To recap the last couple years: After the Pulse Nightclub shooting in June of 2016, I read the Koran. I was attending a Christian Seminary, and enrolled in a Master’s of Divinity degree. After that shooting I needed to read for myself just what the heck that book said about violence.
Instead of merely seeing the passages which call for violence, I saw something worse. Lies. Lie after lie after lie. But all the lies centered upon one big lie: the lie that Jesus of Nazareth was not the resurrected Jesus the Christ–the very Son of God.
So I blogged about the experience. Several of you were reading along, and one of you even asked, “Well, how should I address these issues with my Muslim friends?” I offered suggestions. But I also admitted that I had yet to know any Muslims myself, so I didn’t have first-hand experience.
Fast forward two years now and I randomly (or not) ended up working at a job with a lot of African immigrants, many who are Muslim.
One man in particular has engaged me in discussion about such things, but the conversations were always brief. Then, one day as we sat down on break, he said, “So you believe in Jesus Christ?” I got ready to finally chat on topic for a few minutes, only to be disappointed when another co-worker appeared and killed that conversation. But I invited my co-worker over after work. He accepted and a few days later he came over.
A- is his name.
The following is a highlight reel. It is intended to show you one example of how conversations can go. Keep in mind that we are co-workers. Not that I would do it much different if we were strangers, but this situation added pressure, I felt, to ensure that I didn’t say anything that would make the next day weird. And the next and the next and the next.
Pete: Oh, man. Thank you so much for coming over. It’s after midnight, and you came. I wasn’t sure you’d make it. Thank you.
A-: I said I’d come. I just had to finish up a few things.
Pete: No worries. Come in, come in. Don’t worry about your shoes. Can I get you some ice cream? I had a dinner party recently and one woman brought the best desserts ever and left them with me, and I was thinking you could help me finish them.
A-: Sure. It would be my pleasure.
Pete: Actually, do you eat ice cream? I had lunch with E- and his wife recently (another Ethiopian couple from work–Christians) and they went with H- and me to ice cream after, but they didn’t really like it. I don’t know if that’s all Ethiopians or just those two.
A-: I would like ice cream. I will eat it.
Pete: Cool. Oh, by the way. Answer me this. Sorry, I’m just so curious. How many white people’s homes have you been in since living here?
A-: (Smiling) Why you ask this?
Pete: I just am curious. I feel like everyone comes to America and then never mingles. How many?
A-: You’re my third.
Pete: Wow. Three? Crazy. We’ve got to do this again. Only three, huh? That’s no good. We’re not all the white devil, you know?
(Skipping ahead to good stuff).
A-: (Pointing at my white board with Ugaritic cuneiform alphabet, Hebrew alef-bet, and Greek alphabet written on it) Why do you study all this stuff?
Pete: Because it’s important to know about the people who wrote the Bible and what kind of life they lived and such.
A-: Well, I want to tell you I really appreciate that you study all this. You know, one of the five pillars is to believe in Holy Bible.
Pete: Hmm. That’s confusing to me. How can you believe in “Holy Bible” if it says that Jesus is the Son of God? And that Yahweh is the name of God? I was under the impression that these were not things that Muhammad wrote.
A-: You know, that is big confusion. We don’t really believe in Muhammad. He is not that important to us.
Pete: (Raised eyebrows in shock)
A-: You know, allah–or god–is so big and mysterious that we cannot know much about him. (Picking up a crumb from the brownie) It’s like we are this teeny-tiny thing. (Dropping it on the kitchen table) And god is everything else. How could the tiny crumb possibly know about everything else?
Pete: That’s what the Bible is. That’s what revelation is. Yahweh, the LORD, has been revealing himself to us through those prophets in the Bible and eventually in Jesus himself. It’s not like we know everything there is to know, but we know enough to know his name.
(Skipping a bit)
A-: I was raised in Adventist missionary school in Ethiopia.
Pete: I remember. You told me.
A-: But I came back to Islam. Have you heard of (some name I can’t remember or pronounce)?
Pete: No. What does he do?
A-: I could show you YouTube video. He used to be Christian, but as he learned more and more he converted to Islam. Can I show you video?
Pete: A-, here’s the thing. Ask any of my friends and they’ll tell you I hate watching YouTube videos. They send them to me all the time. “Pete- watch this.” I refuse. Ha. But if you want me to watch something, I will. But I’ll tell you this. I’ll make this prediction. I’ll try my hand at being a prophet here. The guy in the video is going to set up a straw-man and knock him down, but he is not going to talk about what the Bible says. Your man, these men, will not touch the Gospel. He is going to destroy the straw man, and then say Islam is the truth. It’s his only play. But he will not be destroying what the Bible says. He will not be talking about how Jesus got up on the third day. He will not be talking about how the war is over, how sin is defeated. He will not say anything about Jesus being the son of god.
A-: Holy Bible doesn’t say Jesus is the son of god.
Pete: (Eyebrows raised even higher this time) ((And here, reader, I ask you, what would you say? Keep in mind, I’ve never seen a conversion in my entire life. Never ever. Not once. But I believe I’m prepared to preach the Gospel and to finally get in the game.)) Tell me, what happens next if I go get a Bible and show you that it does?
A-: (Looking at his watch) Ah. It’s getting late. I should be going.
Pete: It’s okay. You don’t have to go. No worries. We’re just talking.
(Some half-hour later)
A-: Well, what about Mary?
Pete: (Simple confused look that grows to frustration) The Bible- Ahhhh, see I’m telling you. You have to read the Bible. You cannot go off of Christians. It doesn’t work like that. The Bible never says to worship Mary or that she is worthy of worship. That’s just a traditional thing that has no biblical foundation. Of course she is special because there is only one mother of Jesus and she was it, but she is not a god. Okay. It’s late. I’m kicking you out. A-, it’s almost two in the morning! Jeez. I have to get some sleep.
A-: Please let me help you clean up. When I am guest I help clean the dishes.
Pete: You really don’t have to. I have a dishwasher here. I can do it.
A-: Please, let me do this.
Pete: Okay, man. If you must. I won’t stop you.
Alright. There you have it. Biggest takeaways for me were:
- He’s been here for years. And only three white people (presumably “regular joe Americans”, whether Christian or not) have invited him into their homes? How’s the Word going to get into his ears if no one talks to him? Where’s the love?
- How many times do you think he’s told someone that “the Bible doesn’t say Jesus is the son of god” and that person has subsequently called him on his baloney? Will you be bold enough when the time comes? Did you notice how I did it without being arrogant? And did you notice that he didn’t get weird. At no time did it get weird or awkward. I was me. He was him. It’s called a conversation. You don’t like fake people. Muslims don’t either. Our job is not to be fake, it is to get the Holy Spirit in the game via the Word.
- Mary?! Mary?! MARY?! Shame on you, Catholics. Shame, shame, shame. Read your Bible. You are feeding evil.
- Did you notice that he used a defense of god that Christians teach each other, that Christians use to answer their children’s questions? I’ve never seen the “crumb defense” but I have heard it as, “Well, we’re 2D and God is 3D…” Did you notice that? Stop it. The Bible says no such thing. At best, you’re wasting time. At worst, you’re participating in evil. Instead of making foolish analogies that ultimately help no one, Preach. The. Word. Speak the Bible into people’s ears. They do not need an argument, they need the Word of God.