Each Spring semester in my Missional Life course, we have some sessions around the concept of inculturation (a more fancy word for contextualization) and this leads us to look at engaging with those of other religions.
My sense is that, especially as evangelicals, we easily find our identity in what we are against rather than what (or who) we are for. I believe this easily pushes us to move with hostility toward others who aren’t like us, rather than move toward them with hospitality.As we discuss the Muslim faith, I talk about building bridges with our Muslim neighbors. Do we have Muslim neighbors? Muslim friends? How can we better understand them? Better listen to and dialogue with them?
Much of what we learn about Islam may come through media frenzy, which typically highlights Islamic fundamentalism (which most Muslims denounce anyways – did we know they denounce such terrorist practices?).
I also put on their radar what are known as Insider Movements in countries outside of the democratic west. There are insider Muslim movements in varying parts of the world, basically having people identified as Messianic Muslims (like Messianic Jews). They are followers of Isa (Jesus), however they are trying to consider how best to stay within their Muslim context while faithfully following Jesus.
This is very unknown to our western mindset – not to mention everything tends to be so black and white, either/or. We can’t imagine a follower of Jesus singing praises to Allah (which is simply the generic Arabic word for “God”), continuing to wear certain clothes, continuing to speak certain phrases (As-salāmu ʿalaykum, which means, “Peace be upon you.”).
The interesting thing is this does happen.
Authentic Muslim followers of Isa as the Son of God. Messianic Muslims, if you will.
As a further way to learn to build bridges with those unlike us, I take the students on a field trip to a Friday prayer service (Jumu’ah) at a local mosque. I’ve found it to be one of the greatest learning experiences for our students as they observe, listen, dialogue with the imam, and then craft a reflection paper about the experience.
My question is how can we be faithful followers of Jesus in the midst of Muslim neighbors in an urban city like Memphis? I think we are playing our little part. Nothing major, but our part in building bridges with our Muslim neighbors.
Watch this short video below. It may help us see something we’ve never seen.