Muslims and Christians: we are family, Part One

Muslims and Christians: we are family, Part One September 23, 2020

Today I submit to you that, no matter our spiritual path, we are all family, and that’s a beautiful thing.

I have heard stories of the occasional convert from Islam to Christianity, and a roughly equal number of converts from Christianity to Islam. Why did they convert?

Because they were seeking God, and the God of one faith “rang true” for them more than the God of the other faith. Why does this happen?

People become disillusioned with their faith for many reasons. A Catholic boy who is raped by a priest might—understandably—turn away from the Christian faith and become an atheist; but if he mourns the loss of God in his life, he may become attracted to Islam. Conversely, a Muslim who sees violence perpetrated in the name of his religion may develop an aversion to Islam, and later find solace in Christianity.

But most people are resistant to such a transformation.

I attended Sunday school and church from a very early age. I sang, “Jesus loves me, this I know” probably before I could talk. Those are deep roots. My husband Ziyad had a similar-opposite experience, being immersed in Islam from birth. Each of us was also fed a steady diet of exhortation about the dangers of leaving our faith.

And then we wondered for 30 years why we couldn’t convert each other!

How could we ever think that someone content and fulfilled, believing he/she was serving God, would just flip-flop? What I pointed out as flaws in Islam, my husband did not see as flaws. What he pointed out as flaws in Christianity, I did not see as flaws.

Asking him to abandon Islam, or me to abandon Christianity, would be like asking us to walk around without a circulatory system. Our personal faith in God as we know God keeps our hearts beating, gives us life.

You don’t remove something fundamental if you believe it’s healthy—only if you believe it’s killing you.

And much of religion is embedded in CULTURE. And culture is also deeply embedded in our psyche.

I am not just a Christian: I am a Christian who is also a woman, who is also not just a Westerner, but also a MID-westerner, who is also of German descent, whose family was suburban, middle class, white, etc., etc. I am all of these things, and they all inform my identity as a Christian.

My husband is a Muslim who is also a refugee and exile, a Palestinian, a man, the youngest child in a family of all boys, etc., etc. All of these factors, taken together, make up his identity.

Therefore, to remove Christianity from my life, or Islam from his, would not be like extracting a tooth—it would be more like doing a vascular transplant: our faith permeates every part of ourselves: it is our heart, our veins, arteries, and capillaries.

The same is true for every other Christian, for every Muslim, for EVERYONE. And God knows this. We are all highly complex, multi-faceted combinations of nature and nurture.

The truth is, different aspects (actual or inferred) of God appeal on a deep level to different people because of who we are and how we were raised – factors largely outside of our control.

To borrow a phrase from Luther’s Small Catechism, “what does this mean?”

Here’s what I think, and this is the product of decades of soul-searching and world travel, meeting people and seeing entire societies that did not attend church:

God is not going to create people who will be born into a Muslim family, raised as Muslims, and then punish them eternally for believing in Islam (I know some of you are squirming – please read this and this).

God is not going to look at someone on Judgment Day who, to the best of their ability, served God and remained faithful even under pressure – and say “to hell with you.”

And before you grab tar and feathers, let me say this: that’s not just my opinion. The Bible says that Christians are not the only ones with a revelation of God:

  • “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19)
  • “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him—though He is not far from any one of us.” (Acts 17:27)
  • “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Read that last one again. “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) It doesn’t say “God rewards those who find God.”

God is pleased with the seeker, and all people can be seekers because God has revealed Himself in some way to all people.

If this is a new concept to you, take some time to mull it over. I know it’s very jarring when a lifelong belief is challenged. Take a deep breath and allow yourself to be teachable. I did it too – without a mentor – and it was scary.

And again, read this and this. The Bible has plenty to say about this topic. We’ve just never seen it, many of us.

The reality is that we as Christians are not in competition with Muslims – we’re family.

Stay tuned for more on this subject. (Subscribe so you won’t miss anything!)

FEATURED IMAGE: Why, that’s me and my handsome hubby, a few years back!

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