Moments have the power to define entire generations. Americans have experienced many such defining moments throughout our history. Moments that connect us together. Moments of joy, and more often, moments of grief.
For my parents, the question was, “Where were you when you heard about Pearl Harbor?” For me, it was, “What were you doing when you heard that President Kennedy had been shot?” And in 2001, a new generation found their question, “Where were you when you heard about the attacks on 9/11?”
That day and the terrible news footage that played continually on our television screens are seared into the memories of all Americans, and that day is when many Americans found a new enemy… Muslims.
Ever since then, we’ve made the extremist Muslim stereotype the cultural standard—fearing, and even hating at times, an entire group of people for the actions of a few. It’s a spiritual trap that even some Christians have fallen into, and it’s caused us to take our eyes off of the real enemy. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” –Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)
Satan, the true enemy of God’s people, is clever. He deceives us into believing that we must fight against those who are not like us, that we must plan for their destruction.
But I believe God has a different plan—a plan for hope, deliverance, and salvation, and we need to begin looking at the Islamic world from His perspective. “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” –John 10:16 (NIV)
Muslims are human. They are made in the image of God. Like you and me, they are also lost and broken. They are sinners, and they need Jesus.
Muslims are deeply loved. Our Father loves them, and believers everywhere are also called to love them as our neighbors and some even as our enemies.
Muslims are yearned for. Jesus Christ came to redeem all people. He can take every kind of brokenness and make it new, and he desperately seeks to change their lives like he’s changed each of ours.
The Bible is full of examples of people who once were the enemy of God’s people, but whom the Lord redeemed for His purposes:
- Rahab was a harlot and part of the enemy kingdom of Jericho that fell at the command of the God of Israel … but because she saved Israel’s spies, she was spared when the city was destroyed and even became part of Christ’s own earthly lineage.
- King Darius held Israel captive and in a whirlwind of circumstances threw his servant Daniel, an Israelite, into a den of lions … but when Daniel was protected by an angel of the Lord, Darius declared that every person in his kingdom must look to Daniel’s God with fear and reverence.
- Saul of Tarsus spent part of his adult life vehemently persecuting followers of Jesus. He stood by as Stephen was stoned and he tracked down believers in Jerusalem and beyond to see that they met the same fate … but on the road to Damascus, he encountered Jesus, his life and his name changed, and he became the greatest missionary the world has ever seen.
Each of us stands as an example of a life redeemed, and we can bring the hope that Muslims need through the gospel.
So during this Ramadan season when Muslims are committed to fasting, I challenge each of you to commit to loving Muslims as fiercely as our Lord does. Because love has great power.
“About enemies, Dr. [Martin Luther] King said the following, ‘Just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There’s something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.'” –Bill O’Reilly, Killing Jesus
The best way to love our Muslim neighbors is to pray for them. During Ramadan, would you commit to praying that God would work through dreams and visions to call more Muslims to be reconciled to Him through the prophet, Jesus Christ?
Let us join together in battling against our true enemy as we demonstrate the love of Christ to our Muslim neighbors.
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” -1 Peter 5:8-9 (NIV)
Dr. Kurt Nelson is President & CEO of East-West Ministries, a missions organization dedicated to multiplying followers of Jesus in the world’s spiritually darkest places. Through their ministry in unreached and restricted-access nations, people of many faiths—including Muslims—are encountering Jesus Christ and finding eternal hope. You can learn how to reach Muslims in your own community through their specialized IMPEL training. Register or learn more at www.eastwest.org/impel.