Text By Pastor Bob Roberts, Northwood Church
Google “What do Muslims believe?” Seriously. Now, let’s just pretend that EVERYTHING in those 64 million links is 100% true. Everything from the academic white papers that teach peace in the Quran to the extremist blogs aimed at inciting young men to perform acts of terror. Pretend it’s all true about all Muslims. None of it changes our call as followers of Jesus to love our neighbors.
Pew Research reports there are 2.2 billion Christians and 1.6 billion Muslims in the world today. Add that to the estimated 4,200 other world religions, and it becomes clear that the multi-faith reality we live in is not going away. As Evangelicals who believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven; as men and women who want everyone to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, we must learn to work with other faiths for the good of our cities, not just to try to convert them.
Here are three reasons why I believe multi-faith partnerships are worth building in your city:
They are people, not projects.
Do I want my Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, and Atheist friends to become Christians? YES! But I am going to be their friend regardless. I tell them that very early on. I’ve seen Evangelicals befriend non-Christians, then quit talking to them — or even become hostile towards them — if they don’t accept Christ after one Gospel conversation. I recently heard of a Baptist pastor who viewed it a waste of time to share their faith with Muslims.
This breaks my heart! The ‘us-verses-them’ mindset has plagued humanity far too long. We must learn to see people first and foremost as humans.
I care about global Christians.
The U.S. Ambassador-At-Large for International Religious Freedom in the U.S. State Department, Sam Brownback, recently said, “The lack of religious freedom anywhere is a threat to peace, prosperity, and stability everywhere.” The reality is that how we treat religious minorities in the United States has a huge impact on how Christians are treated around the world.
I want my Christian brother and sister to be able to openly and freely practice their faith all over the world. Therefore, I want my Muslim friends to be able to openly and freely practice their faith all over the world. I believe it is the job of the majority to protect the rights of the minority. In the U.S., Christians are in the Majority.
I want to grow in my faith.
When was the last time you had a deep, honest theological conversation with someone of another faith? As I’ve had deep conversations about others’ faith, it has made my faith in Jesus grow. I have had to answer hard questions about my own faith. The only way these conversations happen is if you are friends with people who don’t share all of your beliefs. My Jewish friends have given me so much insight into the Old Testament and my Muslims friends have taught me so much about prayer and challenged my thinking of the Trinity and the deity of Christ.
I recently challenged a young pastor to meet his local Imam. He went and knocked on the mosque door and the Imam greeted him very warmly, but asked a hard question: ‘Do you think I am going to hell?’
The young pastor responded that his faith teaches him that Jesus is the only way to heaven, so yes. The Imam smiled and said ‘Good, I think you are going to hell too. Now we can have an honest conversation.’
You never have to compromise your faith to be friends with people of other faiths.
The question you have to answer is: ‘How am I loving my neighbor?’ You might not have a practicing Muslim in your neighborhood, but there are people of all faiths in every corner of the globe. Take the initiative! If you are too busy to build a friendship with a non-Christian, I think you should really pray about your calendar and current relationships.
I have the joy of having such a diverse set of friends that I don’t have to Google another faith. I can just call a friend and ask them about it! My hope is that Christians here in the U.S. never have to rely on internet research to understand another religion. Instead, we ought to be able to talk about spiritual things over a meal with friends.