Why You Need More Muslim Friends

5 reasons we need to form true (not agenda driven) friendships with people of other faiths.

I can remember when I was scared of Muslims.

I don’t think I would have ever uttered those words, but subconsciously, they were true. 

As a good, Bible-Believing-Evangelical-Christian (that’s all one word, right?) who could recite the two greatest commandments to love God and love others before I was out of diapers, how had this fear developed in me?

Well, it’s easy. Stories we are told about Muslims are often related to terror, oppression and violence. And, to be honest, it is far more comfortable to remain in a place of isolation and ignorance than it is to engage in the intentional work of education, experience and relationship. 

Further, I used to think the only way to meet Muslims was to fly half way across the world and enter into a reality completely foreign to my own. “They” are somewhere over there and “we” are over here, so let’s just agree to keep our distance and allow our politicians and power brokers to work things out.

That all changed for me when my wife and I joined a faith community committed to Jesus' invitation to love our neighbors. We quickly realized loving our neighbors required we know our neighbors. And, living in a city that is home to tens of thousands of international refugees, we discovered that “they” don’t only live across the world, “they” are at “our” baseball games, in our neighborhood and our parks. It wasn’t that our Muslim friends had just moved in, it was that we hadn’t had the eyes to see them, let alone enter genuine friendships. 

Over the years, I have discovered that the only way to love and be loved by my neighbors (locally and globally) is to be in relationship. The reason I used to be scared of Muslims was simply because I didn’t know any. I had never heard their stories. I had never been to their sacred places. I didn’t understand their traditions. I hadn’t even shared a meal with them. 

Over the years, I have discovered that the only way to love and be loved by my neighbors (locally and globally) is to be in relationship.

I have come to realize what an incredible opportunity I had squandered. Interestingly, what I had squandered wasn't primarily what I had to offer my neighbors, but what they had to offer me. 

As ISIS fills the headlines, Islamphobia spreads like the common cold and sound bites trump human interaction, there is no more important time to build friendships with our Muslim neighbors. Here are five reasons why:

1. A Cure for Fear

Fear is one of the most toxic diseases hijacking Christian’s ability to live as salt and light. Not only do we often tell ourselves that everyone is out to get us, we think relationships with those different than us leave us open to falling down the slippery slope of compromise.

I have never met a Muslim who asks me to compromise my commitment to Jesus. If anything, they encourage me to take it more seriously. Being in relationship with people who are different than us doesn’t compromise our faith, it reflects the very best of it. A mentor of mine recently said, “The deeper our roots are in Jesus, the wider our branches can extend into other traditions.”

2. An Expanded Worldview

I recently sat in a West Bank backyard with a collection of 20 Christians and Muslims. Having just spent a few days together, we sang, danced and shared what we had each learned about the other’s religious tradition based on our experience together. It was sacred. The worldview of both the Christians who were with me and the Muslims who lived in this village will forever view the “other” in a more helpful, human way.

In many other parts of the world, Christians and Muslims don’t see themselves as enemies, but as dear friends, partners and fellow humans. When we extend past our inherited worldview, we may see a very different landscape of interfaith collaboration. What media sources, experiences or influencers are we allowing to inform our worldview? How might that become more diverse?

3. An Antidote to Isolationism

We, the Christian community, can fall victim to becoming insulated and isolated, which inherently puts us in a posture of defense rather than invitation. When our relationships remain only among those who think, look and believe like we do, we run the risk of becoming exclusive and tribal. Which, ironically, is so much of the West’s critique of regimes like ISIS.

The antithesis of Christ-like love is to only be in relationship with those who are like “us,” while excluding “them.” As we begin to build relationships with those outside of our tradition, we break out of our little bubbles and are able to truly love like Jesus. Jesus never ran in fear from those who were different than him. No, he ran to people who were different. Our inherited theology may distance us from those of other religions, but Jesus never does.

4. A Solution for Our Need for Mutual Relationship

Our Christian tradition hasn’t historically done well at entering relationships with those outside of our tradition in a posture of mutuality. Our tendency has been to enter relationships as the hero rather than the learner.

As we build friendships with our Muslim neighbors, we must do so seeking to understand rather than be understood. Genuine friendship is not a project.

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As we build friendships with our Muslim neighbors, we must do so seeking to understand rather than be understood. Genuine friendship is not a project. Get curious. Share life and space. Spend long hours around the dinner table. Take each other’s kids to school. Accept their love in the same way you would expect them to receive yours.

5. An Understanding of Misrepresentation

I just got an email from my friend, Jarrod McKenna, who as a Jesus follower, is doing remarkable work reassigning dignity to the Muslim community in Australia. Sadly, his email was to tell me that a Muslim family was violently attacked, not because of their actions, but because of their religion.

