accepted by a family of Christians they should also protect him. Hospitality in the Near East is sacred to Muslims and Christians. There was a brother who barred the way to avenging relatives at the door and told them: only over my dead body can you reach our fugitive brother! They went away unsuccessfully, frustrated by the Arabic custom of hospitality.
● By the sweat of your brow you shall eat your food!
It is an urgent task for the pastor of a parish or an evangelistic leader to find or create jobs for the new believers in Christ. It is not enough to invite new converts for lunch into the families in turns. In the long run that is a degrading matter. Also, converts should not be handed small or large gifts of money. That would be considered as a disgrace for an honorable Muslim! They are not beggars, but brothers and sisters. What they need is a solid job or training for an occupation. Some of them must even learn to work hard. There are many problems in this area.
A pastor had his church hall painted several times a year, in order to create work for converts. He wanted to help them by any means. That way he gave them the feeling of having done a valuable job. Other pastors asked them to chop wood, dig in the garden, clean the house and the courtyard, work as messengers, type manuscripts, do translations, sell books or do other jobs, in order to give them real work and not just baksheesh.
Converts often lack occupational training or a completed education at school. Some girls need training in sewing, young men in computers, tests as a taxi driver or a scholarship to finish school. All that costs money. That money should not be given away unconditionally, but provided only as loans to be paid back. In the beginning, no big sums should be given. Only when small sums have been paid back faithfully, we may expect greater loans to be repaid. ”Whoever can be trusted with little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10).
On an occasion a Muslim appeared at a Bible society in an Islamic town and asked for Bibles to sell them in the market on the sidewalk. When the agent hesitated, the Muslim said: ”Try me and give me two Bibles only, then I will bring back the money for one of the Bibles, and I will keep the money for the second as my payment.” The very same day the street vendor brought the money and got four Bibles to sell. Two days later he brought the money for two Bibles and received eight Bibles. He was faithful with the small amounts, so that there was no risk in trusting him later with 16 or 20 Bibles, which he sold in open market where no Christian could dare offer Bibles.
When new jobs have to be found or created it has proved worthwhile to have a prayer group backing the evangelistic team. Since most of the praying people also work, they are most likely to know where and when there are vacancies.
An evangelistic outreach among Muslims not only means spiritual counseling but also caring for their physical needs. After a team of Bible-school students, who served on the island of Fort Lamy in the Indian Ocean, had come back depressed and down-hearted following on a futile crusade, a young Muslim from that island appeared at the door of one of the students a week later. He told him that he had picked up and read one of their tracts, which had been thrown away. For this interest only he had been expelled by the fanatical islanders. The Bible-school student, at whose door the expelled fellow had knocked, asked his teacher: ”What shall I do with this young man now?” When he heard the answer: ”You have found a brother,” he quickly answered, ”Yes, a spiritual brother!” When he was asked what he would do if his own brother knocked on his door as a fugitive, he said, ”I would open the door wide and tell him: 'My bed is your bed and my fridge is open for you.'” When the Bible-school student was told that the expelled Muslim was not only a spiritual but also his real brother for whom he was responsible, he bowed his head in shame because he understood that mission among Muslims not only means spiritual service of the Word, but also substantial sacrifices.
● It is not good for a man to be alone!
Several Muslims consider baptism only as one of the many ablutions a Muslim should perform before praying. But when he gets married to a Christian girl the breach between himself and the clan and the Islamic society (Umma) is final. Marrying a Christian woman means a deeper severance for many Muslims than baptism.
It is a pity that Christian parents rarely let their daughters marry a convert. They fear his Islamic way of living, that he might beat their daughter. In case he pronounces the Islamic creed twice when he is in a rage, he might relapse into Islam. Then all the children will belong to him only, and his wife could inherit only one eighth of their common possessions.
On the other side, former Muslim girls prefer to marry foreign Christians in order to be able to emigrate. So they leave the native believers alone, unmarried. Hence the latter are commanded to marry Muslim girls. Then the faith of a convert is in danger, because his Muslim wife can ask for a divorce at any time since he has left Islam, whereupon all their children and all their possessions belong to her.
