How Shall We Love Our Muslim Neighbor?
There are as many answers to this question as there are ways to do good and not wrong. “Love does no wrong to a neighbor” (Romans 13:10). “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4). Here are some things that, it seems to me, need to be emphasized in our day.
[Update: The mention of loving our enemies is not meant to imply that all Muslims feel or act with enmity toward Christians. They don’t. They are often hospitable and kind and caring. The point is that even when someone treats us with enmity (of whatever religion or non-religion), we should continue loving.
Another clarification is needed in our context today. When I say that love calls us to do good in practical ways that meet physical needs I do not mean that this help is offered contingent on Muslim’s becoming Christians. Practical love is a witness to the love of Christ. Witness is not withheld where it is needed most. Conversions coerced by force or finances contradicts the very nature of saving faith. Saving faith is a free embrace of Jesus as our Savior, Lord, and highest Treasure. He is not a means to treasure. He is the Treasure.]
1. Pray the fullest blessing of Christ on them whether they love you or not.
- Luke 6:28 - Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
- Romans 12:14 - Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
- 1 Corinthians 4:12 - When reviled, we bless.
2. Do good to them in practical ways that meet physical needs.
- Luke 6:27 - Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.
- Luke 6:31 - As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:15 - See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
- Romans 12:20 - If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.
3. Do not retaliate when personally wronged.
- 1 Peter 3:9 - Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
- Romans 12:17, 19 - Repay no one evil for evil ... Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."
4. Live peaceably with them as much as it depends on you.
- Romans 12:18 - If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
5. Pursue their joyful freedom from sin and from condemnation by telling them the truth of Christ.
- John 8:31-32 - Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
6. Earnestly desire that they join you in heaven with the Father by showing them the way, Jesus Christ.
- Romans 10:1 - Brothers, my heart's desire . . . for them is that they may be saved.
- John 14:6 - Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
- John 3:16 - “Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
7. Seek to comprehend the meaning of what they say, so that your affirmations or criticisms are based on true understanding, not distortion or caricature.
- 1 Corinthians 13:6 - Love does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices with the truth.
8. Warn them with tears that those who do not receive Jesus Christ as the crucified and risen Savior who takes away the sins of the world will perish under the wrath of God.
- John 1:12 - But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
- Romans 10:9 - If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
- Philippians 3:18 - For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.
9. Don’t mislead them or give them false hope by saying, “Muslims worship the true God.”
This statement communicates to almost everybody a positive picture of the Muslim heart knowing, loving, and honoring the true God. But Jesus makes a person’s response to himself the litmus test of the authenticity of a person’s response to God. And he is explicit that if a person rejects him as the Divine One who gives his life as a ransom for sins and rises again—that person does not know, love, or honor the true God.
- John 8:19 - They said to [Jesus] therefore, "Where is your Father?" Jesus answered, "You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also."
- John 5:23 - Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.
- John 5:42-43 - [Jesus said,] "I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me.”
Love will not mislead Muslims, or those who care about Muslims, by saying that they “know” or “honor” and “love” the true God when they do not receive Jesus for who he really is. We cannot see people’s hearts. How do we know if they know and honor and love the true God? We lay down our lives to offer them Jesus. If they receive him, they know and love and honor God. If they don’t, they don’t. Jesus is the test.
That is the point of Jesus’ words in Luke 10:16, “The one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” And in Matthew 10:40, “Whoever receives me receives him who sent me.” And in John 5:46, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me.”
The most loving thing we can do for Muslims, or anyone else, is to tell them the whole truth about Jesus Christ, in the context of sacrificial care for them and willingness to suffer for them rather than abandon them, and then plead with them to turn away from “vain worship” (Mark 7:7) and receive Christ as the crucified and risen Savior for the forgiveness of their sins and the hope of eternal life. This would be our great joy—to have brothers and sisters from all the Muslim peoples of the world.