by Dr. Dave Coryell, General Secretary World-CE and Executive Director CE-USA
I recently returned from Pakistan. There has been great discord between Christians and Muslims because of our differences and our history with each other. I thought my readers would enjoy a positive spin on the relationship so below you will read three insights Christians can gain from Muslims before I offer one parting word.
Insight #1: Generosity
I had numerous encounters with Muslims during my stay in Pakistan. Since this is the country’s dominant religion and the country’s name is “The Islamic Republic of Pakistan” you should not find this surprising. Uber drivers, hotel workers, vendors and people serving at tourist attractions tended to be Muslim people. When introduced to these people I was unsure how they would respond to a tall, white, bald foreigner. First I met a family that owns several manufacturing plants including denim clothing, rice mills, bottled water and confectioneries. Following my tour I was given numerous pairs of jeans, boxes of candy, water and many smiling selfie pictures. When I inquired with my host his comment was, “In my experience the Muslims out-give the Christians.” Another day I met a Pediatrician from a local hospital. He learned about medical missions being run by a local Christian pastor. After going through a screening process he began volunteering his time a few times a year to do eighteen hour days, seeing one hundred children patients, and writing numerous prescriptions. This young Muslim doctor was willing to do this alongside Christians because people needed help. A generous spirit runs through the hearts of many Muslim people.
Insight #2: Devotion
The news media has taught us that Muslims are all fanatics lurking at our doors waiting to bomb our public places and fire machine guns into the air. My experience in Pakistan was that Muslim people are very kind and devoted people. Please understand, I believe their devotion is misplaced. They pray five times a day and carry out other behaviors because they believe they need to keep the vengeance of Allah at bay. However, it was encouraging to converse with a taxi driver who gave all the praise to his god for providing his taxi. He also discussed how after he dropped me off that he would be pulling into a parking spot so he could do his afternoon prayers. I silently prayed for this man because I realized that a proper understanding of God could make this devoted person a great asset for Christ and the Church. It is imperative that we look at Muslim people as people. Yes, there are fanatical Muslims just as their are fanatical Christians, but the people I met were kind and devoted to the god that they know.
Insight #3: Innovation
Many people believe that anyone living in a country ending in the letters “stan” must wear a turban, veil, ride a camel, and daily avoid dust storms while giving the middle name Ishtar or Muhammad to all of their children. This is so far from the truth! While I was in Pakistan I walked through three story malls with hundreds of brands. I sat in a food court with most of the fast food chains from the USA. I went through a store that would have rivaled any of the Walmart, Target, or Costco superstores in my home country. Along with this there are trampoline places, mini-golf courses, large cineplexes, amusement parks and more. I walked through a seven story electronics mall with 900 computer stores. Yes, contrary to your thinking, these people communicate with smart phones and not just carrier pigeons and falcons! Our media has caused us to have a false impression of the innovation of places like Pakistan. I am interested to see where this innovation takes them in the next ten years.
Now, before I receive countless emails and “unfriend” requests, let me part with this statement. Muslim people do not know the way to God. They believe by doing enough good things that their god, Allah, will be appeased. We worship different gods, but our approach should follow 1 Peter 3:15 where we are always prepared to give a reason for the hope that we have in Jesus Christ and we will share this with gentleness and respect. Pray for Muslims to have visions of Jesus in their dreams. I have one friend that came to Christ in this way from a Muslim background. May God grow us in our ability to love all people as God’s creatures and then lovingly direct them toward Him with our attitudes, words and actions.