Ramadan 18: Muslims & Intentional Hospitality

What’s the big deal?

“It is easy to love those who are most like us, but it is distinctly Christian to love those who are least like us.” – Micah Fries & Keith Whitfield

If Christians are followers of Jesus, then we are called to obey His commands and follow His example — because He has lived and loved perfectly. When a religious leader asked Jesus which was the most important commandment from God, here was His answer:

“Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.'” (Mark 12:29–31)

In Luke’s gospel account, Jesus shares the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-27). So it is clear that our “neighbors” are not only those who live in our subdivision or town but rather all those (Christian or not) who come across our path. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught that we should even love those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-48). As Micah Fries and Keith Whitfield point out clearly in Islam and North America, it is distinctly a Christian value to love others who are not like us.

Hospitality is not the Gospel, but it is one of God’s chosen ways to create relational bridges across which the Gospel can be delivered across. And it is especially effective when the other person is expecting to be ignored or marginalized because of their minority ethnic or religious status.

“Great Commission friendship—in other words, truly making disciples—means being a vulnerable, understanding, sacrificial friend, like Jesus, for the long haul to others.” – Ant Greenham

What is hospitality?

Inviting people in our homes for meals and fellowship is what comes to mind when we hear the term “hospitality.” But as Rosaria Butterfield points out in her book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key, it is so much more than that. Biblical hospitality means opening our homes, our hearts, and our calendars. Our American ambition and individualism balk at the idea of slowing down to spend time with new friends, but that is exactly the type of relational investment that Muslim immigrants need. We need to love them by serving them physically, and simply spending in one another’s homes.

Harkening back to the foundations of Islamic culture, the quantity of time might be just as important as quality time. When you meet a new Muslim family in your community, extend a genuine offer to help them settle in. Then expect to offer again and again before they take you up on it. Be lovingly persistent to show you’re serious and haven’t forgotten them. If you’ve ever moved to a new state, changed your name, registered for college, or been married, then you can imagine a small percentage of what they are going through, except they’re moving across an ocean to a country with a new language, new laws, and a culture that is foreign to them altogether.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

Andy DeFelice: How I Love My Muslim Neighbors from North American Mission Board on Vimeo.

Hurdles to overcome.

In this globalized culture of immigration, information, and travel, the western Church has been given an amazing gift from God. There are thousands of Muslim immigrants moving to our countries each year. Some may have never seen the inside of a Christian church or even known a Christian friend. The opportunities for Gospel impact among people who have never known the truths of Christ are countless! Our God might very well be placing Muslim immigrants in your town so that you can have a part in His mission to rescue people from every tribe and tongue, for His glory and for their salvation. But there are hurdles within our flesh that we must allow Christ to overcome:

Fear

“We need to ask ourselves how we should respond if a Muslim moves into our neighborhood. Putting aside the fact that it is highly unlikely that a Muslim neighbor seeks my harm, Christian safety ought not be our primary concern. We are to be the hands and feet of Christ and to be His ambassadors, sharing the Gospel with all nations.” – Afshin Ziafat

As we discussed in the previous article, we are often frozen by fear of the unknown. We might be scared of meeting questions to which we don’t know the answer to, or simply being turned down and feeling awkward about rejection. In the extreme case, some might really fear for their physical safety in the face of persecution. Even though these are largely unfounded, we too often follow the excuses of our flesh instead of the loving commands of Christ.

Pride

“If believers are committed to sharing not only the message of salvation but also the messiness of our sanctification (through a transparent confession of sins), it would promote gospel-saturated conversations, resulting in meaningful missional relationships.” – D. A. Horton

Another hurdle that our still imperfect hearts face is the ever-present pride that rises up on a daily basis. Pride in our “keeping house” prevents us from inviting visitors over at a moments’ notice. Pride in our “perfect kids” keeps us from inviting new people into the tough areas of our family life. Pride in our personal image stops us from confessing sins, doubts, and fears that are necessary to build biblical friendships with non-believers.

The Gospel calls us. The Gospel equips us.

Building friendships with those a world apart from us is tough, persevering work — but there is hope! The same God who calls us to love others unconditionally also gives us the very love we are to extend. He works His power, love, and compassion throughout our hearts until we look and act more like Him every day. May we learn to empty ourselves as Christ did when He entered our world, humbling Himself to levels more deeply that we can ever understand (Philippians 2:1-18).

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12–13)


Prayer:

Ask the Lord to continue growing you in humility and love. Ask Him to root out fear and pride in your life, and He will do it. He might even do it by introducing you to a Muslim neighbor with whom you have the opportunity to serve and share Christ with.

Go & Do:

“And [God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him” (Acts 17:26-27).

  1. Look back at your calendar over the past two weeks, and make a rough total of the time you’re spending in these areas: family, work, church and ministry, serving others, and personal. Then think through ways that you can invite Muslims into your life and schedule — and act on it.
  2. If you’ve been fostering a friendship with a Muslim in your community, then find a way to spend time with them. If they aren’t fasting during Ramadan, then meet for coffee or lunch, or invite them to your kids’ sporting event or host a game night in your home.

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Resources:

Building Relationships with Muslims – S. Craig Sanders (interview with John M. Klassen)

Islam and North America: Loving Our Muslim Neighbors (book) – Keith Whitfield & Micah Fries

The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in our Post-Christian World (book) – Rosaria Butterfield

It’s Ramadan, So Meet Your Muslim Neighbor – Keelan Cook (SEBTS)

The Community Every Background Believer Needs – Ant Greenham (IMB)