Afraid of Muslims? How Christians Should, and Should Not, Be Viewing their Muslim Neighbours

Not a week goes by that I don’t end up in a conversation with Christians expressing some kind fear about Muslims.

Fear that they are coming here.

Fear that they are moving in.

Fear that they are taking over.

This fear is crazy. Why? Because the idea that Christians should be motivated by fear of others is antithetical to the Spirit of God in us and the mission into which Jesus commissioned us. We are not fearful–we are faithful. We go where Jesus sends us and we receive, with joy, anyone we come into contact with, in the name and grace of Jesus, even if (especially if!) they do not follow Jesus and hold a different belief system than we do. Swing open the door.

As I think about the fear I hear, 5 reflections come to my mind. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
  1. First of all, we’ve been sending missionaries into Islamic countries for decades, giving literally millions of dollars so that Christians can go where few others have gone and usually under the guise of something other than mission work. Now the very people we’ve been trying to reach, at incredible financial and personal cost, are coming to us. Muslims are living next door to us, working in the next cubicle, riding on the same bus, and playing on the same soccer team (and you definitely want them on your soccer team!).  Hello, world. Hello, missional opportunity.
  2. Secondly, and this is so important: Muslims are not a theoretical belief system. Muslims are people, just like every other human being out there. Muslims live and love and work and hurt and desire and sin and betray and fail, just like you and I do. Muslims are loved and lovely. Yes, there are some nasty Muslims out there. There are Islamic extremists who do evil things, which we all deplore, including most Muslims. And guess what?There are some nasty Hindus, nasty Buddhists, nasty Jews and–yes, you can be sure of that–nasty Christians out there, too. People can be nasty, and out of anyone, Christians should be the first to acknowledge that reality, starting with our own confession of personal nastiness. But there are also wonderful, caring, hospitable, interesting, amazing people out there, people of multiple different faiths, including Islam, people worthy of your love, people you can trust with your lives. Hello, friend.
  3. And thirdly, Muslims are coming to know Jesus in droves. In a sweeping move of God worldwide, more Muslims are coming to confess Jesus as Lord than any other time in history, more even within the last 25 years since the origin of Islam.  Want to know more? Read A Wind in the House of Islam by David Garrison and get a whole new perspective on what God is doing. Need to be inspired by a compelling personal story? Read Nabeel Qureshi’s book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.  Hello, Spirit of God moving over the world! Bring it on.
  4. And fourth: most, if not all, of the people from whom I hear fear have never met a Muslim, have never enjoyed a meal in a Muslim home or welcomed a Muslim family into theirs. And they have certainly never engaged in a vigorous conversation with a Muslim friend about faith, which is so much fun and so rewarding. Their fear of Muslims, then, is not based upon personal relationship, but upon news media, television preachers and fear-mongering tales of people “out there” coming “over here.” That whole vision is not sourced by the Jesus who went into Samaria to love the hated enemy, who forgave his violent enemies and died for us while we were yet sinners; it’s not sourced by the good news we believe and share and sacrifice for. Even more fundamentally, it’s not rooted in the fact that each and every human being has been created in God’s image and is worthy of love. As followers of Jesus, we do not stay home in fear; we move forward in relationship, with the good news in hand and heart. We open up our doors. Hello, neighbour.
  5. And fifth, embracing Muslims does not mean agreeing with Islam. What a silly idea. Every day we embrace and love people who think and believe differently than we do (or at least I hope we do). We do not make our love contingent upon shared belief! Where in the world did we get the idea that loving Muslims, caring for Muslims, standing against violence toward Muslims, laying down our lives for Muslims is somehow an endorsement of their belief system? Again, if you know a Muslim and have engaged in any kind of conversation with one about faith, you would know how foolish that idea is. No, in fact, we can embrace Muslims as friends and disagree on beliefs, the most important difference being our belief about the person of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, his work on the cross, his death and resurrection. Every other difference, without exception, pales to this central difference about Jesus’ identity (which, by the way, is the central difference between Mormonism and Christianity, The Watchtower Society and Christianity, Judaism and Christianity, Hinduism and Christianity, Buddhism and Christianity–you get the point.) What I love about Muslims is their willingness to engage the faith conversation, rigorously and without rancour. Coming from a worldview that does not separate religion, politics and life, Muslims are not shy to talk about faith, whereas us Westerners, having long lived in a compartmentalized world of privatized faith, quail at such confident conversation. Hello, conversation!

So why is there so much fear? And how can we overturn this fear and embrace the mission Jesus has charged us with, by the power of the Spirit given to us? Only by getting the gospel right, engaging the mission Jesus has given us, and loving the neighbours he sends us.

We’ve got to get this right. Fear has no place in the life of the Spirit-filled, missionary-sent church of Jesus Christ. Have some faith in the work of God, creating this mighty move of people in the world today. The lives of our Muslim neighbours depends upon our love for them. Come on. Let’s go. Oh wait, they are already here. Now we can invite them over.