For generations, the Christian church has sent missionaries into the hostile culture of Islamic nations. It was always difficult, exacerbated by the memory of the atavistic and bloody episode of the crusades in the middle ages in which Islam and Christianity saw each other as enemies. Yet, there persisted the vision and passion of Christ’s ‘Great Commission’ at the heart of many in the Christian community, even with the antagonism between them culturally.

In more recent decades there has been more communication between the cultures, more economic inter-dependence, more conversation as the 20th century rolled into the 21st. More Islamic students began to come to the west for college and graduate school, creating sensitive Christian ministries for international students. But now, with the political, military, and economic turmoil in those Islamic nations there has been a growing tide of refugees and immigrants seeking a new life in our country, which produces a new challenge for the Christian church in these United States.

Put that on ‘hold’ for a moment. Let’s remind ourselves that God’s redemptive love in Christ is for the whole world. It is about a new creation, and a new humanity brought about by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is interesting, that even in Islam’s holy book, the Quran, the prophet Isa (Jesus) is given amazingly strong approval, at times stronger than the Prophet Muhammed.

All that said, we now have a flood of homeless Islamic refugees seeking citizenship in the United States. The Islamic mission field has come to us, to our shores. Ah! but with this flood has also come into being, from the conservative right-wing of our populace very vigorous anti-Islamic movement of frightening proportions (neo-Nazis, etc.). So, the question comes: What is to be the responsibility of the Christian church, whose mandate from its Lord is to make his gospel of the kingdom known to every kindred and tribe and people on earth? What re-examination of our own prejudices and misunderstanding of our church’s responsibility to the strangers and homeless that comes with our calling to be Christ’s disciples?

It certainly does not help to get into theoretical arguments. Rather, it is going to be by our good (humanitarian?) works, patterns of love and unselfish behavior that people can see. It needs to be the incarnation of Jesus teaching in Matthew 25:31 ff.: “Come you who are blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the earth. I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. … I say to you, as you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it unto me.”

And, to those who don’t? “Depart from me.”… it doesn’t help to equivocate that we have no contact with such strangers. There are remarkable agencies that give practical assistance, physical, legal, and heroic to these (Islamic and others) at great cost, that deserve our support. Don’t blow this off! These are the real people of the world that “God so loved that he gave us his only beloved Son …”

Pass the word along. Peace.

About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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