A Muslim and Me

 

 

She looked confused as I offered her my coveted window seat for her not so comfortable middle seat. 
The man next to us insisted that he was the aisle seat when clearly according to her ticket she was. Not wanting to argue with an older man she submissively and nervously took the middle seat. 
That's how it started, but the conversation that followed I will never forget. 
We did the typical travel greetings. 
Where are you from?
Where and why are you going?

She was returning home to Iraq after taking exams in Turkey. 
I was coming to help my friends who live here, they work with refugees. 

She laughed. 
"I can't believe I'm talking to an American girl who is coming to Iraq on her time off, why are you doing that?"

Oh there it is again. That moment where the outside world comes face to face with a baffling reality. What people will do for Jesus often seems irrational. 
Isn't that what I have preached for years? Fall enough in love with Jesus and you'll do wild things for Him. People in love are irrational, they are disturbingly unafraid and unashamed. 

I've been struggling in my heart deeply since the Orlando shooting. Toying around in my mind with the concept of being a radical and what that actually means in view of Christ. Every time I read something on Facebook it seems to scream the phrase "radical Islam." I can't help but wonder if "radical Islam" looks like killing people, then what does "radical Christianity" look like. And if Jesus is who He says He is, then why are Muslims more known for being radical than we are?

Back to the story. Of course I took the brief moment to mention that I was a Christian and I came to Iraq to serve, help, and love. 

Her childlike curiosity was showing through as she asked more questions, making me feel quite old at 28 to her younger 18. 

I took the opportunity to ask her a few questions of my own which included asking her how her fast for Ramadan was going. 
She said that today was a hard day of traveling because her lips were so dry from drinking no water and then she almost flippantly added,
"But it is for Allah"

Wow. This 18 year old just schooled the majority of Christians on spiritual discipline. I let those words sink in. I let them sink in and in and in. It is for Allah. 

I pulled out a new Chapstick and handed it to her as a gift. She squealed with delight and pulled out her phone wanting to snapchat the momentous occasion. On a plane, leaving Turkey, and I still can't escape the peril of snap chat. 

This launched us into conversation about fasting, Allah, and Jesus. She was so intrigued that Jesus could go 40 days without any food or water.  You should have seen her face when I told her a group of my friend just did a 40 day fast without food. She said she waits intently until she's allowed to eat and didn't think she could go two days without food! Now there's something we both have in common. 

Our conversation left me still grappling with words like radical, extremist, faithfulness, and discipline. 

I'm disheartened by the fact that the world views radical Christianity as people with signs condemning others to hell or worse the ones who threaten and shoot up abortion clinics. I've never understood why we kill people who kill people because we supposedly have a core value that says not to kill people. Brilliant. 

Again I resort to my earlier statement, if radical Islam looks like murdering all who oppose allah then what does radical Christianity look like?

What if it actually looked like extremist type love instead of extreme hate?
Wasn't that already demonstrated for us?
Jesus washed the feet of His betrayer. He was beaten and hung on a cross for the murderers, the rapist, yes the terrorists. For you. For me. 
He preached loving your enemies, turning the other cheek, and humble servanthood. 
He walked in such an extreme love that it caught the attention of not only the religious, but people from every walk of life. The non-religious, the politicians, the poor, the sinner. They didn't all agree with him, they didn't all like him, many plotted to kill him, but all of them listened to Him.

Because that's what real love does. It's actually so radical in nature that it catches the attention of anyone even remotely near it. 

I yearn for the day that Jesus' words are truly fulfilled. "They will know you by your love."

In order to see this we need radical Christianity. 
Not radical extremism that violates our core values in order to prove to the world that we have core values. 
We don't show violence or speak with hatred because we disagree with something. Like Jesus we calmly and boldly stand for Truth. We speak when we need to speak. We stay silent when we need to stay silent. 
But no matter what comes our way whether it be praises of man or stones at our heads or potentially even knifes in our backs... We are consistent, so radically consistent, in our love. 

Love for the victims. Love for the perpetrators. Love for our neighbors. Love for our leaders. Love for our family. Even love for our enemies. 

I don't always know what love looks like in every situation, but I knew what it looked like with this precious 18 year old Muslim girl. She's not scary. She's not a terrorist. She wasn't adamantly opposed to the Gospel. She was opened up by love and now prayerfully she has a little bit better of  an idea of who Jesus is. I'm concerned most people are afraid of Muslims because they've never actually spoken to one, they've just seen "radicals" on tv. 

Love. 
Radical love. 
Extreme love. 

The answers in the Kingdom have never made sense. They never looked like what the consensus thought they should. 
In the face of hatred, He loved. 
In the face of persecution, He loved. 
In the face of life threatening circumstances, He loved. 
He. Loved. Always. 
Love. Never. Fails. 

Be blessed,
J. Tate