the shape of leadership

Loving Your Muslim Neighbors This Lonely Ramadan

Seven ways to share the truth and compassion of Christ in a season of crisis

Mark Renfroe on May 6, 2020

If you have a Muslim friend, you may know that Ramadan began at sundown on April 24 — right in the midst of the COVID-19 lockdown. This religious season is significant for all Muslims, but this Ramadan will be very different.

Even Muslims who are usually non-observant go out of their way to be “better Muslims” during Ramadan. That not only includes fasting from sunrise to sunset, but it also involves communal prayers at the local mosque. However, just like churches, mosques are closed this year.

This reality is going to leave a big hole in the hearts of many Muslims. It is our prayer that God will use these unique circumstances to bring the lost children of Abraham to himself. Of course, you have a part to play in this happening.

As a follower of Jesus who is serious about fulfilling His command to make disciples of all people, you’re concerned for all of your lost neighbors. This includes your Muslim neighbors.

Generally speaking, Ramadan is a time of year when your witness to these friends may be more effective because they are more attentive to spiritual concerns. That is uniquely the case this year.

So, what should you do if you want to share your faith with your Muslim neighbor at this time? Here are seven suggestions:

1. Start with “hello.” Let’s face it. We’re all a bit concerned right now about social interaction — even with those who are “like us.”

It may be even harder to take the initiative with Muslims. Some followers of the Islamic faith wear clothing that sets them apart from the average American. Some are immigrants, so their English might not be perfect. Others look and sound just like you and me.

You may feel inadequate to share your faith with them. That’s OK. Just start by saying “hello.” After all, that’s the best way to begin any conversation. Even if it’s from six feet away and behind a mask, you can communicate empathy and concern.

2. Be a good neighbor. Get to know your Muslim neighbors just like you would any other neighbor. Ask how their families are coping during the crisis. Get to know their stories. If they are immigrants, ask about relatives in their countries of origin. And be sure to wish them a happy Ramadan.

You aren’t compromising your faith or suggesting Islam is true by doing so. You’re just connecting at a human level.

3. Share the gospel — and only the gospel. Don’t be afraid to share the gospel. It’s the power of God that leads women and men to salvation the world over. However, don’t mix other issues with the gospel. You probably won’t agree with your Muslim neighbor on politics. That doesn’t matter. Focus on what’s truly important: the truth about Jesus.

Every conversation should be a reflection of your love for God and your love for your neighbor.

4. Avoid arguments. Remember that everyone’s stress button is more sensitive at this time. Most people are a bit on edge. It’s always a good idea to avoid theological arguments. That is particularly true now.

I’m not suggesting you compromise the message, but if you read the Gospels, you will see Jesus spent more time asking questions of lost people than He did giving answers. After all, the truth only matters if someone is looking for it. So, ask questions first.

Many Muslims learn from their family and friends at home or in the mosque how to defend their faith. They may try to argue Jesus never claimed to be God or the Bible is corrupted. Don’t be deterred, and don’t get angry. The apostle Peter said, “Be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

Be gentle, and show respect. Proverbs 18:19 says, “A brother wronged is more unyielding than a fortified city; disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.”

5. Pray for and with your Muslim neighbors. As you make friends with your Muslim neighbors, be sure to pray for and with them. When I say pray for your neighbors, I mean pray for their salvation. They can’t do this for themselves. After all, they probably think they already know the truth.

You and I are called to stand in the gap for the lost, and this includes Muslims.

However, when I say pray with your Muslim neighbors, I don’t mean you should go to the mosque with them. I’m talking about getting to know your neighbor so you can pray with them concerning crucial issues in their lives. Follow up your prayers by asking how things are going and reminding them you are praying.

6. Show and receive hospitality. Muslims are generally hospitable people. This fact is especially relevant during Ramadan. So, show hospitality. No, you probably can’t invite them to your house for a meal this year, but you can bake or buy something you enjoy and take it to your Muslim neighbor. Just be sure that it doesn’t contain pork or alcohol.

Likewise, be sure to receive hospitality well. Doing so keeps the relationship going. You might wonder, What if I don’t like what they offer? Follow the advice of Elisabeth Elliot, who said, “Where he leads me I will follow. What he feeds me, I will swallow!”

Many Muslims come from cultures with delicious food, but even if it isn’t, Jesus is worth it. (One cultural insight: It is expected in some cultures you return the plate on which the food item is delivered, refilled with something you made or bought for them. This isn’t repayment, but many cultures are built on the principle of reciprocity.)

7. Stay connected. Muslims seldom come to Christ the first time they hear the gospel. It may take years and many conversations. Don’t give up! Jesus didn’t give up on you. Not every conversation needs to be a gospel conversation, but every conversation should be a reflection of your love for God and your love for your neighbor.

Following this simple advice can help eliminate any anxiety or intimidation you might feel as it relates to your Muslim neighbors. More importantly, it can give you the confidence to share Jesus with them. So, go for it, and see what God might do through you during this season.

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