Not long ago I was talking with a couple hosting a Muslim friend in their home. They mentioned that much as they enjoyed him, they often found their conversations frustrating. No matter how carefully they pointed out the differences between the two faiths, their Muslim friend inevitably ended the conversations by saying their faiths were very similar.
Why was their friend doing this? Their harping on differences may have caused a tension he wanted to diffuse. By talking of similarities he sought to preserve the relationship.
So, I suggested that instead of starting with differences, they begin by building bridges. Open the relationship by highlighting how our two faiths are similar. Pointing to the commonalities may build relational bridges and create a safe environment which allows him to discuss and explore more about our faith.
When we think about it, we actually have much in common with Muslims. We both believe in only one God; we both believe that people are sinners—that they fall short of their own moral standards. We both think it is right to honor our parents; we value faithfulness in marriage; we would like our societies to be just, equitable, and fair. We agree on so much!
Sure, there is significant disagreement, but by highlighting the things we agree on we build bridges and create a safe environment for meaningful interaction. Once a safe space has been created, we can begin to have conversations about the person of Jesus. Most of the key differences in our faiths center around the person of Jesus.
Actually, the Qur’an says more about the Messiah Jesus than about the Prophet of Islam. The Qur’an has many incredible things to say about Jesus. Due to this, there is a good reason to talk about Jesus. I suggested that the couple might find it helpful if they knew some of the stories or statements about Jesus in the Qur’an.
By saying this I was not saying that they should read the Qur’an with their friend. That isn’t at all necessary. We have so many incredible stories from the life of Jesus in the Gospels. So, I suggested that they talk about some of these stories and show how these stories shape our lives.
For example, why don’t we worry about evil spirits? I know of few Christians who live in fear of evil spirits. Why? Whenever Jesus encountered evil spirits he cast them out of the person. Talk about some of those stories with their friend. These stories teach us that Jesus drives evil spirits away. Since we live in the presence of Jesus, Jesus keeps the evil spirits away from us.
And there is so much more about Jesus that is so wonderful. Since we have given our allegiance to Jesus, when any of our loved ones fall ill, we do not get frantic and pray to the saints or go to shrines of deceased holy men and beseech them for help. Why? Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He consoles us and gives us his peace. This peace is what he gave to his disciples when he was on the earth, and he gives this peace to us. And, since Jesus is still alive, we pray to him for healing. What he gives, we receive. If he doesn’t heal us as we ask, our full allegiance remains with him. Our desire is to remain loyal to him and to him alone.
If we talk about the stories of Jesus when he was alive–stories about which we have no real disagreement–this may create an interest in this student to learn more about Jesus. After all, Jesus was and is an incredible person. He alone is the Messiah; he alone is Immanuel.
Highlighting similarities and then pointing to the unique stories and deeds of Jesus, can open their friend’s heart so he would like to learn more about Jesus. If that happens, I told the couple, well, they have a New Testament. I encouraged them to take the time to read the Gospels together and talk about what they read. They will discover that God does remarkable things when we look into his Word.