07/01/2017: Building Bridges
Is it possible for Seventh-day Adventists to build bridges of friendship with Muslims? The divide between Christians and Muslims seems to grow wider each year. Yet Jesus is the master bridge builder! He bridged the gap between fallen man and Heaven, and He has placed Adventists in a position to connect with Muslims in ways that no other Christian denomination can.
Several facets of our unique faith resonate with Muslims. The 6-day creation, avoidance of pork and alcohol, our nearness to the end of time and the great judgment—these beliefs are just a few of the connecting links our Biblical faith gives us to Muslim ideology.
So how do we open discussion with Muslims? As a first step, it helps to learn their traditional greeting, “Assalamu alaikum.”1 This Arabic salutation, which means “May peace be upon thee,” is almost universal among Muslims. On a recent trip to Texas, I had the chance to use it.
We had flown all night and needed a ride to our hotel. Calling a taxi, I soon met our Middle Eastern driver. I decided to try out my Arabic. “Assalamu alaikum!”
“Wa alaikum assalaam,” 2 he answered. “Who are you? Are you Muslim?”
“We are Seventh-day Adventists,” I replied, “and we don’t eat pork or consume alcohol. We worship one God and don’t worship with images. We believe in the resurrection and that we are living in the last days, and we are followers of Isa al-Masih!” 3
This all seemed new to him, and for the next 40 minutes we shared a delightful dialogue. After quite some discussion he asked me, “So is Jesus the Son of God?”
It seemed too early in our friendship for this hot topic—a theme Muslims love to argue but which usually leads nowhere. I knew we needed to connect first on points of agreement. So I responded, “I read the Qur’an and it tells me that Jesus was born of a virgin and that He was holy or righteous from birth.”
The driver thought a moment. “Yes, it does say that,” he nodded. Then he went on to a different subject. Thus the Lord gave me more time to establish a relationship.
One question I usually like to ask Muslims is, “What do you know about the judgment?” The driver and I had a lively discussion on that theme. He affirmed that Muslims fear the judgment with great anxiety. When I asked him why, he said, “One does not know if the scale of worth places him on the right side or not.”
“Do you think God is for you or against you?” I probed.
“I am not sure,” he said. “It is all about the scale and balances. If you have done enough good works, you may be in His favor. If not, the outcome is not good.”
I assured him that God is doing everything possible for him to come through the judgment—that He is desperately trying to save us. Then I encouraged him to listen when God tries to get his attention, to earnestly pray for direction and thank Him in advance. I could see that these were new thoughts to him.
When we finally arrived at the hotel, I had several tracts ready to offer. Our driver accepted them all, assuring me that he would read them!
God is using every avenue He can to bring the gospel to Muslims. Jesus paid the ransom for them. It matters not so much what men have done nor where they are, but what they do when light from Heaven shines into their lives. Will you pray for tact and wisdom to allow God to use you to reach out to this massive people group?
1 Pronounced ah-sah-LAH-moo ah-LIE-koom. Also spelled a salaam aleikum.
2 “And may peace be upon thee.”
3 Jesus the Messiah. Pronounced EE-sah al-mah-SEE.
Pastor Harnisch is the Adventist Muslim Relations Liaison for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada. 250-254-2524; email@example.com
As the Muslim population increases in America, what will you do to reach out to your Muslim neighbors? If you don’t know where to begin, contact Pastor Harnisch. He can point you to resources to share with Muslims, or even hold a weekend seminar in your church.
An estimated 1.6 billion Muslims occupy our planet. They need our prayers! Will you ask God to send light into their lives?