Friday, June 3, 2011

What Christians Can Learn from Islam

Post 27 

Offer of Free Lecture
Today we deal with question no. 5 in my Christian Courier series.  Once again, I apologize for the interruption.  Life sometimes becomes too hectic for me to cope.  I take on too many responsibilities or obligations and then find I need to temporarily change course.  This time around it was a trip to Ibadan, Nigeria, where I was invited to deliver an annual lecture to Christians about sharia.  My title was “Re-tooling Our Approach to Sharia: A Wholistic and Pluralistic Perspective.”  Readers interested in that issue may contact me at < > to request an electronic copy.  If you do forward this request, please be sure to mention this blog post and tell me what province or state and what country you are from.

Islam's Reminding Function
So, what can Christians learn from Muslims?  Many things, actually.  If you have read my earlier post “The Muslim Within You,” you have already become aware of how, far back in history, the Western world adopted various major ideas and institutions from the Muslim world.  Today my concern is not something that took place way back there in history but what is taking place or could take place today in your own life.  

Years ago, in Nigeria, I met a Muslim biking along the long driveway leading to our mission compound. I greeted him in the local style and he stopped to chat in the Hausa language. In the course of the conversation, I told him about my plans for the next day.  I was going to do this and that, I confidently announced.   He was silent for a moment, cocked his head slightly and then asked, “Allah fa?”  “What about God?”  Does He not figure in your plans? 

I felt deeply embarrassed.  Here was a Muslim for whom I was paid to bring the Gospel and he brought the Gospel to me!  I was brought up in a culture where the term “Deo volente,” Latin for “God willing,” laced daily conversation.  Immigrating to Canada where that term is rarely used, I had dropped it somewhere along the line.  And, now, here was this Muslim reminding me of a neglected component of my own inherited worldview and language. 

Presence of God
That seemingly insignificant interchange has stuck with me ever since.  “Allah fa?”  Yes, indeed, what of God in our ordinary daily lives?  His name interlaces most Muslim conversations, not, as in the West, as barbaric profanity, but as an expression of our dependence on Him in everything. Of course, deep down I knew that God is there all the time, but the secular culture in which I grew up on Vancouver Island made me careless and drop the lingo—and with it blunted the edge of this spiritual awareness. It was still there, but marginalized, so that this Muslim gentleman was offended. He reminded me. 

A major function Muslims can play for Western Christians is that of reminder.  We have been so deeply influenced by the pervasive secularism around us that much of our Christian sensitivities have been blunted and Christian standards marginalized, if not plain forgotten, or, worse perhaps, actually rejected as outmoded or politically incorrect. Politically incorrect they most assuredly are, but outmoded? We know the Name of Jesus is holy and needs to be revered, but when He is insulted in public life by sheer derision or outright exclusion, we shrug our shoulders. Muslims cannot tolerate such carelessness and infidelity. A few years ago the Anglican Church in the UK was silent when someone publicly insulted Christ, but the Muslim community stood up and denounced the insult.  After all, Jesus is seen as a Muslim Prophet second only to Muhammad.  When someone is perceived as insulting Muhammad, even non-practicing Muslims can get on their high horse and cause riots.  But Christians just shrug their shoulders in indifference as if it were an inconsequential matter. 

Pioneer Reformed Challenges to Secularism
The generation that founded the Christian Courier, the semi-monthly that originally published this series, was deeply offended by Canada’s secularism and challenged it by establishing Christ-honouring alternative social institutions. They took their issues to the highest courts of the land and achieved some remarkable victories.  Half a century later, the structures they built still exist not only, but are fully Canadian, flourishing and effective institutions. Today, only half a century later, most of their descendants know little of and care less for those issues.  Some of them are now run by Canadians from other Christian traditions that became excited by the broad vision of these early Reformed pioneers.

Muslim Challenge to Reformed and Other Christians
Muslims continually challenge this secularism and remind us of God across all of life.  They have their prayer times and little stops them from performing them.  Certainly not shame or embarrassment.  Neither are they embarrassed about being identified as Muslims and, thus, religious.  In fact, they are proud to be Muslim.  We may sneer at some of their female fashions, but who sees Christ in us with our fashions?  Where has modesty gone?  Women, without any apology on my part to those concerned with the politically correct, do you realize how many of you befudge the reputation of Christ among Muslims with your fashions?  Muslims remind us of modesty not only but of the general need for morals, both private and public.  Of course, men who casually ascend Christ’s pulpits in torn jeans and flip-flops similarly downgrade His holy Name by their lack of respect, another concept we have almost forgotten (Unless it is a conscious decision to identify with a population where such dress is standard.). While many Christians have largely succumbed to the secular demand for separation of religion from both politics, government and the market place in general, Muslims boldly march into the market place with religion up front, even with Muslim banks. In contrast, we deride such banks that uphold moral standards that go beyond the financial bottom line.  When Muslims speak mission, they do not talk merely of church planting; they actively claim the entire world for God.  To the descendants of those early pioneers I ask, “Does this sound familiar to you?  Are you reminded of some things from your background?  Might you even experience some slight twangs of conscience?”

Muslims serve to remind us of the need to re-install God in our daily lives at every level. I should put it differently, for God does not need to be re-installed, for He is there and everywhere, whether we are conscious of Him or not.  He needs to be re-installed in our consciousness. Islam reminds us of that.
We Reformed ought to respect them for it, observe them, listen to them and be reminded once again of our roots.  Perhaps we can even cooperate with them at selected fronts.  

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