AMORE: Loving Muslims, the Italian way
When you open your life to God, there can sometimes be a bit of fear:
- What is God going to ask of me?
- Will he insist that I work in the church crèche?
- Will it make me stop watching TV?
- Should I be a missionary in Africa?
Yes, there is pruning, but more often than not, God’s work in us is healing and hopeful. And sometimes it’s downright delicious.
For the past few years, my obedience to God has landed me on the marble steps of a sunny square in a Sicilian town called Catania. Mafia aside, that’s pretty much what comes to mind when you think of Sicily: ancient, beautiful, and with a tinge of seafood on the Mediterranean breeze.
But these are also things that are not featured on travel websites, such as migrants from all over the Muslim world.
That’s why I was there: to speak to the billions of Muslims arriving from West Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. Because there were so many of them and most were waiting through a crazy long bureaucratic process to determine if they would be granted refugee status, I had every opportunity to practice sharing Jesus that I could enjoy. As a result, I learned a ton.
I also developed a corny Sicilian-based acronym to sort and pass on what I learned. I would like to share it with you:
AMORE: A way for normal Christians to think about how God could use them to bring Muslims into his kingdom.
Aguess the best
We’ve been warned not to assume, but in that case, we’d be smart. To start, assume the best of yourself. Suppose God is big enough and smart enough to even use you! Few Christians think, “Whoa, God is so lucky to have me on his team!” I look, act and talk more like Jesus than anyone I know! Most often it’s, “God uses nice, smart people like Dr. Denison. I could never be like him.
The good news is that even though you and I can’t be Dr. Denison, God has already filled that bucket. Moreover, even a quick glance in the Bible shows that God uses all kinds of people. It seems perhaps that he likes to choose and use the most unlikely characters to do his job:
- Abraham: “I know she’s hot, but I promise she’s my sister, not my wife. Please don’t kill me for it.
- Isaac: same thing.
- Jacob: conspired with his mother to deceive his blind father. It was just to start.
- Moses: “Please just choose someone else. I’m out of excuses and I’m shaking in my boots. (Well, I would be if you hadn’t made me take them off !”
- Jeremy: “I’m too young.
- The Twelve Apostles: “I am the greatest! “Nuh uh, I am!”
- And Peter, the Rock, the leader: “No, I don’t even know the guy.”
Seriously, we’re much more uptight about this than God.
Second, we are smart in assuming that God wants to bring Muslims into his kingdom. When John sees this kaleidoscopic gathering before the throne in Revelation 7:9, it includes members of all people groups now dominated by Islam. The Bible is clear: God both wants and obtains pure devotion from certain representatives of every last group of people on the planet. As sure as the sun came up this morning, it’s going to happen.
Mgo to opportunity
Even if I would like to jump on a plane with you, fly to “Faroffistan” and tell Muslims about Jesus, that probably won’t happen. If God gives you that, I’m your biggest cheerleader. In the meantime, do you know what God is doing?
He brings Muslims to live among us.
Pretty much wherever you are as you read this, there are more Muslims living near you now than there were last year. From my point of view, this is very good news. It is a living fulfillment in our time of Paul’s sermon at Athens: “Of one man he made all the nations, that they should dwell in the whole earth; and he marked their fixed times in history and the limits of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps they would approach him and find him, although he was not far from any of us” (Acts 17:26-27 NIV) .
When and where people live is God’s prerogative, and He brings Muslims to live among us to meet people like you who love and follow Jesus wholeheartedly.
So how does a normal person in Anytown, USA meet a Muslim?
To begin, ask God. “Father, you love me and you love Muslims. I would like to meet one or two. Please help me with this.
After praying, put your brains and boots to work. Where are Muslims likely to hang out? Ethnic grocery stores are a good place to start. Middle Eastern restaurants are working. If Afghans are coming to your town, quickly call the local settlement agency that works with them. They may have immediate work that you, or perhaps your whole church, can do. They will also know which areas of the city are likely to become new homes for refugees. See here for a Perspectives course near you. Send a text to whoever is listed as the coordinator. They will know where to find Muslims or they will know who does.
In many of our cities and towns, it is not unlikely to just meet a Muslim in your daily life. Imagine you have a cart full of groceries and you’re just not ready to check them out yourself. As you approach the different checkouts, you see that one of the saleswomen is wearing a headdress which means that she is probably Muslim! Choose his path! Smile at him! Ask how to pronounce his name if you don’t recognize him. Ask where it’s from, then if that’s where it’s from! (It usually is!) If she’s from somewhere else and if you can tell honestly, look her straight in the eye and say, “I’m glad you’re here.
Owrite your heart and your home
Opening your heart is quite easy; opening your house is usually more difficult.
May I invite you to pray this prayer with me?
“Father, please help me think of Muslims the way you do.” I’m inclined to think it’s a good prayer for a follower of Jesus to pray for everything: your spouse, your food, your job, and President Biden. It’s also a bit dangerous. What if God says yes and you start thinking of Muslims the way he does? It could be a market.
Spoiler alert: God likes to say yes to this prayer.
I believe it for a big yes – for an army of Christians who will stop at nothing to speak and live to local and distant Muslims, “We will love you or die trying. You matter to God.
But therein lies the problem with this prayer: you will open your heart to Muslims, very soon you will start thinking about opening your home. Then you talk boss level AMORE!
Let’s say you ask God why he gave you a nice place to live. How far do you think you should go in the list of reasons before you get to the one that says, “So you can invite Muslims over for dinner?” I don’t know, but I bet you wouldn’t be 50! Hospitality is a big problem for God and for Muslims too.
So what happens when we all get brave and invite a Muslim family?
Well, that’s kind of fun, but let’s pick that up next time and find out what the ‘R’ and ‘E’ stand for.