In my city, a Muslim mom was recently killed outside of her house for similar reasons. These are just a couple acts of hatred and prejudice of our Muslim neighbors are enduring as a result of our inability to differentiate between Islamic extremists (ISIS, etc.) and the majority of Muslims.

The Christian Community must understand that the vast majority of Muslims are embarrassed and concerned for their own safety as a result of ISIS, and we must advocate for their humanity. If we are in genuine friendship, our advocacy will become a non-negotiable.

Top Comments

Matthew Crockett

1

Matthew Crockett commented…

I think it's sad that one of the "top comments" says that the best reason to become friends with someone of another faith is so you can tell them how wrong they are about their beliefs. To be effective, witness must be used with a Receptive audience. Preserving the strength of your own witness means developing a sense of when to witness and when the situation is less auspicious. Witnessing to people not ready to listen just annoys them.

An important part of the "holding pattern" is realizing that the admonition to "love your neighbors" says nothing about whether they will even be Christian. When Jesus told us how to act, he didn't add escape clauses. The most effective witness is to witness by example via how you treat other people.

Janice Grimm Inabinet

3

Janice Grimm Inabinet commented…

This article is good in that it encourages relationship with people of all different faiths including Muslims BUT it misses the main point of forming relationships with people of different faiths. The reason why "Jesus never ran in fear from those who were different than him..And He ran to people who were different," is because He was here to save them. Jesus died for ALL mankind to save us from our sinful condition that we ALL may have eternal life through His sacrifice. He didn't say "I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life. NO ONE comes to the Father But through Me" and expect us to take that statement lightly. If we really love all of mankind in Jesus love, then we won't be silent about telling all men, including Muslims, that they need to receive Jesus as their personal Savior in order to be saved. The alternative is spending eternity separated from God our Father. I believe it's called Hell? Hmmmm? So grateful Jesus saved me from that and don't want anyone else to go there for the sake of not offending their faith.

53 Comments

Kaylah Chitouras

2

Kaylah Chitouras commented…

What another religion believes isn't really the issue here. It's how we as Christians treat them.

Mike Kelley

2

Mike Kelley replied to Kaylah Chitouras's comment

So be nice while they killed you. Great belief.

Kathleen Willis Mcdonald

1

Kathleen Willis Mcdonald commented…

You have never read the koran. In the beginning it says to get close to infidels but not with your hearts. I forgot the second part. The last part is to kill all who do not convert. It's nice to love thy neighbor but you don't have to be blind.

Mike Kelley

2

Mike Kelley commented…

If any muslim is willing to say the Koran is wrong in calling for my death I could be their friend. If they will not say those words then they believe I and my kidsshould be killed. I can NOT be friends with someone who wants me dead. By the way....I have not found a muslim yet to say those words.

Daniel Weaver

1

Daniel Weaver commented…

Agree with the overall idea of this article that we should get to know muslims rather than vilifying them, but: A Christian should seek to bring Christ into every relationship they have - sharing life with other believers and with non believers alike. This article indicates we should be friends without an agenda - but any non believing friend we have should be with a purpose to share Christ. Not to hit them over the head with truth, but with discernment to share the truth in love. The key is to use discernment and share in love.

A'ishah Amatullah

1

A'ishah Amatullah commented…

Hi. I am Muslim :) I found this article while searching for something Islam-related - oddly enough, often when I search for something I need on Google that has to do with Islam, many of the top results are evangelical Christian sites (many of them spreading a lot of negativity or fear about Islam). I know this is a bit of an older article but it really warmed my heart to stumble upon it and I am grateful to you for writing it. I have a fairly good opinion of Christianity and have been involved in church communities and interfaith work on and off for awhile.

To the commenters - we don't believe in killing people who are non-Muslims, especially not Christians. We don't believe in lying or tricking anyone to convert, at least, not most Muslims living in the U.S. I have never met anyone who thinks like that. Most of us just want to live normal lives, take care of ourselves and our families, help our communities (both Muslim and non-Muslim), and practice our faith in peace. ISIS is killing us (Sunni Muslims) by the thousands as well and their justifications for doing so have no basis in Islam.

My best friend is a pastor of a small church in Kansas, where I live. I don't know what I would do without him in my life. He and I have helped each other through a lot, we have supported one another through spiritual struggles, through the difficulties of major life changes, school, work, etc. I am grateful to God every day for him and for my other friends, many of whom are Christian.

I definitely agree it's good to have strong friendships and communities in one's own faith, but we have so much to learn from each other as well, and we share geographic proximity, we share concerns about our towns that we live in together, we share the same basic struggles of surviving in this economy and loving our families, etc. We can learn so much from one another if we bridge the gaps between us. We have more in common than we don't, in my experience. Step outside your comfort zone - we might pleasantly surprise you, and you might surprise yourself.

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