When you open your life to God, there may sometimes be a slight bit of fear:
- What’s God going to ask of me?
- Will he insist I work in the church nursery?
- Is he going to make me stop watching TV?
- Do I have to be a missionary in Africa?
There’s pruning to be sure, but more often the work of God in us is healing and hopeful. And sometimes it’s downright delightful.
In recent years, my obedience to God landed me on the marble steps of a sunny piazza in a Sicilian city called Catania. Aside from the Mafia, it’s pretty much what comes to mind when you think of Sicily: ancient, beautiful, and with a tinge of seafood on the Mediterranean breeze.
But it’s also some things not featured on travel websites, like migrants from all over the Muslim world.
That’s why I was there: to talk to the gazillion Muslims arriving from West Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. Because there were so many of them and most were waiting through a crazy long bureaucratic process to determine if they’d be granted refugee status, I had all the opportunity to practice sharing Jesus that I could take advantage of. As a result, I learned a ton.
I also developed a cheesy, Sicily-based acronym to sort out and pass on what I learned. I’d like to share it with you:
AMORE: A way for normal Christians to think about how God might use them to bring Muslims into his kingdom.
Assume the best
We’ve been warned about assuming, but in this case we’d be smart to. For starters, assume the best about yourself. Assume God is big enough and smart enough to use even you! Few Christians think, “Whoa, God’s so lucky to have me on his team! I look, act and talk more like Jesus than anyone I know!” More often it’s, “God uses cool, smart people like Dr. Denison. I could never be like him.”
The good news is that while you and I can’t be Dr. Denison, God already has that bucket filled. Further, even a cursory look through the Bible shows God uses all kinds of people. It seems maybe he delights in choosing and using the most unlikely of characters to get his work done:
- Abraham: “I know she’s hot, but I promise she’s my sister, not my wife. Please don’t kill me to get her.”
- Isaac: same thing.
- Jacob: conspired with his mom to trick his blind dad. That was just for starters.
- Moses: “Please just pick someone else. I’m out of excuses and quaking in my boots.(Well, I would be, if you hadn’t made me take them off!”
- Jeremiah: “I’m too young.”
- All twelve apostles: “I’m the greatest!” “Nuh uh, I am!”
- And Peter, the Rock, the leader: “Nah, don’t even know the guy.”
Seriously, we’re way more uptight about this than God is.
Secondly, we’re smart to assume God wants to bring Muslims into his kingdom. When John sees that kaleidoscopic gathering before the throne in Revelation 7:9, it includes some from every people group now dominated by Islam. The Bible is plain: God both wants and gets pure devotion from some representatives of every last people group on the planet. As sure as the sun rose this morning, that’s going to happen.
Move toward opportunity
As much as I’d like to hop on a plane with you, fly to “Faroffistan” and talk to Muslims about Jesus, it’s probably not going to happen. If God gives you that, I’m your biggest cheerleader. In the meantime, you know what God is doing?
He’s bringing Muslims to live among us.
Pretty much wherever you are as you read this, there are more Muslims living closer to you now than last year. From my vantage point, that’s very good news. It’s a living fulfillment in our day of Paul’s sermon in Athens: “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us” (Acts 17:26–27 NIV).
When and where people live is God’s prerogative, and he’s bringing Muslims to live among us in order to meet people like you who love and follow Jesus with all your heart.
So how does a normal person in Anytown, USA, meet a Muslim?
For starters, ask God. “Father, you love me and you love Muslims. I’d like to meet one or two. Please help me with that.”
Having prayed, put your brains and boots to work. Where are Muslims likely to hang out? Ethnic groceries are a good place to start. Middle Eastern restaurants work. If Afghans are coming to your town, give a quick call to the local settlement agency working with them. They may have some right-away work that you, or maybe even your whole church, can do. They will also know what areas of town are likely new homes for refugees. Look here for a Perspectives class near you. Shoot a text to whoever is listed as coordinator. They’ll know where to find Muslims or they’ll know who does.
In many of our cities and towns, it’s not unlikely to simply encounter a Muslim in your daily life. Imagine you’ve got a cart full of groceries and you’re just not down for checking them out yourself. As you approach the various checkout stands, you see one of the clerks is wearing a headdress that means she’s most likely a Muslim! Pick her lane! Smile at her! Ask how to pronounce her name if you don’t recognize it. Ask where it’s from, then if that’s where she’s from! (Usually is!) If she’s from somewhere else and if you can say so honestly, look her right in the eye and say, “I’m glad you’re here.”
Open your heart and your house
Opening your heart is kind of easy; opening your house is usually harder.
Can I invite you to pray this prayer with me?
“Father, please help me think about Muslims the way you do.” I’m inclined to think that’s a good prayer for a disciple of Jesus to pray about everything: your spouse, food, your job, and President Biden. It’s also a little dangerous. What if God says yes and you start thinking about Muslims as he does? That could be a deal.
Spoiler alert: God loves to say yes to that prayer.
I’m believing him for a big-time yes—for an army of Christians who will stop at nothing to speak out and live out to Muslims local and far-flung, “We’re going to love the hell out of you or die trying. You matter to God.”
But herein lies the problem with that prayer: You go opening your heart to Muslims, pretty soon you’ll begin thinking about opening your house. Then you’re talking boss level AMORE!
Let’s say you ask God why he’s given you a nice place to live. How far down the list of reasons do you think you’d go before reaching the one that says, “So you can invite Muslims over for dinner?” I don’t know, but I bet you wouldn’t reach fifty! Hospitality is a big deal for God and for Muslims as well.
So what happens when we get all gutsy and invite a Muslim family over?
Well, it’s pretty fun, but let’s pick that up next time as well as find out what the “R” and “E” stand for.