To the moon!

I recently had several opportunities to work with a traveling team that spent a few weeks in our part of the country. They are all foreigners, but they are studying Arabic and doing an intensive year of ministry in the Arab world, so we had some unique opportunities together.

On one day in particular, we drove to a nearby village to hand out Bibles and engage people in conversation. This particular village is 100% Muslim, as far as we know. When we arrived, we put some Bibles and books into our bags, split into two groups, and headed out to walk the streets and meet people.

I went out with S*, a young man from Europe. The first street we walked down was very quiet. Since we had arrived at the hottest part of the day, most of the people were in their homes, taking shelter from the summer sun.

We met one older man who did not seem to be in much of a hurry. At first, he was not very talkative, but as we greeted him and asked him more about himself, he loosened up a bit and invited us into his store for drinks. I decided to offer him a Bible, which he took without protest. When I tried to pay for the drinks he would not allow me to do so. Two younger men came in to the store and stood with us. They took a few quick selfies with us, but they did not want Bibles.

Later, S was able to give one of them a book called “Sweeter than honey,” which contains many of the most important teachings of Jesus, along with short explanations in very easy-to-understand language. We continued walking, hoping to meet someone willing to have a spiritual conversation.

After a few minutes, we passed by Mohammed as he was walking in his courtyard. He was surprised when we greeted him in Arabic, and he very quickly invited us in for coffee. His wife presented us with an array of fruits and treats, and we settled down for a friendly discussion. Once I was able to explain that we had come with a message for him about Jesus, he began telling me that he would convert me to Islam.

He said he had heard many stories of Christians becoming Muslims, but had never heard of a Muslim becoming a Christian. I told him that many such stories exist, but he found it hard to believe. I overheard Mohammed and his wife discussing this later in the conversation. In their minds, Islam is the highest level of religion, and everything else is a step down to something inferior. Who would choose to step down to something lesser? They couldn’t even conceive of it.

His wife informed us that all the scientific discoveries in the world came about because people studied the Quran. According to her, the invention of the car, the airplane, the discovery of metal, and even the trip to the moon were due to the wisdom of the Quran! They were trying to explain to me all the different beliefs of Islam, as they assumed I had not heard anything about it. I told them I know what they believe, as I have studied Islam. Mohammed asked me if I had read the Quran. I have read it, so I said “yes,” which stunned him for a minute. I could tell he was searching desperately for a response… and then he said “But have you read all the interpretation and commentary on the Quran?!”

I had to be truthful and admit that I have not. He said many passages in the Quran seem to say one thing, while they in fact say the opposite. I asked him why God would write a book that required commentary in order to be understood. And what makes the commentaries infallible, since the commentaries were all written by ordinary men?

At one point, we began to talk about whether Jesus died on the cross or not. They, of course, took the traditional Muslim position that God would never allow a good prophet to die like that. They learn in Islam that a man that looked like Jesus was crucified instead of him. I explained to them in Arabic that it had been God’s intention from the beginning to send Jesus to die. Starting all the way back with Adam and Eve, God had built the sacrificial system and He intended it all to point to Jesus, the great sacrifice.

They understood what I was saying. Mohammed even looked a little more curious once I finished. S then asked Mohammed to read a closely related passage from Hebrews 10. Mohammed began reading out loud, about how the blood of animals and goats could not take away sin so Jesus came to be the great and final answer to sin. As Mohammed continued reading, he seemed to think on it quite intensely, but his wife just wanted to argue. She pointed to verse 7 that says “Here am I—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do thy will O God.” She thought she had caught us in an impossible position: how could Jesus talk about the will of God, if Jesus was in fact God?

I tried to help them with this by explaining that humans have a body, a soul, and a spirit. Each is separate, to an extent, but we are one. God, as well, took a bodily form. But this is not the only part of his being. Perhaps they will think on this more.

In the end, we parted on good terms. We exchanged contact information and Mohammed showed us his facebook page. He works as a welder, so he showed us a decorative handrail he is working on. S gave Mohammed a New Testament as we left and he told us he would try to read it.

*name withheld to protect identities of those involved

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