“Do you think it’s safe to meet with the Christians? I’m afraid they will hurt you. Please text me as soon as the meeting is done, so I’ll know you’re OK.”
These were the words of a junior high-aged Muslim boy when he learned that his Muslim American mother was going to meet with a small group of Christians. He was sure she was entering a very dangerous situation.
The mother shared her son’s words when I asked her what it was like to be a Muslim in America in 2016.
On a wintery Saturday morning, several friends and I were gathered with about 15 Muslim men and women in a small meeting room in a mosque not far from our church.
“You’re our neighbors,” we explained, “and we’ve never taken the time to get to know you. We regret that. We’re grieved by the hostile anti-Muslim rhetoric filling the political discourse in America, and we want you to know we don’t agree with that. Thank you for your willingness to meet with us.”
For days, whenever my friends and I discussed that meeting, one of us would inevitably say, “It was an amazing meeting, wasn’t it!” Because it was. Shared stories. Shared laughter. Prayers for peace. Plans to meet again.
Jeremy and his family live in Iraq, serving Iraqi Christians, Muslims and Yezidis terrorized and displaced by ISIS.
“Thank you for inviting us,” the Muslim couple said as they left. “We felt very welcomed by your community, and we love the work of your friend, Jeremy.”
Sadly, I have to confess that I never thought much about relating to Muslims until I began traveling to the Middle East.
I’m grateful for the way my eyes have been opened by Arab Christians and Muslims I’ve met during my travels in recent years.
Several weeks ago, in a short talk I gave at our church, I mentioned the way Arab Christians in the Middle East are respecting, serving and loving Muslim refugees. I said that “respecting them” includes respecting their religious beliefs.
I’ve received a few emails from people wondering what I meant by “respecting their religious beliefs.”
Don’t I realize their beliefs about God and Jesus differ from ours? Am I saying that Christianity and Islam are the same? Do I think what one believes is irrelevant?
My answers to those questions are yes, no and no.
Yes, Christians and Muslims do have different beliefs about God and Jesus. No, Christianity and Islam are not the same. No, I don’t think what one believes is irrelevant.
In fact, I wish all Muslims (and everyone else, for that matter) knew Jesus as I know him – as Lover of my soul, Lord of my life and eternal Savior. But respecting someone’s belief doesn’t necessarily imply agreeing with it.
I don’t expect Muslims to agree with my Christian beliefs, but I certainly appreciate it when they treat me and my religion with respect.
I appreciate it when Muslims:
- Listen to what I say about Christianity rather than to what some angry or misinformed non-Christian says about it.
- Refrain from comparing the worst of Christianity (for example, extremists like the Crusaders or the Ku Klux Klan) with the best of Islam (for example, men and women like themselves, committed to family and friends and the welfare of the community in which they live).
- Speak respectfully about my holy book – the Bible – or my Savior – Jesus.
- Recognize that not all Christians share the same practices and world views.
- Extend hospitality, warmly inviting me into the space where their community gathers.
- Serve me, if I am in a position of need, without expecting me to adapt my religious beliefs to theirs.
“So in everything,” says Jesus in Matthew 7:12, “do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
I love the way Jesus cuts to the heart of things with pithy statements like that. The Golden Rule, we call it. So simple a child can recite the words. So complex we’ll probably spend our lives learning how to live it out.
When it comes to how we Christians relate to Muslims, the Golden Rule certainly suggests that at the very least we refuse to let sensationalized, irresponsible media stories shape our opinions of Muslims. We refuse to be ignorant about who they are and what they believe.
Stated positively, we choose to learn.
To that end, I’ve compiled a list of resources recommended by devoted followers of Jesus who are deeply engaged in personal, loving, honest relationships with Muslims.
I’ve read all but the last of these books – I’m wading through that one now. Many books and articles could be added to this list, but these books clearly honor the spirit of the Golden Rule.
On building authentic friendship between Christians and Muslims:
- “Muslims, Christians and Jesus,” by Carl Medearis
- “Christian. Muslim. Friend. Twelve Paths to Real Relationship,” by David Shenk
- “Grace and Truth: Toward Christlike Relationships with Muslims,” by Rick Love
From Christians living in Muslim countries:
- “Preemptive Love,” by Jeremy Courtney
- “Mini-Skirts, Mothers and Muslims,” by Christine Mallouhi
- “Waging Peace on Islam,” by Christine Mallouhi
On deepening theological understandings or explaining our faith:
- “The Crescent Through the Eyes of the Cross,” by Nabeel T. Jabbour
- “A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue,” David Shenk and Badru Kateregga
- “A Muslim’s Heart,” by Edward J. Hoskins
- “The Prophet and the Messiah: An Arab Christian’s Perspective on Islam and Christianity,” by Chawkat Moucarry
I know this resource list just scratches the surface of interfaith understanding. But I hope you’ll find food for your heart and your mind.
Lynne Hybels is a writer, speaker and activist who is engaged in ministry partnerships in under-resourced communities in Latin America and Africa. She is the founder of Ten for Congo – a personal fundraising initiative to support the thousands of women and girls brutally raped during the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A version of this article first appeared on her blog and is used with permission.
Editor’s note: A free PDF download sharing resources for positive engagement between Christians and Muslims is available here.