Tuesday, November 15, 2005

father abraham

I found out yesterday that, along with a few Christian families, and a whole lot of Muslim families, we now have both Hindu and Buddhist families as part of our work here in Tottenham. I have to tell you that I feel differently about these families than I do about our Muslim families. Few of the people who read this blog will agree with the following because most of the people who read this blog are either very conservative or very liberal. I consider myself to be a liberal conservative because I think both groups are closed minded, unwilling to read, unwilling to listen, and unwilling to consider. But anyway, I feel differently about our new families.

One of the reasons I feel this way is that I’ve had a hard time buying the evangelical argument that Muslims are not praying to the same God that I am. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve definitely not made any decisions on the matter. But when I read my own Bible (the story of Haggar), listen to their explanations, and watch their lives, everything seems to point to the fact that, like Jewish people, we’re all praying to the same God here. I admit that the Jesus thing is an important omission, but it is for the Jews as well. So when I’m around our Muslim families, there doesn’t seem to be this absence of God. I know that that is a big statement, and I know that some people will vehemently disagree with that. Trust me, it’s been a hard statement to say out loud. But comfortable or not, it is the feeling that I get.

But I have a very different feeling when I’m around our Hindu and Buddhist families. There is this, almost, audible absence of God. This (forgive me) massive God shaped space. Almost like this black hole in their soul and in our relationship. I’m not sure how many of you believe in discernment, but that feels like where this is coming from.

When I looked down into the eyes of one of our Hindu girls yesterday, I realized that I was (quite literally) looking into the eyes of a pagan. The same thing was true of our Buddhist kids. And (here’s where my liberal friends get uncomfortable) unlike our Muslim families, I feel this real need to share the message of Christ with them. With our Muslim families I mostly feel that I’m here to share the LOVE of Christ with them and also to build bridges. I believe that our greatest calling in this community is simply to show our Muslim neighbors that some of the things they’ve heard about Christians just might be a little off. I’m under no delusion that we’re going to be leading a bunch of Muslims to Christ here. They say that a Muslim must have three significant relationships with a Christian before they’re prepared to sit down and listen to the gospel. So I’m mostly here to be that first relationship. But with these new pagan families, I find myself feeling very different. Feeling a desperation to share the message of Christ with them.

I have no idea how that will work. As we try to build bridges in this neighborhood between the Christian church and the Muslim community, it’s important to earn their trust, and one of the ways that we do that is by providing non-religious after school clubs. A place where our Muslim families can have no fear of their children coming home indoctrinated with what they consider to be a pagan religion (because of our belief that Jesus is also God). I’m comfortable with this simply because I think it’s much more important to LIVE out the gospel than to shout it out anyway. I also think that living out the gospel is what I, as a Christian, am called to do. But again, I feel a desperation with our pagan families that I’ve just not felt before with our Muslim families.

If you’re a prayer, I’d appreciate your prayers for this one. Wisdom.

Comments on "father abraham"


Blogger BrownEyedGirl said ... (2:49 PM) : 

We have just been studying this in our Bible study. As I understand it, no practicing Muslim believes that our God is Allah. Their faith is not based on Hagar’s experience with the God of Abraham even though that is their blood line. Their faith is based on Muhammad and his experiences. Another interesting thing to look into would be how Ishmael lost his birthright to Isaac. He lost his position and the blessing of his father. ( satan also lost his position and the blessing of The Father---strong but interesting comparison)
You have a great opportunity and possibly a calling to the Muslims around you. This would explain the love and the discernment that God is present with you when you are with them. The best way to see if their God is the same as our God would be to make a comparison of Allah’s character with God’s character. Compare what they know of their God with what we know of our God and see how they line up. Our God does not contradict himself so if they match up and there is consistency in the character studies you will have your answer. It is also a great conversation starter with the Muslims around you. I would love to hear their answers. I served in The Republic of Georgia for 3 years and many Christians believe that it is the gateway to bringing Christ to those of the Muslim faith.


Blogger Cari said ... (3:21 PM) : 

What did the Buddhist say to the hotdog vendor? "Make me one with everything."
I like your "audible absence of God." It's one thing to not have God, but to take a pair of scissors and intentionally cut Him out of your life is so...evil. Like a tangible darkness lurks just behind them everywhere they go.
I gotta disagree with the praying to the same God. I admit to speaking out of personal emotion more than from any sort of factual knowlege. That doesn't mean we can't love them. In fact, all the more so that we should. They are precious people. I have two friends named "Younis and Youness". Also, Hamid, Bhaktarahn, and SA. That's as good as it gets. Most of them are typical Americanized "guys". One of them hates Americans. (Go home??) and one of them is a seeker.
You're right about living the gospel. If I didn't already know you and what you're about, I know that I'd want to. But I'll be Paul and you be...Tim. If your audience is blind, you may have to speak up. If they're deaf, too, Helen Keller, baby. (Sometimes I channel Dick Vitale). I would like to think my life spoke loud and clear, but sometimes people need more reinforcement. Of course, you'll know the time for it. Keep living it out, working it out, and every once in awhile, shout it out!! I'm touched by the strength of your conviction. I'd be quick to "shake the dust from my sandals" and move on. Be encouraged, my little Timothy. For what it's worth, you have my prayers. Always.


Blogger Tim said ... (3:23 PM) : 

I've learned my lesson in trying to reply to people's comments about my posts, but I couldn't let this one slip by: "Our God does not contradict himself..." That's true. However, we Christians contradict ourselves, our Bible, and our God all the time. I'm sure that Muslims do the same. So I'm not sure that this is a good measuring stick.


Blogger anniebuck2 said ... (1:37 AM) : 

From what I have learned about Buddhism from my World History class, it seems to be more of an alternate life style and less of a religion. Other than meditation and a focus on the self, there isn't much worship invovled. I feel saddness towards these people because those that reach that point of enlightenment seem to lose the ability to experience pain. Although pain is unpleasent, I consider it to be necessary. I think people learn the most during the storms they endure in their life time.

When I was in high school, my family housed an exchange student from Mongolia. When I asked her about her beliefs she said she was a non-practicing Buddhist. She had no notion of God and just lived life for the materials found in this world. To her, when people died that was it. There was no curiosity about an after life of any kind. Living with her was an interesting experience and one that I will never forget. I can only hope that our conversations and living with my family sparked an interest in her to search.

A thought on Muslims. They know their holy book, the Koran very well. If only I could say the same about my holy book, the Bible.


Blogger Neatr_natr said ... (3:11 PM) : 

From my small understanding of Islam this is where Allah came from. There is a place in Mecca called the Hajj, the big black box in the big Muslim temple, in this Hajj there were 365 Gods or so(don't quote me on that number) and Allah was the god of the moon. For some reason Allah, the god of the moon, struck Muhammed's fancy and he chose this to be the god of Islam. Thats just what I read somewhere, it may be completely inaccurate, I may have been drunk when I read it.


Blogger Pete said ... (4:44 PM) : 

I think I agree on some levels with the first comment. Healthy ongoing discussions with people of Islamic faith are very important. This may sound too liberal, but perhaps devoting more time to what we have in common is the key (especially early on in the relationship building process), pushing aside the temptation to dive into differences. We should first seek to establish a level of mutual respect.

We both believe in one God. We both believe that this God revealed Himself in very specific ways to His creation. We both have a passionate desire to attempt to align our lives according to that revelation, and so forth.

Push the topic of God aside altogether. Find out more about the person you are talking to, their family, their lives, their occupation. Have lunch / dinner together. Invite them into your home. Exercise love. When the time is right, you will get opportunities to discuss Christ, right? Start by being Christ.

Sometimes easier said than done. Are we too busy in this modern age to forge long term relationships? Maybe we feel an urgency to skip ahead, though I wonder how fruitful that approach will be.


Blogger Bill said ... (3:01 AM) : 

One heratic to anouther,
Unfortunatly in this who debate we get focused on belief and religion instead of relationship. Or maybe we focus too much on heaven and hell I guess what i'm saying is that is not the issue.

We might all be praying to the same God (your thoughts on the Trinity may come in here. Maybe the Buddists do not have a relationship with God. However showing them a God that they can seek as Budists, how is that one? I mean the LAST thing we need are more western "psuedochristians" we have enough. I do not know how you do that but show them a God that they can have a relationship with. Besides its not about heaven and hell is it?


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