Wounds from a sincere friend are better ...
Let me tell you an amazing story about a friend, Ahmed, who is a devout Muslim. After 9 months of friendship a situation prompted me to step out of my comfort zone and show him 'tough love.' I gave him a loving reproof which was not easy to do. I felt prompted to do this because he confided in me a heartache involving a niece for whom he cared deeply. It so happened, a couple years earlier, he had been instrumental in arranging her marriage to a Muslim and now he was beating her. To make a long story short, she divorced him.
I prayed and struggled over whether to speak frankly knowing this would involve pointing a critical finger at Muhammad. I knew that Muslims hold Muhammad in highest esteem, believing him to be the most exemplary human who ever lived. They are very sensitive about him, as is evident from the worldwide outrage evoked by the Muhammad cartoons.
Eventually I plucked up courage and said, “It seems to me that Muhammad's teaching, as found in the Qur'an, gives Muslim husbands reason to excuse this kind of behaviour.” I pointed to a Qur'anic statement that endorses beating one's wife. (Surah 4:34) But nowhere did Jesus ever say anything remotely similar in the Injil, or elsewhere in the Bible.
I went on to recount two similar incidents in the life of Muhammad and Jesus, one involving a blind man and the other an adulteress. Both stories further exonerated (upheld) Christ as morally perfect, whereas, Muhammad fell short to put it mildly.*
How did Ahmed respond? To my amazement, the confrontation strengthened our friendship! As Solomon said, “Rebuke a wise man and he will love you.” (Proverbs 9:8, NIV)
Not only so, a week later, when I visited Ahmed he welcomed my suggestion to show the Jesus movie to his family! Several weeks after this, Ahmed and his family enjoyed a meal in my home. Once again, God's Word was vindicated, “Wisdom is shown to be right by her actions.” (Matthew 11:19)
If you want to read more details of this remarkable confrontation simply ask me and I will email you. You may also like to read my article, The Cornerstone: Muhammad or Jesus? which examines how Muhammad and Jesus both claimed to be the only cornerstone. Notice my aim is not to attack Muhammad or provoke Muslims, but simply to see who measures up and merits this title.
Some Christians may ask, “What exactly am I hoping to accomplish by telling this story?” Let me make it perfectly clear: my purpose is not to encourage Christians to go around hunting for opportunities to rebuke and refute Muslims (tactlessly). There is a place for refuting and reproving, but let's be sure we speak the truth in love.
Spur one another to love and good deeds
My experience of showing tough love to Ahmed calls to mind Proverbs 27:6, “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.”
I trust that Christians reading Ahmed's story will be spurred to go out of their comfort zone. For some this means overcoming timidity and actively befriending Muslims, perhaps in small ways, like giving a smile and warm greeting. (Matthew 5:46-47) Others will be challenged to show love by sharing a reason for our hope, as it is written, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble.” (Psalm 107:2, ESV)
Not only so, we all need to realize there is a place for a loving rebuke. In fact, we can actually be unloving if we withhold correction!
In closing, let me say that telling the truth – even gently – may require us to say something that hurts or wounds our friend. Two classic illustrations from Scripture are John 4:18, 22 and Acts 17. Notice that Paul's sermon didn't just use commonalities as a way of bridging to his audience, he also refuted their idolatry. In a similar way, Jesus not only showed a gracious attitude to the Samaritan woman by affirming certain commonalities, he also told her unpleasant truths, which in effect, wounded her feelings. It is important for us to empathize with her sense of ethnocentric, religious pride. We ought to ask, “How would this woman have felt when Jesus said, 'You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.'”? (NIV) We should also bear in mind that a few moments earlier Jesus had exposed the Samaritan woman's moral bankruptcy, albeit with gentleness. (cf. 2 Timothy 2:24-26)
If you have questions or comments please feel free to email me here.
All Bible quotations are from the New Living Translation unless otherwise indicated.
Jesus gave personal attention to a blind man, when others were trying to push him aside. (Mark 10:46-52) Muhammad spurned a blind man who approached him while he was talking with leaders of the community. (Surah 80:1-4)
The second incident compares how Jesus and Muhammad dealt with an adulteress. Muhammad had her stoned to death but Jesus showed grace and forbearance, saying "Go and sin no more." (see Sahih Muslim Book 17, Number 4206, compare with John 8:1-11)
Not many days after my remarkable 'confrontation' with Ahmed, a Christian friend, who we'll call Andy, had a similar experience involving boldly correcting a Muslim. This encounter happened in the transit lounge of the Dubai airport where he was sitting next to an Arab (Osman) and struck up a conversation. After a few minutes talking about various things, such as careers etc, Osman shared how he works as a consulting engineer to oil companies. Andy said he was a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Osman commented that Islam is the best religion, although he admitted he wasn't a good practising Muslim. He believed that all Muslims are going to paradise and that the Bible has been recopied, changed etc, etc.
Would Andy allow this lost man to continue under this cloud of deception? Would he pluck up the courage to bring the light of God's Word, even if it meant correcting him and refuting his erroneous beliefs?
Many Christians in this situation would hesitate because they've not established a sufficiently strong relationship or they've not won the right to be heard. But for Andy this was a one shot opportunity to impact a man who he might never see again!
Prompted by the Spirit, Andy boldly refuted Osman point by point, especially driving home the fact that not even Muhammad knew whether he or his followers would make it to paradise. (Surah 46:8-9) This was in stark contrast to the claims and teachings of Jesus Christ who knew he was going to paradise and promised his followers the same. (Luke 23:43)
It was soon evident that Osman was out if his depth. Andy challenged Osman on many other things too! ...
Much to Andy's surprise, Osman warmed to him, reaching out and embracing him like a long lost brother – not once but twice. He said, "I've never met someone like you before. You are telling me things that nobody has told me before. I never talk to strangers at airports but something made me talk to you." I told him it was no coincidence but a divine appointment and he agreed.
Osman said he would love to continue the discussion and encouraged Andy to visit him in Spain where he lives with his family. In his excitement Osman even offered to pay for Andy's flights. Andy has since emailed Osman and is praying for more opportunities to explain God's Word.