Wisdom and merciful guidance from Jesus Christ is necessary so that two believing partners – if possible, both from Islam – find one another. Only then is a blessed family life in the name of Jesus ensured. This could also be the basis for a new house church. Only if both partners agree on taking the risk of secret meetings in their flat can those meetings take place. If such meetings are discovered, both partners can be imprisoned and their possessions confiscated. Marriage in the name of Jesus Christ has far-reaching consequences and is a way of founding new home churches.
The brothers and sisters who are responsible for existing churches should provide contacts between Christian young men and marriageable girls, so that they can meet and talk. That is quite complicated in rural Islamic areas but no problem in big cities any more. The way in which young men and girls live together at universities, libraries, at airports and in parks clearly shows the trend.
An example, which looks old-fashioned may challenge us to do it better:
In Morocco there lived a handsome Christian man who was the headmaster of a school. He could not find a suitable partner for his life. So he said, ”I have made 'the bond of Adam' with God. Just as the Creator let Adam fall into a deep sleep, then took one of his ribs, and created Eve from it, the most beautiful woman in the world, and presented her to him afterwards, in this way I will no longer look out for a wife, but will wait for the Lord to present me with the best of them all.” And the Lord sent him an old missionary sister who greeted him and said, ”Emir, it is time to get married!” He replied, ”Thank the Lord!” She went on, ”I have got a list with the names of 80 Christian girls who all want to marry a follower of Christ.” - ”Excellent,” Emir answered. The old lady continued, ”Now you choose one of these for yourself.” Emir replied, ”But I don't know these girls.” The missionary said, ”That is unimportant. You take your pencil, close your eyes, pray and let your hand sink on the paper. The one on which the tip of your pencil points, that is the girl the Lord has prepared for you.” Emir uttered, ”I am dying!” The old lady answered, ”Never mind. Now it is time to marry.” Emir sighed, took a pencil, let his trembling hand fall on the paper, opened his eyes and read the name of the chosen one. ”Where does she live?” he gasped. ”500 km from here, in the south, on the coast,” was the answer. ”Take your car, drive down to her and tell her, 'God sent me to you so that we can get married.'”
Half in a shock, Emir took his car, went off, arrived at the place where she lived, found her house, rang the bell, and – a miracle – she was home. He stammered his message and indeed – they got married a little while later.
After some months, however, Emir wrote to his friends: Pray for me that I may learn to love my wife, for she has a hard head and does not want what I want, and when she wants something, I don't want that either. Our living has become a continual dying. As a Christian, I do not want to beat her nor to divorce her. Pray that I may learn to love my obstinate wife. – Today they have several children and are a blessed couple, after having worn down each other's sharp edges.
Not everybody will admire that old sister's method, and we neither recommend nor carry it out! But she united more Christian partners in marriage than many clever theologians. Many a young man has sighed and said, ”Alas, may the Lord send me such an angel, too!”
In purely Islamic countries like Morocco, there are no civil marriages, they can only be made in front of the sheik in his office. But in most cases a special gift helps him to sign the necessary paper without being present in the ceremonial rite, so that no one has to lay his hand on the Qur'an. But the children from such a marriage remain Muslims. In countries like Morocco there is no legal way to change one's religious affiliation recorded in a passport!
When a convert and a believing woman marry this also means in many Islamic countries that two clans are unified. Talks, research and negotiations are necessary until the dowry for the bride has been paid and all sides are content. After the family ceremony that joins the two clans, Christian young couples often celebrate a second marriage rite in their underground church, which they consider as the true beginning of their married life.
Apart from the problem of looking for the suitable partner in marriage, there are often other problems in Islamic countries:
Married converts sometimes cannot be accepted in congregations because they have four wives and numerous children. In Sudan, a parish decided to baptize such big families and to accept them, if the head of the family confesses in front of the community that he sinned without knowing and followed a wrong law. He cannot divorce his wives and children because he is responsible for them. He must openly consent to the fact that, in his unbiblical status, he cannot take any responsibility as an elder of the church.
