The headlines are filled with bad news about the Muslim world in general—and Christian-Muslim encounters in particular. We see horrifying images of Christians kneeling before being decapitated, of kindly nuns executed, of believers by the tens of thousands forced to flee their homes as refugees to escape ISIS.
But as the late Paul Harvey used to say, you need to know “the rest of the story.” There are some good, very good, things happening in the Muslim world. First, not all Muslims hate Christians—far from it. As just one example, Sherry Weddell, writing in the National Catholic Register, recalls the treatment of one of her Christian friends who lived among Muslims after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. “She watched those terrible pictures from afar on the BBC, while being showered with apologies, sympathy and support from her local Muslim friends who had been close friends for years.”
And while it’s a common complaint that so-called “mainstream Muslim” groups aren’t speaking out against Muslim terror groups, we need to give credit where credit is due. In January, 200 international Muslim leaders released the Marrakesh Declaration, which calls for Muslim-majority nations to protect the freedom of religious minorities, including Christians. Earlier this month, another 300 Muslim leaders from about 30 countries gathered in Indonesia to denounce extremism.
All good! But as my colleague and BreakPoint editor at large, Stan Guthrie, has said, “We should never confuse our need for a peaceful and tolerant Islam with Muslims’ need for peace with God through Jesus Christ.” And that is where the news gets even better!
For the last several years, researchers have noted what happens when Muslims meet Christ—huge numbers of them are becoming followers of Jesus. According to some researchers, the number of Muslims who have switched allegiance from Muhammad to Christ has skyrocketed from effectively zero in 1960 to as many as 16 million worldwide today. That includes roughly 470,000 right here in the U. S., including Rima Fakih.
Dudley Woodberry, a noted Christian scholar of Islam, cites five reasons Muslims are deciding for Christ: the lifestyle of Christians; the power of God in answered prayers and healing; dissatisfaction with the type of Islam they have experienced; the spiritual truth in the Bible; and biblical teachings about the love of God. Some of these things we can control; others are up to God alone. For instance, there are reports that Jesus is appearing to many Muslims in dreams and visions, especially to those who have little access to the Bible or Christians.
And even the awful news we see is being used by the Lord to draw Muslims to Himself. As David Cashin of the Zwemer Center says, “I have often referred to Islamic radicals as ‘proto-evangelists’ for the Christian faith.” That dynamic has certainly happened in Iran, where thousands of Muslims left Islam for Jesus after experiencing the harsh faith of the mullahs. Truly, as Joseph in the Old Testament said, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”
Clearly, we Christians have a role to play in this ongoing story. “Significant numbers of Muslims are quietly looking for spiritual alternatives,” Sherry Weddell says. “If you and I understand our mission as evangelizers and apostles, build relationships of trust, rouse spiritual curiosity through our lives, pray for and share our faith in Christ and his Church with the Muslims about us, we can play an important part in this unprecedented movement of the Holy Spirit.”
— by Eric Metaxas
Metaxas is the voice of Breakpoint, a radio commentary (www.breakpoint.org). Copyright© 2016 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries.