Friday, August 5, 2011

Christian Family, Muslim Family, and Jesus

Guest Post by Brother Abe

About 18 months ago, forced by job loss and foreclosure, God brought my family of 9 into the section of our city called the Ghetto. 

I used to not use that term out of respect for our Jewish brothers and sisters who experienced a real Ghetto in the 1940's. But I have come to realize that poverty has been Ghetto-ized nazi style in most mid to large sized American Cities. The Police department admits to using a forest-fire fighting approach to my neighborhood: contain the crime, don't let it spread to the good neighborhoods and let it hopefully burn itself out... sometimes literally, considering the high rate of arson. There is actually a good racial diversity here, but not economic diversity. Hunger, eviction, and health problems are universal conditions. 

Moving here, we were not some financially-backed missionaries with an axe to grind, we were fellow travelers through a heartbreaking valley seemingly devoid of hope. But we had one thing to give: a new message that many had never heard. 

The Gospel? Nope, that is very prominent in our 'hood. The sad thing is the rarest message is the message behind the gospel, the one Christians don't share because they don't often understand that it is the deepest message of love from our God. It is the message that you have worth. You were made in God's image. While sin makes you unworthy, we are all equally worthy of Love, equally worth others' time and effort as any suburban moneybags. 

As the Churches seek prosperity and physical growth like new buildings and bigger parking lots, do you think they invest in inviting those without pennies to spare for the offering plate?
Before telling the downtrodden they are sinners, we must try to show them they are beautiful, wonderful creations. Without that foundation, what difference does sin make? If you believe you are trash because the TV, the Cops, the Storekeepers the mall security, Teachers and parents all tell you you are trash... What difference does the taint of sin make? Love your neighbor as yourself is practiced every day in my neighborhood, but no one loves themselves but will often admit they hate themselves. Hence: murder, drugs, revenge, fights, fires etc.

One morning, I walked downstairs at 5 am to find a man in my house. He had already taken and sold the TV, and was coming back for more. I chased him away by God's protection because a few days later he pulled a knife on a guy during a different robbery. Tom will understand when I say that I owe that man some thanks anyway... He saved my Louisville Slugger from getting shards of TV screen all over it.

Ok, Sorry for the rant. The story you asked for involves our neighbors. They are refugees from the Sierra Leone war in the 90's and are muslim. Through slow and steady relationship, they trust me to watch their children and watch over their house. I have been asked to intervene during domestic violence, nurse the children's wounds when their mother couldn't, and feed the children when poverty inevitably ends the month with hunger. 

Recently the Matriarch, K---, flew back to Africa to be with her dying father. She told me in tears, "I leave my family in your hands." I said "God bless you, I will pray for you and your father." Her answer brought me to tears. She responded "And I know God hears you, Abraham." (She loves saying my whole name, I think it emphasizes our common spiritual roots in the Jewish history.)

During K---'s absence, I've had opportunities to continue to bless this family. Then, on Monday, the 14 year old boy, came over to my porch and we talked for hours. We had talked before about some common questions we have about government and religion, but this time he asked me about my beliefs specifically.  He admitted that he had prayed in English and "it felt like I was praying to the Christian God." He also talked about feeling very dizzy while bowing during prayer at the Mosque... but not being dizzy when he did the same thing elsewhere. I did my best, and I can only trust the Holy Spirit in me that what I said was helpful, but he got a good chunk of the Gospel, a character sketch of Jesus, and a good answer to "if Hitler repented on his death bed, do you believe he would go to heaven." I'd never thought about it before, but God showed me that Paul was genocidal, a torturer who waged war against a faith... practically Slobodon Milosovich before Jesus knocked him to the ground and blinded him. So there is hope for all, but the deathbed prayer had better be deep heart-changing truth... and God looks upon the heart. 

We then talked about the life choices in front of him. His time playing Black Ops on the PS3 has him angling to join the military and try special forces. He admits the game is propaganda and teaches some false realities. I am gently trying to steer him sideways... maybe peace corps or a Navy Medic.

Anyway, God made all that happen. All we did was respond in love to those around us, and answer honest questions honestly. Islam isn't some big scary opponent, but just a different set of blinders that people wear. And only God can shine through. But boy, when He does shine through, nothing gets in the way. So, don't forget to build people up with real love and respect, they may not have enough of those two things to care about the consequences of sin or the prospect of salvation.

By the way, I'm not some saint or even a nice guy. My wife affectionately calls me a bad word that characterizes my interactions with other humans. I admit, I'm often a jerk but I'm working on it. I'm definitely not the type who exudes love for others out of every pore. But God works anyway, and is glorified in my shortcomings. Pray for me because another relationship God seems to be growing is with the Crack-dealing cross-dressing registered sex-offender next door. That challenge makes a Muslim look much less intimidating. When love is a commodity to be traded to meet other needs, Jesus has to work miraculously. But hey, its Jesus we're talking about here.

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Thanks, Brother Abe, for letting me post this letter you wrote to Doc.

Reader response always welcome.

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