We all know the commandment to "love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves." But what if your neighbor is a Muslim? What does it look like to love him or her? Last year, the Mosque in our hometown of Joplin was burned completely to the ground. Because it had been the target of arsonist attacks before, there is a great amount of suspicion that this time was no different. (If you are unfamiliar with the story, just google - "Joplin Mosque" and read the news reports from all over the world related to the situation.)
While there was a significant outpouring of support by many faith groups and churches from around the region, I found it interesting how conflicted many of my friends were about offering any financial donation or attending any of the public events in support of the local Muslim community...
A few weeks after the event, our small group discussed the situation and some in the group felt as though any financial contributions would be an outright sin, because it would be used to rebuild a space where people would gather to worship a false god. In other words, they would be contributing the "lostness" and "deception" of an entire community. How will they ever come to the truth if we just affirm their Muslim faith??
As a means to help me and my personal posture in these types of situations, I have begun to think of myself (and my faith) in the context of being the minority. Asking myself, "If I were in this situation in India or Iran, how would I respond?" I have found that this scenario helps me immensely to know how I might best respond as a missionary would. So, lets say I live in Shahreza in the Eşfahān Province in Iran and the same occurrence takes place. The Mosque in my neighborhood has burned to the ground (irregardless of the reason). I am a Christian Missionary with a small underground faith community. I am already under suspicion from the local authorities because I am foreign and white. I am trying to build relationships with my neighbors that they may experience the Kingdom and come to faith. How should I respond?
Do I secretly celebrate that a house of worship to a false god has been destroyed and pray that fire reign down upon all the mosques in my city? Or do I walk down the street and help out? What would be most neighborly? Remember, my mission here is to build relationships. I know that without living the gospel before my neighbors, they will not be able to experience the goodness of the one true God. Let us never forget, the scripture says that it is "kindness that leads us to repentance". Being a minority and having a missionary posture radically changes my perspective and behavior. If I assume a majority status and enemy posture, I truly have no hope of ever convincing anyone of the good news of the Kingdom.
I believe this filter can be applied to any situation in any community we find ourselves in.
What if you lived in a city that was 90% Muslim? Mormon? Buddhist? or Atheist??
- How do you act?
- Where do you go?
- What do you do?
- What do you say?
When you are the minority, you have no status, no political platitude, no history, and no social influence. You cannot point to any religious fortresses to demonstrate your power or significance. In the eyes of your community, you have no authority and no voice. How will you convince them of anything??
Only now are you beginning to think and act like a missionary.
Remember the story of the Good Samaritan? Jesus told this parable in response to the question "Who is my neighbor?"
He ended it with, "go and do likewise..."
by Clarke T. Cayton, Forge Joplin Co-Director