RECEIVING DIVINE MOMENTS OF CONNECTIVITY
I got a call late last week from someone working with the US State Department who was hosting some of the top Imams of Libya. They had planned to come to the US in November, but it was cancelled due to all the issues with Benghazi. So, here they were now, – they had traveled to a couple of cities and I don’t know why DFW, but they were coming to DFW and they wanted to visit an evangelical church. No doubt, they had heard of the greatness of Texas. They wanted to understand the different varieties of Christians. Trying to help them understand Catholics & Protestants, then all the varieties of Protestants is near impossible. Their host had tried to connect them with evangelicals but to no avail and someone told him about me and Northwood and he should try. So, of course, we agreed. We had a big baptism service, communion, and extended praise and worship time – had they got in Sunday afternoon they could have come! But they didn’t, so we hosted them for lunch Monday.
They were not just imams, but in addition some had jobs, two were medical doctors –and other professions as well. They were very kind and gracious men. I spoke at an event in Doha with Al Jazeera a year or two back where I met many of the young revolutionaries from Libya. One of them gave me a flag that I still have. It reminded me to pray for them every day. We got them halal food and then circled up chairs and did a Q & A. I then walked them through the church and explained our church, as well as all the art. They were fascinated by the baptistry so I explained baptism and offered to baptize them . . . no takers! Some of them wanted to see my study so I took them back – they loved that – and saw all my books and Bibles on a shelf – several of them wanted Bibles. I was amazed in a group of imams that they would ask – but I was excited to gave them copies. The two doctors spoke English – I wish I could have had a whole day with them, but they couldn’t. They were kind, they were gracious, they were somewhat nervous – but they were willing to engage to build a relationship and I admire them greatly for that.
Some observations . . . .
First of all, the people in Christianity – evangelicals more than any other group in the US, should be hospitable and engaging to others – especially when they want to meet us. It is a chance for us to build relationships and tell others about the love we have for Jesus and to serve them. To deny or not extend a hand is violating the core teaching of Jesus. I have no doubt many of the evangelicals in DFW would have received them had they known which churches and pastors to ask. There are only two reasons an “evangelical” wouldn’t receive them, hate or fear. Both are strictly prohibited by Jesus and are the antithesis of the Christian faith. BTW, the Mormons are receiving them in Salt Lake City as I write this. Had Jesus had that attitude we’d all be going to hell with no hope of heaven or meaning in this life.
Second, you can’t paint a whole people by the nut cases in a culture. Except for Texas, there are nut cases all over the US. I don’t want to be defined by stupid statements, actions, or hate that other evangelicals spew. It used to bother me when those from my tribe would trash me for trying to love, but I’ve come to be fine with it. It’s a clear separation that I can show people between what kind of evangelical I hope to be versus what they see. NO – EVANGELICAL DOESN’T ALWAYS MEAN CHRISTIAN, BUT THE PROBLEM IS OTHERS DON’T KNOW THAT. I can call myself a Jesus follower, but that does little for the rest of the world that lumps us into one bag. In the picture we took together, I noticed the young doctor holding my book up in the picture. He was very kind, very gracious. I went through all the multifaith vs. interfaith, etc., and they loved it. They went out of their way to say they wanted friendship.
Third, someone has to reach out if a bridge is to be built. How long will you nurse ill feelings towards someone? As a follower of Jesus we should always do our best to be first to extend our hand. Don’t forget – JESUS WAS REJECTED – but he still extended his hand! We should serve, love, reach, and share regardless of whether someone receives us or even treats us well. Our response isn’t merely to the person we are showing love, but obedience to the Savior who has called us to love. At core, it isn’t a “them” issue; it’s a “Jesus” issue.
Fourth, don’t put limits around who you can or can’t love or be friends with or engage with. When you do you limit everything. I heard either Terry Virgo or PJ Smyth (couldn’t remember) say at a conference we attended, “God limited himself in Jesus so we could live limitless and unlimited lives.” I love that statement. When we put walls around ourselves we stop Jesus from being able to do what he wants to do towards seeing transformed lives and transformed cities and a transformed world. When people see us, they should see the “limitless” Jesus in us. As followers of Jesus we are to “die” to our self, our will, our sin, our prejudices – all of it.
Fifth, forgive. I can feel anger, vengeance, for how “me” or “mine” are treated – but for the Jesus follower, unless we are willing to forgive, Jesus says we can’t be forgiven. Many of you that read my blog are not Christians – but you are Muslims, Jews, Buddhist, Hindus, even atheist – but you are all my friends. My friend Najeeba just did an awesome video on forgiveness. She’s a Muslim theologian and though we disagree on Jesus (she would say prophet and I would say God & prophet) the principles remain the same. So regardless of your faith, or no faith –this is very relevant – enjoy . . .
Bob is the founder, senior leader, and chief spokesman for Glocal.net . His primary focus is to connect leaders and estabish relationships to explore transformation. Follow Bob on Twitter at @bobrobertsjr.