Friendship Evangelism among Westernised Muslims


1. The Biblical Importance of Bearing the Image of Jesus.

Muslims often say that the first thing God created was the nur-i-Muhammadi, the "light of Muhammad", and that he set it in the celestial places. There is no Qur'anic foundation for this belief and it is typical of those embellishments around the personality of Muhammad with which later Islam abounds and by which the image of the Prophet of Islam has been transformed and exalted into an ideal out of all proportion to the original.

Jesus Christ, however, right from the beginning, revealed himself as the Lord of all glory and it appears impossible to bestow on him more honour than is his by right. On numerous occasions he assumed titles which typified his glorious person and work, and on one such occasion he said:

Anaa huwa nuurul aalam - "I am the Light of the World" - are the words of Jesus as translated into Arabic. He alone is the Nur of the whole universe, the "true light that enlightens every man" who came into the world (John l.9). The duty of every true Christian is to make this light known, to manifest the fulness of his brightness before all men so that they might behold his glory and believe in him for eternal life. If this was all there was to a Christian's testimony, the matter could be left there, but it is abundantly clear from the Scriptures that there is more to a Christian's witness than just the proclamation of the Gospel by word of mouth. In his great Sermon on the Mount Jesus declared to all his disciples:

"You are the light of the world - let your light shine", Jesus proclaimed. Every true Christian is called not only to speak of the wondrous saving work of Jesus Christ but also to manifest the fruit of that salvation in his own life. If Muslims are to become believers in Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the world, they must see in us a degree of honesty, purity love, patience and goodness far surpassing that which they see among themselves. The Christian's character must so reveal the image of the holy personality of Jesus Christ that Muslims are compelled to behold its beauties and to reconsider. The Apostle Paul urged much the same thing upon all true Christians as well:

In many other New Testament books one finds similar exhortations: "Only let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ" is the appeal of the apostle in another epistle (Philippians 1.27), and he goes on to say:

There is no religion in the world which sets before its followers such a high standard of holiness and true godliness as Christianity does, and the manifestation of this reflection of the image of Jesus who was "designated Son of God in power by the spirit of holiness" (Romans 1.4) is an integral part of effective Christian witness. Only those who are born of the Holy Spirit can truly reveal the holy character of God in their lives.

It is encouraging to note that in the New Testament virtually all ritual, ceremony and form is stripped from the Christian faith. No form of dress is laid down to identify a true Christian, no rites and ceremonies are prescribed for worship, and no daily exercises and formal routines of personal pietism are prescribed. All these have been pushed aside in the pursuit of a far greater goal - the possession of the Spirit of Christ and the attendant manifestation of that Spirit in the holy, loving, patient and pure character of the believer. Recently we used to see an advertisement on television in this country where a certain television set was being promoted, the key feature being the employment of a microchip computer in place of the old assortment of valves, wires, etc. A whole batch of these lay upon the table in front of the speaker who, holding the microchip in his hand, said "This (the microchip) does away with all this (the valves, etc.)", at the same time brushing them all casually off the table.

Every time I saw that advertisement I thought of Jesus Christ and his perfect character. It is so equally true to say that "this" (that is, the possession, development and manifestation of all his holy attributes) does away with all "this" (that is, rites, ceremonies, pilgrimages, prescribed times and forms of prayer, identifying dress, beards trimmed to proper length, headdress, ablutions, pietistic routines and the like).

The revelation of Jesus Christ, who is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1.15), and the experience of his grace and holy attributes, is set forth in the New Testament as the sole means by which a true Christian should be identified. It is evidently true to say that if adherents of other religions and even members of our own traditional churches had such a consciousness of the revealed glory of God as we have in Jesus Christ, they too would abandon all other religious rites and forms in pursuit of the ideal. When once the "pearl of great price" is discovered, all else should surely be forsaken to obtain it (Matthew 13.46).

True Christians, born of the Holy Spirit, are the light of the world. The finest documentation behind the Christian's testimony is the development of the virtues and beauties of the character of the Son of God in his soul. "Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me, all his wondrous compassion and purity", is the key verse of a well-known chorus and one which well expresses the ideal. When others can see the excellences of his character being revealed in our souls and lives, they will begin to be attracted to the one of whom we speak.

2. The Life Testimony in Christian Witness to Muslims.

The need of a consistent life witness has been noted by many who have worked among Muslims. One says:

It is the common experience of all missionaries in this field that theological discussions and debate cannot, by themselves, bring persuasion to Muslim hearts. Indeed an approach which seeks purely to convince Muslims of the truth of Christianity by a process of reasoning and, at times, argument, is likely to be fruitless. There must be a witness, both by expression and by a lifestyle experience behind it, to the living efficacy of the Gospel and the transforming power that Jesus Christ brings to Christian lives. It is not my intention to disregard discussion and debate - I believe they have a vital function in Christian witness to Muslims and will say more of their purpose later. At this stage, however, it is my intention to emphasize that such methods, by themselves, without the living power of Christ being manifested in our lives and witness, cannot avail to persuade Muslims to become followers of Jesus Christ. Another writer, speaking from experience makes the same point:

We need to seek a happy balance at this point, for it is equally true to say that a purely subjective approach will prove equally inadequate to bring about a real work of regeneration among Muslims. If we endeavour to avoid all theological discussion, apologetics and the like, and hope to influence purely through testimonies of what Jesus means to us, we will, in the long term, find ourselves brushed aside as religious enthusiasts with much emotional fervour, but little else. There is a fundamental need for a well-balanced witness which shines brightly, with the experience of Jesus Christ in our lives, which is grounded in sound theology, and which can defend itself and withstand all critical analyses of its heritage. A comprehensive witness is thus needed.

In this section, however, I am concerned to strongly underline the need of a genuine Christian experience in our lives, a consistent daily walk, and a convincing testimony to the transforming effect of the power of our Saviour in our hearts and lives.

The same author makes this whole point very concisely and succinctly when he goes on to say: "Christianity is not merely a religious message which they must believe, but a life to be received in the person of the Lord Jesus" (Marsh, Share your Faith with a Muslim, p. 72).

We advocate friendship evangelism as the ideal form of evangelism among Westernised Muslims because it comprehensively takes in all these factors. We have already discussed the need of establishing personal relationships and of developing confidence in the hearts of Muslims towards us. We have also shown that a regular witness to the living power of the Gospel life, backed by a consistent manifestation in our daily Christian walk, is another vital factor in the successful prosecution of this chosen method of evangelism. But there is still more.

There is one major facet of true Christian faith that must be added to the factors we have considered, and it is the outward expression of selfless love towards Muslims. This is ultimately the greatest of all Christian virtues and the one most likely to make a lasting impact on Muslims. Let us proceed to briefly examine how our whole witness, in the context of friendship evangelism, can and must be strengthened by a readiness to offer whatever help we can to assist Muslims in their needs, fears and moments of trial and suffering.

The Christian Witness to the Muslim: Table of Contents
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