The following post is an adaptation of a message given by Afshin Ziafat at an East-West event. Afshin is a Muslim Background Believer who serves as the Lead Pastor of Providence Church in Frisco, Texas and is a member of East-West’s Board of Directors.
Is your heart aligned with God’s heart for those who are cut off from Him?
I’ve traveled the United States and preached enough to know that many churchgoers view Muslims as the enemy. We need to be reminded of Ephesians 2 and the implications of the gospel.
In this passage, the gospel is clearly laid out. We were dead in our sins, cut off from God, enslaved to our flesh, and destined for the wrath of God. In His great love and mercy, He made us alive together with Christ. When Jesus said "it is finished" on the cross, the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the people of God was torn in two, reuniting us with God.
But that's not where the gospel story ends. Paul reminds us that the dividing wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles came down too. This ought to make our hearts beat for our enemies. It ought to make our hearts beat for Muslims who are cut off from God and blinded by Islam.
As God revives our hearts for Muslims around the world and across the street, here are four things I’ve found to be impactful in my own journey.
Pray for Your Muslim Neighbor
Five hundred people moved to Dallas-Fort Worth, where I'm from, every day. Seventy-percent of them are foreign born, which means Muslims are likely moving into our neighborhoods.
We ought to pray for them.
Why do I recommend starting with prayer? Because there were Christians who prayed for me before I followed Christ. I can also recount several stories of Muslims who have come to Jesus because of the faithful prayers of believers like you and me.
Furthermore, prayer is how Jesus catalyzed His ministry. When He sent out the 72 in pairs to every place He was about to go, He first asked them to pray to the Lord of the harvest because there were, and continue to be, few workers (Luke 10:1-24).
Everywhere Jesus went was first saturated with prayer.
Love Your Muslim Neighbor
As we pray, we look for ways to love our Muslim neighbors. We go across the street, get to know them, invite them into our homes, serve them, and love them.
When I moved the United States, I needed to learn English and a Christian teacher met this need. She used the opportunity presented to her to give me a copy of the New Testament. Over a decade later, I read it and trusted in Jesus Christ.
Today the Muslims coming to our communities and near our churches also need help with simple things, like setting up a bank account and buying groceries. This doesn’t have to be difficult. You can simply approach your new neighbor and say, "Can I be a friend? Can I help you get assimilated? Can I teach you English?"
Today we have unique opportunities to love our Muslim neighbors.
Engage Your Muslim Neighbor
We are to pray for our Muslim neighbors, we are to love them, and we are to engage them.
I love the story in Acts 8 when Phillip approaches an Ethiopian man, observes him, and asks him this simple question: “Do you understand what you're reading?”
Muslim evangelism isn't just sitting someone down and sharing the Four Spiritual Laws. God can and does use that, but evangelism includes asking questions like "What do you think about God? What's your goal in life? What are you pursuing for fulfillment? How can I pray for you?"
I rarely meet a Muslim who rejects prayer. They will speak up and let you know their needs. It just takes engaging them with questions.
Share with Your Muslim Neighbor
Ultimately, share the gospel with your Muslim neighbor. I do this by looking for bridges to bring them to the gospel of grace.
Muslims believe they are going to be judged on a scale weighing their good and bad deeds. If their good outweighs their bad, they will go to heaven. If not, they will go to hell. They don't understand that you have to be 100-percent good for a holy God. We know that only one person did that and His name is Jesus. This is why it is crucial that as we pray, love, and engage our Muslim neighbor, we get to the gospel.
Seize the Opportunity
We have a God-given obligation to care for the sojourner and the foreigner in our midst. In His sovereignty, the Lord is presenting us with amazing opportunities to love our Muslim neighbors.
Will we seize the moment?
We can learn much from the model of the Apostle Paul who considered the mission of God as more important than his own life.
“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” -Acts 20:24
The goal of the Christian isn't comfort. The goal of the Christian is spending every day fulfilling the calling God has put on our lives to be His ambassador.
Because we know that the resurrection is true and that eternity is on the line for our Muslim neighbors, we are called to be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord [our] labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58)."
To that end, we pray for our Muslim neighbors. We love our Muslim neighbors. We engage our Muslims neighbors. We share the goods news of Jesus Christ with our Muslim neighbors.
Afshin Ziafat is a former Muslim turned Christ follower who serves as a member of East-West’s Board of Directors and is the Lead Pastor of Providence Church in Frisco, Texas.