Focus – A reminder of commitment from my Muslim neighbors

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by Ted Horwood, Captain – 

It’s a curious thing to live in a culture dominated by mores and values different from our own. The customs and traditions of our Judeo-Christian heritage are essentially unperceivable for those of us raised in North America and Western Europe. But when we move away from the predictability of our environment, we quickly slam against walls that are very unfamiliar to us. One such wall, the tensions between Christianity and Islam, have now moved closer to home.

In his book, Healing the Broken Family of Abraham, Don McCurry writes, “The period of the Crusades (A.D. 1095-1291), those Christian military expeditions commissioned by the Church to wrest the ‘Holy Land’ out of the hands of the Muslims, were not an exception to wars fought in the name of and with the blessing of the Church. Rather they were in keeping with an unbroken tradition of Christian militarisms introduced by Constantine in the early 4th century.”

Even as late as 1967, after the West and its friends brought into being the modern state of Israel, the war deprived Islam of it third most prized possession, Jerusalem. Consequently, animosity towards Christians has run deep in the hearts of Muslims for generations. September 11, 2001, illuminated the conflict. We were very sensitive to this fact while living in Malawi, yet the Lord was teaching us some fundamental lessons.

We lived in an African country where the culture in the cities frequently looked more like India and Pakistan than traditional African. Loudspeakers resonated the sunrise and sunset prayers throughout the cityscape. Shopping on Fridays was always a challenge, and the traffic at noon in front of the mosques was impenetrable. Each year, newspapers announced the birth of “the Prophet Mohammad.” Supplements printed the last sermon of the “the holy prophet” and extolled the virtues of Islam. Immersion in this culture began to teach me about my faith, but two events particularly challenged me.

Having rented a cheap room, I awoke one morning at four a.m. to the sound of a high-pitched chant. Untangling myself from my mosquito net, I realized that I had taken a room next to a Muslim who was engaged in the first of his five daily prayers. Several weeks later I went to a hardware store at 1:20 p.m. Upon my arrival I was met outside by employees, and a sign that said, “Will open at 1:30, after prayers.” When he finally did open, the young owner made no apology, just indicated that in the back there was a prayer closet.

The fundamental principles they were practicing were the very things we had forgotten. My Muslim neighbors reminded me of this. Missions is bringing Christ to the Christ-less, and church to the church-less. This can be accomplished if we remain committed to the traditions of our organization, and the primary functions of our faith; a commitment to prayer, intentional evangelism, and something Islam doesn’t teach, demonstrable love.

Those unreached, those who have never heard the name of Jesus, and have no understanding of the abundant life, number about four billion and live in a global space commonly called the 10/40 Window. I believe God has providentially put a crack in this window, in a historic place called Iraq. The Salvation Army has been very reluctant to expand beyond the 109 countries in which we currently work. But we have an opportunity to join with other expressions of the Body of Christ and help new believers say that, “In THY presence there is fullness of joy.”

Whether we are sharing Christ across the seas, across the street or across the table, a commitment to the primary functions of our faith must remain a part of our lifestyle, and our culture. Although there’s tension, if we are going to win unbelievers to Christ internationally, and keep planting new churches domestically, we better remember our own organizational traditions.

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