I had a recent conversation with a Muslim man. He was well spoken, gracious, intelligent and willing to dialogue in a respectful manner. I immediately liked him.
We talked first about his experience in Canada. He was overwhelmed with the cost of living here, and informed me he would be going home. Furthermore, he was overwhelmed with the brazen sensuality present here. He told me that although the opportunities for advancement were less at home, the advantages in terms of family and his faith were drawing him back.
But then our conversation moved to the conditions in his home country. Since I had visited his country, I found his impressions and mine to be interesting. And then, our conversation made an interesting turn. For some reason, and I can’t quite remember how we got there, but we began to speak about Israel, and its role in the Middle East. He told me that he thought Israel was a criminal state, and expressed his deep hatred for it. He thought the presence of Israel had upset all lives in the Middle East, including his own. He also expressed his distaste for Britain and its leadership in the Balfour declaration.
This was my opportunity to speak. I had discovered that this young man thought that he had lived an exemplary moral life, and that he felt God owed it to him to give him a good life. I was able to say that I thought his sins were greater than he had imagined. Furthermore, I said that the matter was exactly the reverse of what he had imagined. God owed him nothing, but that he had an infinite debt he could not pay to God.
From there, I spoke of what Jesus had said about loving one’s enemies. I told him that I had heard both sides of the story in the Middle East. From the Jewish side, and from some in the Palestinian side. I said that the only hope for peace was the teaching of Jesus. Love rather than hatred. Peace, forgiveness and reconciliation, rather than generational anger that led to constant wars.
As I now reflect on our conversation, I have come to several thoughts. The first is the appreciation for many Muslims that I have met. They are conscious of God. They are willing to engage in talk of God. And if done in an atmosphere of listening and respect, their willingness to talk about Jesus. The fact that I was a Christian pastor and Bible teacher did not result in guardedness, but immediately resulted in dialogue. But I was also aware that there simply is no one like Jesus. The relevance of His teaching, and His ability to speak to the things that matter most captured my thinking. I have been reflecting on how the message of Jesus is simply unlike everything else in the world. Jesus truly is the only hope there is for a hate-filled world.
But most of all, I have been thinking about what evangelism will look like in the new Canada. As Canada opens the door more widely for immigrants, Christians will be encountering people from the world’s religions. Our first reaction should not be to prove others wrong. Our first reaction is to show how the message of Jesus is exactly what the world needs most. We must gain more confidence that the gospel of our saviour is unique, inviting and what people need more than anything else.
And I had another thought. I was encouraged to pray for this young man. He, like everyone in the world, so desperately needs Jesus. Jesus offers him what no one else can.