Did you hear the broadcast from Egypt on Sunday that told of Coptic Christians conducting mass in Tahrir Square? What caught my attention was the report that Muslims surrounded the Christians in order to protect them while they worshipped. (Reuters, February 6 2011).
This action follows many reports of Egyptian Christians protecting Muslim men in the same square as they prayed last Friday. Coptic Christians make up approximately ten percent of the population of Egypt, perhaps the largest Christian community in the Arab world. (For background information, you might want to read this article from Foreign Policy.)
Have you heard about the big controversy among some Christians over whether Christian churches should rent church space to Muslims to conduct their prayer services. What do you think your church would do?
Recently, Christianity Today has featured several articles that raised questions about the relationship between Islam and Christianity as well as between Muslims and Christians.
Why We Opened Our Church to Muslims | A response to “Muslims in Evangelical Churches.” (January 27, 2011)
Muslims in Evangelical Churches | Does loving your neighbor mean opening your doors to false worship? (January 3, 2011)
From Informant to Informer | The “son of Hamas” senses God in his life before coming to Christ. (June 8, 2010)
Dispute in Dearborn | Small ministry creates big waves at Arab festival. (August 18, 2010)
Out of Context | Debate over ‘Camel method’ probes limits of Muslim-focused evangelism. (March 31, 2010)
How Muslims See Christianity | Many Muslims don’t understand Christianity—especially the idea of salvation by grace through faith. (March 1, 2000)
The above list appears in a lengthy article discussing the use of the phrase “Son of God” in Bible translations used in Muslim countries. It is an excellent discussion of the difficulties inherent in cross-cultural evangelism (Christianity Today, February 4, 2011).
If you are having trouble even reading the word Muslim without thinking terrorist, then I think you are a pretty normal American Christian. Unfortunately, I think the dominate word in that last phrase is American, not Christian. But it is very difficult for many of us to separate the flag from the cross, isn’t it!
I am encouraged that in the middle of the political tumult, Christians in Egypt have acted like Christians to those who sometimes even persecute them. I’m equally thrilled to see Muslims responding favorably to the Christians.
It begins to sound like the early chapters of Acts, you know those verses that describe the good that the first followers of Jesus did among the people who had killed Jesus (2:47) and the “good favor” that ensued from the entire community.
We and LST have been involved in faith-sharing work with Muslims for many years now. Our first experiences were in western Europe–which is struggling with a mushrooming Muslim population. Then later we began work in places that were secular politically though Muslim culturally, both in Asia and Africa. I have no personal experience in the fundamentalist Arab Muslim countries, but I do know people who have worked there.
So I have many more questions than I have answers, but I am more and more convicted that not only is vilification of Muslim people wrong, but that either intentionally or indifferently ignoring them is equally ungodly.
I am convicted—as you are, I believe—that God so loved the Muslim world as well as the Christian world that He sent His only Son to die for the whole world! Isn’t that what you believe too?
So how does that change anything for you today?