Something both wonderful and sad took place earlier this week. I was hanging out with a large crowd of students in the minutes before a midweek worship gathering at our church when I began a conversation with a wonderful young man that I will call Tahm.
We engaged in several minutes of very interesting conversation about travelling and our common interest in helping others. As the conversation continued and the service drew near this delightful guy shifted gears. It was then, with apologetic tones, he felt the need to inform me that he was a practicing Muslim—and the look he gave me that followed was one I will never forget. It said, “how will you treat me now?”
In September 2001 I was wrapping up my first collegiate tour of duty, finishing up a degree in communications, journalism, & public relations. I was surrounded on a daily basis by international students at a time in my life when, overnight, our nation turned hostile toward almost anyone of middle eastern ancestry. I remember how ugly it was. How afraid everyone was. I remember my Pakistani friend Zishon was whisked away to a safe place off campus in a storm of confusion. Zishon was a Muslim too. He didn’t identify with the hateful acts of violence perpetrated by those who claimed to share his faith.
That’s what I remembered this week when Tahm shared his faith with me. He was afraid of my response. It broke my heart. He wanted to know if he was in a safe place.
Do I have strong opinions about Islam? Absolutely. Should I allow that to influence my treatment of Muslims? Absolutely not.
Many, many, many, times in life I completely blow it. I let Jesus down. I fail to respond as he may have in a given situation. But I think I got it right with Tahm. I invited him to lunch. I expressed my genuine desire to get to know him. And then I walked him to the sanctuary myself as the service started.
Jesus said that he came to “seek and save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) That my friends includes anyone and everyone. But how often, I wonder, do our responses to people’s lives get in the way? How we respond to the vulnerability of those who walk into our lives says more about us than any sermon we can preach, book we can write, or song we can sing.
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