Back in August, I signed up for a Groupon deal to have a handyman come to the house to do various house projects for an hour. The day before he was supposed to come, “Alex” called to discuss the details of the projects.When he arrived, Alex mentioned that I needed to get some materials from Home Depot. We jumped in his car, and on the drive there, I got to learn about his story.
Alex’s real name is Ali, and he is a Muslim from the Middle East. He came to the United States in 2000 to study architecture at a university in Oklahoma. While there, he met his future wife, also a devout Muslim. They got married a few years later, and now have two little kids. His wife stays at home to take care of the children, while he works for a family friend to provide food on the table.
Ali had a brother in Florida, who had been brutally murdered. Ali’s eyes were full of pain as he explained what had happened. Despite all this, Ali can’t imagine living anywhere other than the United States. He loves American football, boating, fishing, and being with his family.
Ali spoke of his devotion to his faith. He faithfully prayed at the times that he was supposed to pray. During Ramadan, Ali would faithfully fast during daylight hours although it was difficult to do so as a handyman. Sometimes this meant that he would be in the heat outside all day without any food or water.
After a while, he began asking about what I did. When I mentioned that I pastor a church, he wanted to know my thoughts about relationships between Muslims and Christians. I began telling him of my friendship with the Imam of the Plano mosque. I told him about how I have been to both the Plano and Irving mosques and have met both Imams. Ali attends the Irving mosque, and was amazed when I mentioned Imam Zia by name.
We ended our long conversation with him wanting me to meet his family and pray for his business.
Why am I blogging about this?
Too often, we Christians tend to talk about other faiths, but we don’t dialogue with people of other faiths. If all we do is attack people of other nations, other religions or other races, we aren’t being representatives of Jesus to the world we live in. The only thing this does is close the door for relationships to be built. Yet when I study the life of Jesus, I don’t see him doing that at all.
Jesus was interested in conversations with the “enemy.” He spoke with the Samaritan woman, when no one else would have talked to her. He healed the daughter of a Gentile woman – another enemy of the people of God. Although Jesus knew he would be crucified by Romans, he never attacked or talked about them. Instead, he healed the servant of a Roman Centurion. These were enemies. These were people opposed to the Gospel. They were the terrorists. Yet, Jesus didn’t see them that way. He loved them enough to talk to them – not about them. Loved them enough to heal them – not let them die. Loved them enough to build relationships with them – not close the door on them.
I had previously posted about how the world is coming to Dallas. It’s an incredible time to be living in. God is giving us opportunities to interact with various people, learn from them, love them, and point them to Jesus. However, it won’t matter at all if the world is coming to our city if we aren’t willing to love and reach out to them. If we stay closed and boxed in our little comfort zones, nations will come and go, and we will miss the incredible opportunities that God opens for us.
I love my Muslim friends. I recently had a great lunch with an Imam, whom I genuinely care about. I would love to see him become a follower of Jesus, and I pray for that often. I’m sure he would love to see me become a Muslim and prays for that, as well. We have incredible conversations about life, faith, and theology. We disagree on many things. However, our religious differences have not stopped us from being friends and from living in peace and harmony with each other.
My friend, Ali, left my house that day saying that he wishes he had met more Christians like me. That was humbling to hear. He even mentioned that he wanted to visit our church one day. He figured if an Imam was welcome, he would be welcome as well. Has he come? No. Will he come? I don’t know. I do know that because God led me to see him as a person and genuinely care about him, he had a better impression of Christians and the Church.
Photo courtesy of ©Erich Ferdinand under the Creative Commons License 3.0