In India, a medical doctor with four wives and 20 children became a Christian. He decided to evangelize his wives and to keep the one that would accept the Gospel. He divorced all the others who rejected the Son of God, but kept all the children with him. The revenge of the eldest son of one of the dismissed mothers was to bury his father after his death in the Islamic way!
Joining a parish, finding a job and conducting a Christian marriage are three important steps to integrate converts into a Christian church. The problems connected with these practical steps sometimes need more prayer, faith, time and strength than the evangelization of the Muslim and his separation from his clan. Many converts hide their faith in Jesus Christ from their relatives partly or wholly, until they are self-supporting and can live in their faith with a Christian partner.
● Critical developments
A convert quickly notices the weaknesses of other Christians. He sees how the pastor steps onto the pulpit with his head high and preaches from the pulpit in a tone different from his normal way of speaking. He sees that there are rich and poor Christians at church and that the rich ones are respected more, whereas the poor ones are overlooked and hardly noticed. The fashion show at the Sunday service is just as obvious to him as is the talk behind the backs of the people who are not present. But when the person they have talked about appears, they all pretend to be very friendly. ”They are hypocrites!” the convert soon says. Some pastors behave like peacocks who show off their feathers. You see little love, much pride and indifference. He will soon say, ”Christians are not better than Muslims! There are divisions, ambition and crudity to be seen, all around.”
What a convert must learn is the secret of mutual forgiveness, of prayer for others, of self-denial, of self-accusation in front of God, and a spiritual humility. The secret of Christendom is to forgive, not to be perfect! We should forgive a brother and a sister daily up to 490 times only.
On the other hand, so-called ”mature” Christians should learn not to condemn converts hastily. Many Islamic phrases cross their lips, better not said. In their married life, pasha-like manners of the husbands must die, and the Christ-like will to serve others must grow. They need time to learn to work industriously for eight hours a day, so that they may earn a living for their families. In politics they should not condemn their adversaries, but love them and pray for them. The collective hate of the people for neighbouring states needs profound redemption. The filthy propaganda on television, in magazines and on posters calls for the power of the Holy Spirit to shut off the TV and to overcome the unclean dreams that stem from it. Passivity in fatalism should be conquered by a conscientious responsibility in Christ. Without sanctification a convert will not see his Lord, either.
Where is the solution to these problems? As Christians, we need the eyes of a mother when we deal with converts, not the eyes of a police officer. The latter sees the offence and writes his report. The mother also sees the mistakes of her child, but she will punish it with love and hope for its improvement!
A mother changes her baby's nappy several times a day. That is not a pleasant task. But the mother, and sometimes even a father do this task of love as a matter of course. For how long? A week? A month? Three months? And then do they get tired and become fed up and throw the nappies together with the baby into the dustbin? Impossible, perverse! Why? A mother is a mother and a father is a father. They clean their child many times, for one year, two years, and longer, if necessary. A deep love compels them to do so.
We should serve a former Muslim spiritually for years to become fully-fledged, sanctified and prepared to serve in the name of Jesus. The on-going power of the Son of God is stronger than we think: Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 John 5:4-5)
The love of Jesus Christ compels us to go on serving those who have abandoned the spirit and the habits of Islam and have accepted Christ and his ethos. The example and the faithfulness of many Christians is decisive, as Pastor Iskander Jadeed, a former Muslim, wrote:
If all Christians were real Christians,
Q U I Z
If you have studied this booklet carefully, you can easily answer the following questions. Whoever answers 90% of all questions in the eight booklets of this series correctly, can obtain a certificate from our center on
as an encouragement for his/her future services for Christ.
1. Which are the three main barriers servants of the Lord have to overcome in order to guide a Muslim to Christ?
Yours in His service,
Abd al-Masih and his brothers in the Lord
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GRACE AND TRUTH