Many people who reach out to Muslims agree that God initially changes them more than He changes their Muslim friends! As we take steps to move toward Muslims, a side benefit will occur: sanctification in our own lives.
I took a road trip some years ago with my friend Zahra. As if sitting shotgun to a brand-new driver in downtown Atlanta traffic wasn't sanctification enough, God used this trip to expose my own pride, impatience and argumentative spirit.
Though I love Zahra like a sister, and I knew in my head that this trip was an excellent opportunity to build into her spiritually, I found myself easily irritated and impatient. To be sure, part of the rub was cultural differences between her and me, but it was also my selfishness about time and warped sense of superiority.
At one point in the journey, Zahra and I stopped in Georgia for lunch. Over our Chik-Fil-A signature sandwiches, we started heatedly discussing whether the prophets sinned. Zahra held the position that none of the prophets have sinned. We're talking Moses, Abraham, David, Jesus, and to her - Muhammad and his cousin Ali - all sinless. In her rationale, Jesus is no different from Moses or Muhammad. (Neither the Qur'an nor the Bible supports this, by the way.)
Just as I was about to go for the jugular and prove my case for Jesus' divinity, I got a phone call from a friend. I took it. And Zahra ordered some chicken fingers.
Over the phone, my friend encouraged me and told me she'd been praying for my trip. Talking with another believer reminded me that Jesus calls me to love. I was gently rebuked by the Holy Spirit: truth must be spoken, but always in love. And no argument won is worth the loss of a person's respect. And I was walking close to that line.
Arguments are unproductive. When I start feeling uptight and sweaty and my teeth start clenching, I know I am defending a position rather than representing Christ.
As Christ’s servants in this world, we are to “not be quarrelsome but…kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful” (2 Timothy 2:24). If you find yourself in the middle of an argument, you can take a deep breath and a step back. You could say with a smile, “I’m sorry. Maybe I’ve offended you. Would you like to talk about something else?”
Our conversation was divinely interrupted by the phone call, but Zahra and I came back to the prophets-and-sin subject later that day on more friendly terms. Thankfully, I didn’t damage our friendship with my antagonistic approach.
God has been sanctifying me through my interactions with Muslims. He's teaching me to be longsuffering when I feel selfish and argumentative. And He's asking me - above all else - to love my Muslim friends fervently, for love covers over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).
"Anna" blogs about friendship, culture, and Kingdom-living from her home in the Middle East. She loves Jesus and wants to see Him cherished by her neighbors and people everywhere. Anna will be posting on the Persecution Blog each month. Feel free to ask questions or suggest future topics in the comments section for this post. Anna is a pseudonym, and all names in her posts are changed for security reasons.