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How do I Share My Faith in a Majority Muslim Country?

October 14, 2020

Man selling coffee in a Middle-Eastern market.Sometimes people ask me how Christians can share their faith in a Muslim country.  And I begin by asking them how they share their faith in their own country?  This is an important question, because if an individual finds it hard to speak in a meaningful way about their relationship with Jesus Christ in their own culture and own language, then how much harder would it be for them to share their faith in a different culture and a language, especially if that culture does not accept the Bible as a legitimate source for wisdom?

When we talk about sharing our faith, we must think about the role of faith in our lives.  Why is faith important?  Why would anyone be interested in what I believe about the universe?

The answers to these questions are the key to sharing faith.  We must understand that every one of us needs to find meaning and purpose in our lives.  One of my teachers said, “You need to find a reason to get out of bed in the morning!”  Why should I go to school?  Why should I go to work?  What difference does it make whether I marry this person or another person?

This search for meaning is the key to sharing our faith because it is a universal part of human existence.  Whether we acknowledge it or not, every one of us serves a “god” in our lives.  Maybe it is the approval of our parents, maybe it is money, maybe it is the respect of our friends, or maybe it is fear of losing control.  Whatever it is, there is one main thing that drives us at any given time, and one thing tends to dominate our decision-making throughout our lives.

So, what gives our life meaning and purpose?  Is it the treasures of this earth which moth and rust consume (Matt. 6:19)?  Or is it the praise of parents or friends, whose opinion can vary from one day to the next?  Or will it be an abiding relationship with the Creator of the Universe who loves us more than we can possibly know and desires to share with us a significance that lasts for eternity (John 3:16)?

Of course, discussing abstract ideas in other languages and cultures can be challenging.  That is why Jesus kept his message simple by using parables or earthly stories with a heavenly meaning.  The New Testament records how Jesus spoke about things that the people of his time could understand, like the sower who planted on fertile and rocky soil, or the man who built his house on sand, or a shepherd caring for his sheep.

This is the model for us when we talk to people in majority Muslim countries.  We start with what they understand, and then we lead them to eternal truth.  For example, one of the greatest festivals of the Muslim calendar is the festival of Eid, which marks the end of the month of fasting, known as Ramadan.  And so, a modern-day parable might go something like this:

“Suppose there was a rich man who wanted to celebrate the festival of Eid with all of the people in the town where he lived.  He bought many types of meat and delicacies that were all approved for Muslims to eat, and he laid out a table where all could sit and celebrate together.  But suppose that before he invited the people to come and join him, he secretly took a small portion of food that was not approved for Muslims to eat (like pork or dog meat) and ground it into a fine powder.  And suppose that he sprinkled just a few small crumbs of this meat into each of the dishes that he had prepared for the celebration.  Would it be acceptable for the people to eat?”

If the person is a Muslim, they will inevitably say, “No, the food is contaminated, and if the man deceives the people by having them eat it, he should be punished!”

“But, the food is 99.99% pure,” I reply.

“It doesn’t matter,” the listener inevitably answers, “The food is contaminated and must be discarded.”

“So, are you perfect?” I ask the person.

“What do you mean?” they typically respond.

“Is every thought that you think, every word that you speak, and every action that you perform perfect and acceptable to a perfect God?” I ask.

“Well, no one is perfect!” is the usual answer. Some will say, “But I am mostly good.”

I continue. “But we just finished saying that food that is 99.99% pure is not good enough.  So, how can we be good enough for a perfect God?”  And then, after an appropriate pause, where no answer is either expected or given, I say this:  “You see, this is what Jesus does for me.  I have sinned, and inevitably I will continue to stumble and make mistakes in my life for the remainder of my days.  But Jesus takes those sins away and makes me clean—whiter than snow, so that I can be acceptable to a perfect God.”

So, how do missionaries share their faith in a majority Muslim country?  They begin with the understanding that without exception we are all in need of meaning and purpose in our lives.  And it is not hard to help people reflect on the basis for their decision-making as it relates to school, work, family, and relationships with others.  Moreover, we can use simple examples from daily life to help people understand the basis for a faith that creates a meaning much more robust than material things, the opinions of others, or an elusive feeling of control.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”   1 John 3:1 (NIV)