Love Your Neighbor (don’t assume he’s an enemy)

The day I arrived in the city two bombs went off, one by a restaurant and the other by a mosque; over 40 people were killed. It did nothing to deter the training of “frontline workers” whose ministry was in thick of persecution and unrest; in fact, it was barely mentioned. Instead, we spent the week drawing near to Jesus, discovering His love, His comfort in the midst of pain, His truth in the midst of fear.

imageAs hearts began to open, there were times when emotions ran high. How do you love your Muslim neighbor (who was your friend as a child) when feeling fear and mistrust from watching havoc being done by other Muslims? One man brought this struggle to Jesus, and emerged ready to not only answer a friend’s phone call, but planning to reach out (though not foolishly) to other Muslims. His thoughts about death were replaced with trust in God’s plan for his life.

The participants returned to their regions, excited about being better prepared to address trauma and to be more focused on Jesus. I returned to the US.

Last week, the tragedy of a shooter killing five people at a Marine base occurred. The man’s parents were grieved and renounced their son’s deeds, while also noting that he had been struggling with depression. But emphasis was placed on his religion, Islam, and appeared to add fuel to the fire for anyone opposing Muslims.

What struck me most was the reaction of Christians, particularly leaders such as Franklin Graham and his call to prevent Muslims from coming into the country because each “has the potential to be radicalized.” The generalizations made to cover 23% of the world’s population are astounding, particularly in a country where many Muslims come to escape the devastation done by extremists in their own land.

Where is Christ’s Love?

According to Jesus, the greatest command is to love God, and the second greatest is to love your neighbor. I see that happening as the men and women facing real threats of death voluntarily go back to the thick of it, relying on God’s strength not their own.

I don’t see that when Western Christians (though certainly not all—I don’t want to generalize!) instill fear where it is unfounded, reject those seeking asylum, and ostracize those most in need of love. The best way to prevent people from being “radicalized” is to reach out, show love, and build relationships.

As believers, we are commissioned to spread God’s message of hope to all nations. It is difficult to get into some closed, predominantly Muslim countries. Having representatives of those nations come to us, where we are free to share imageour faith, is in reality an incredible opportunity! These could be the men and women who experience transformation in Christ and take His love back to their families and communities, despite the likelihood of persecution.

So my challenge for you today is to be an “anti-terrorist” by seeking out your Muslim neighbor and showing Christ’s love. Your fears will likely be debunked as you encounter the culturally-based values of hospitality and kindness!

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