I've really grown in my ability to dialogue with people from other world religions. I've also developed the mentality that I am always "on call" for the Lord, and that every place I go is a mission field. These two lessons converged for me recently when I was flying back to NYC and sat next to a Muslim man on the plain.
|Ryan discussing the gospel with a |
devotee of the Hare Krishna religion
I knew I needed to try and talk with him about the gospel. Surprisingly, he actually initiated the conversation with me and started asking about my trip and where I was from. He was very kind. We made small talk for a while, just getting to know each other. His name was Tameen and though he was only a teenager, he already had ambitions of being a Muslim scholar, an Imam (one who leads prayer in a Mosque), and one who interprets the Qur’an and the Hadith (a collection of the sayings of Muhammad). He is currently enrolled in a school for Islamic studies. He’s 17 years old and he already has the ENTIRE Qur’an memorized! Seriously, that’s impressive.
We maintained a lively dialogue about our beliefs for the entire flight, but towards the end I realized something was lacking. We had talked about his religious practice, Islamic theology, and the history of the Bible and the Qur’an… but I had yet to actually share the gospel with him.
I was trying to think of a way to bring the conversation back to the cross, and I remembered that there was a question I’ve always wanted to ask a Muslim, but until that day, I had never had the opportunity to do so. The question was this: “When has Allah loved you sacrificially?” Muslims assert that Allah is the “all-good" and "all-loving” god, yet I don’t know of any instance when Allah has demonstrated sacrificial love – and isn’t sacrificial love the highest expression of love? If Allah has never done this, can he really be said to be “all-loving” in the highest sense? And if not, is he really deserving of our worship if he has not loved us in the most excellent way?
So I asked my new friend, “Tameen, thank you for all the information you’ve given me thus far. Now I just have just one more question for you - When has Allah loved you sacrificially?” He look at me, puzzled. “What do you mean? All that I have comes from Allah”.
“I understand that.” I said, “But that wasn’t my question. When has Allah loved you sacrificially? When has Allah done good to you at his own expense?” He paused and pondered for a while. I said nothing and let the question sink in until he finally said, “I don’t know… I don’t think he ever has.” I turned, looked him in the eye, and said very gently, “Tameen, that’s why Jesus is more worthy of worship than Allah, because Jesus has loved you better than Allah ever has.” And from that point on I went on to explain the gospel from the vantage point of sacrificial love – that Jesus (who is God) actually humbled himself to serve us by laying his life down for us. That’s love!
We discussed this matter for a while and he acknowledged that it was an important point that he needed to think about more. I pray that our conversation would stick in his mind as he continues in his Islamic studies and that he would ultimately see that Jesus is more excellent than Allah. I’m grateful for all I’ve learned at Street LIFE Ministries that prepared me for my conversation with Tameen that day!