My Conversation with Muhammad

Tonight we were at the park as a family and I met a young Muslim man named Muhammad who was there with his daughter.  While I could tell from his traditional dress that he was Muslim, I didn’t want to immediately tread there given the fact that we were both with our kids and just hanging out at the park.  I wanted to begin a simple conversation about his life and family.

It is certainly divine timing that we connected today as I began a series with High School students last week called ‘Belief’ in which we will discuss the major world religions, their historical narratives and the ways in which they get to God in contrast to biblical Christianity.

The problem in having conversations where I don’t want to immediately get into potentially heated theological debate is that the typical first question is, ‘what do you do?’  This was the case tonight and I was immediately in deep water theologically when I responded that I was a pastor.

He was incredibly respectful and responsive as we discussed what each of us believe and he worked really hard to find consensus so that we could walk away ‘basically on the same page.’  I find this is often a tendency we all want in these conversations because we don’t want to be wrong and we don’t want to challenge others to consider they might be wrong so we equivocate and pander to them for social appropriateness.  It was a great conversation though; we could both be respectful and honest about what we believe and walk away appreciating the investment of one another’s time.

Two things stood out to me and have continued to do so concerning Islam.  First, when I asked Muhammad whether he believed that people were primarily good, bad or neutral he was a bit taken back.  As if the question didn’t have an answer.  He was reciting some of the Koran in Arabic, not to be rude, but simply because that’s what he believes its true form is and after listing a few passages he concluded that we are neutral but have a tendency toward evil.  I responded by saying that I believe the Bible teaches because of the fall of humanity we are evil (Ps.51:5; Jer.17:9; Is.64:6; Eph.2:1).  We don’t need a little help, we need complete rescue.

The second was the way to God; Muhammad shared that he believed the Gospel of Jesus was too easy (1Cor.1:18) and we must work according to the law depicted in the Koran to attain the necessary requirements for Paradise.  I shared that the Bible talks about the perfect law serving to reveal our imperfect hearts and need for a rescuer.  I talked about how Paul describes the law as our tutor (Gal.3:24) and it was designed to show our inability to attain it and need for the Gospel.  We discussed how every major religion seeks to attain right standing with God by our own accomplishments and Christianity makes it clear that a pursuit of the law to gain standing with God is impossible (Rom.8:3).

It really was a great conversation but before we left he asked me one question, would I be willing to consider new information or face the idea that I was wrong at any point.  I know many in my shoes may have said no but I said I was and will always be a pursuer of the truth.  I think as believers we need to be really careful to allow our own hearts to be challenged and changed when necessary if we are asking others to be open to the same.

I would love for you to pray for Muhammad, his wife and their little girl as they prepare to move back toward family in California.  I may never see him again but I know God had us meet tonight for a reason and I hope that I planted seeds for His glory in our conversation.

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