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The Path of Love: Jesus in Mystical Islam
Orville Boyd Jenkins
The approach of the "Christian" or the "Muslim" one to the other usually takes one of two forms:
(1) Defense — this attitude assumes an impossibility of communication because of the hard issues between the stereotype forms of the two "faiths."
(2) Conversion — an all-out attempt to convert the other through argument or persuasion to full propositional belief and commitment to the opposite religion.
Why can we not freely and openly approach one another? Actually the two attitudes are two expressions of the same viewpoint on "religion" of "evangelism." Someone may be defensive because
(1) she fears and anticipates an attempt by the other to convert her to the other religion, or to prove her religion false, or
(2) she feels inadequate in her own ability to out-argue an "opponent." One is committed to "converting" another as a "quarry" because of a view that faith is "religion" — a full commitment to the beliefs and forms and organizational structure of the religious system.
This view of people as objects for conversion is degrading. This view of faith as religious system is inadequate. The Sufis built their faith on love — love for God and closer personal relationship to him, closer obedience to him out of devotion. The followers of Jesus are committed to his command of love — love which leads to total obedience to God's will and to acceptance of others who love and obey the Lord (John 14:9-17, the new commandment is Love).
The approach of love could solve many of our problems. It would free each of us to focus on the other, to relate to the other as a fellow human being, rather than as an object of religious prey. It could free us to distinguish "faith" from the cultural expression of faith in organized religious systems. We could more freely, fully and adequately witness to another of the faith experience we have.
We often think of conversion in terms of changing our religious-culture identities. The evangelical Christian view is, however, that the key matter is conversion to a personal relationship with God as he is revealed in Jesus Christ — receiving new life, and assurance of salvation and forgiveness of sin as one starts the new life in faith.
The cultural forms of the Christian community (the Church) have always varied. The Muslim concept of faith, however, is more culturally defined. Thus faith is one with family, community, society. Thus the "conversionist" approach of Christian faith is necessarily rejected by the devout Muslim. The witness may be received, however, as a testimony of how the follower of Jesus the Messiah has found his personal relationship with God.
Witnessing and Hearing
The hearer may then be free to consider this witness and compare it with his own experience, perhaps sharing openly his own "testimony" of faith. This leaves one free to hear and receive ideas about relationship to God. Culture forms may be considered in due time as questions arise.
Perhaps followers of Jesus and followers of Islam may take advantage of the changing world situation and build friendships so that we may be free to communicate with one another, to hear each other's witness. It might be helpful to ask: Have you attempted to give a "witness" without being willing also to receive such from the other person? Have you been really free and personal in your "witness"?
Trying to convince someone you are right is not witness. Trying to convert someone is not witness. Telling someone what has happened to you, what you believe and why you believe it — this is witness. You are free to witness if you understand your own faith, and meet the other person as an individual.
Which approach have you taken: conversion or witness?
Originally published in The Path of Love: Jesus in Mystical Islam (Nairobi: Communication Press, 1984.)
Posted on Thoughts and Resources 29 November 2007
Orville Boyd Jenkins, Ed.D., Ph.D.
Copyright © 1984, 2007 by Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use. Other rights reserved.
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