Marc A. serves as the training coordinator for the OM Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Area. Marc and his wife have served with OM for 23 years. Marc has a heart for Muslims and trains Christians in MENA and around the world who minister to Muslims.
Today there are over 1.6 billion* Muslims in the world. It is likely that you live in or near a city where Muslims reside. No matter where you live, Muslims are now your neighbours. Sadly, over 80 per cent* of Muslims today do not personally know a Christian. We are told in Leviticus 19:18 to love our neighbour as ourself. In Luke 10:27 Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (NIV).
You might ask: How do I love a Muslim? Don’t they speak a different language, believe in Islam and think Jesus is a prophet who did not die on the cross? Doesn’t the media portray Muslims as dangerous and untrustworthy?
Jesus does not call us, as Christians, to love people who are just like us. He says to love your neighbours and your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. So, what does it mean for us to love our Muslim neighbours?
My wife and I learnt much from living in a Muslim neighbourhood in North Africa for many years. We discovered that Muslims are friendly, social, hospitable and religious. They love children, food and music, they honour their elders and they are devoted to their families.
We raised our three children in an apartment building, where they played on the street with our Muslim neighbours. We discovered that if we were intentional and open in our relationship with our neighbours, God gave us countless opportunities to share the love of Jesus.
How can you love your Muslim neighbours?
Firstly, smile and greet. Learn the common Muslim greeting (As-Salaam-Alaikum). If they speak another language at home, learn greetings and phrases in their native language. Feel free to introduce yourself as a Christian or a follower of Jesus Christ. Religion is a vital part of their life, as much as your Christian faith is to you.
Secondly, take an interest. Ask questions. Learn their names and practice the correct pronunciation. Ask about the meaning of their names. Find out about their culture, their family and their religion. In doing these things, you communicate that you value them as people.
Thirdly, learn. Allow your neighbours to teach you something. Learn some of their language or how to prepare a traditional dish from their culture. Learn about where they shop, what sports they play or what apps they like. Be willing to be a receiver and learner. It will give you the opportunity to share with them later.
Fourthly, make yourself available. This is a challenge with our busy schedules. When you start to get to know a Muslim in your community, try not to look at your phone, wondering what’s next on your schedule. In North Africa, my local friends would often say, “You Westerners all have nice watches but no time. We don’t wear watches, but we have lots of time!”
Finally, practice hospitality. Paul tells us to do this in Romans 12:13. My wife often tells me that she learnt hospitality from our Muslim friends. She learnt how to make tagine and couscous sitting in the kitchen for hours helping her friends prepare food. There is nothing like sharing a meal with a Muslim family in their home or inviting them into your home. If you are worried about what to serve, look up dishes online from their culture, serve hallal meat or go vegetarian. When you share a meal together with a Muslim in a home, so many walls come down and you will have freedom to relate.
Loving our Muslim neighbours is an opportunity and privilege. God has brought them to our doorstep. Now, you not only have a Muslim who lives in your city, you have a neighbour, made in the image of God, whom you know by name, and whom you can reach out to with the love of Jesus.
*Statistics provided by the Joshua Project and Pew Research Center.