I am going to ask you to put on a very different pair of shoes.
These are shoes normally worn by people from Pakistan, Turkey, Somalia or Iraq. Or maybe people from Bradford, Blackburn, London or Halifax. While the shape of the shoes (their culture), the style of the shoes (their religion) and the fabric they’re made from (their practices) may vary enormously, there is one thing that generally unites the people who wear them, and that is that sometimes they are misunderstood.
It has been my privilege to get to know Muslim women over the years. While outwardly they may seem ‘all the same’, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Behind the veil, they are warm, witty, hospitable and kind. It just happens that because of the news reports on our screens and general opinion these days, some of us don’t get to see that side of them very often.
While many women do wear veils to protect their honour, to be fashionable or to make a statement about who they are, they are not the veils to be concerned about. The veil we should be concerned about is the one that is draped right across their hearts. It’s the veil that keeps them from seeing ‘the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ’.
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
This veil has stopped them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. As a result, they have to try and please their god, Allah, another way. That way can be summed up as works-based religion, and because we human beings are so painfully aware of our weakness and limitations, many Muslims wonder if they have ever really done enough. And it’s not long before that wondering turns into the fear that very likely they haven’t done enough.
This fear controls in many ways.
It has such a control over one woman that she will continue to fast over Ramadan while she is pregnant – even though she is exempt – because she wants to be sure she is pleasing Allah.
It has such control over another that if she doesn’t wake early and say her prayers at the correct time of day, she will, in her own words, ‘wake up in the fire’. And who wants to do that? (Although it’s good that she realises hell is real, we need to pray she will also know the reality of sins forgiven and eternity in heaven.)
The angels, or ‘Jinn’ as they are called, are always watching. They can be good or evil and are ready to record the things you do whether good or bad. So don’t ever compliment a woman on her child’s beautiful hair or cute face because you will make the Jinn jealous. You don’t ever want to face and suffer the consequences of that.
One lady fears that the way she dresses causes her ‘white’ neighbours to think she is a terrorist. Will she ever feel fully welcome in the street she has chosen to make her home? ‘Will people ever realise I sometimes get anxious when I see “one of my own” carrying a rucksack?’ she asks.
How can we as Christians pour gospel-soaked hope and truth into their situations? How can we love them and show them Jesus, the one who came to set the captives free? Maybe it starts with praying to ask the Lord to bring a Muslim across our path and us across theirs. Maybe it’s knocking on their door and saying ‘Welcome to our street, come for a meal; welcome to our home!’ And when the invitation to build a friendship is there, then maybe we can pray for the opportunity and the courage to say, ‘Please can I tell you all about Jesus, the one who has saved me from my fears.’ And when they say ‘Yes’, the opportunity is there.
Jesus invited all who are weary and heavy-laden to come to him. Many who have come to faith from a Muslim background have said that invitation was the beginning of their journey from fear to freedom. Others, who once felt great shame, were liberated from their fears when they finally realised and accepted that Jesus took shame upon himself when he died on the cross. Another, desperate to be clean, read the plea of a fallen King to a mighty God in Psalm 51:2. Because they could relate to the cry of David’s heart, ‘Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin’, that became the cry of their heart, too. And when God answered, and washed their heart clean, the fear also got washed right out.
Sharing this message of hope is hard. Not everyone wants to hear, and some even get angry. In turn, that can make us fearful, but we should be prepared for the knock backs and the antagonism. Jesus never said it would be easy, but let’s keep hold of the fact that the answer to their fear lies in the truth we, by God’s grace, have understood. So we don’t need to fear! The answers are right there in Scripture. May we have confidence in it, know it and live it so that we can be witnesses to the truth that through Jesus, God has provided the solution to all our fears.
This article was originally published in Grace Baptist Mission Herald and is used with permission.