A powerful way to disciple friends and neighbours is to compare and contrast different faiths. Instead of preaching at people, you are offering insights about ‘religion’ and then sharing important truths about Jesus. This approach is gentle, respectful and non-confrontational.
Here’s how it works.
I wanted to explain the Christian theme of God’s grace to a good friend of mine who is a refugee from a predominantly Muslim country. Yusif (not his real name) is a warm, jovial, secular man who is a gifted builder. If you hanker after a loft conversion, Yusif would do a great job. I should also add that he used to be a solid and reliable centre-half when he played football in his youth.
I spent some time praying for Yusif and then I arranged to see him for a barbecue. He cooks lamb to die for. We had some nice chitchat. I decided to launch my project.
“Yusif, you are a brainy bloke and I know there are many Muslim people who live in your country. What’s the difference between Muslim and Christian faith?”
Yusif looked at me with soft, vacant eyes. Clearly he lacked knowledge.
“Sorry, boss. I haven’t a clue!”
“To be honest, Yusif, I am surprised that someone as intelligent as you can’t answer that question. I’ve studied the Koran and the New Testament so can I enlighten you?
Yusif was more than happy to deepen and extend his knowledge. I had my spiel in the locker.
“Christians and Muslims believe in one God and they both reject polytheism, the belief in many gods. Muslims believe that they must obey the five pillars of Islam. This includes praying five times a day, giving alms to the poor and fasting during the month of Ramadan. Make no mistake, it’s really tough doing this. At the end of the day, Muslims trust in their good deeds to get them into paradise.
Yusif was listening attentively as he sipped his glass of Stella Artois lager beer. He seemed to appreciate my insights.
“This is the heart of the issue. For the Muslim believer you have your good deeds piled up on one shoulder but you also have all your bad deeds perched on the other shoulder. If your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds then you have your entry permit to paradise. Tragically if your bad deeds outweigh your good deeds, you will be sent to a very bad place….hell.”
“Let me act this out for you, boss.”
I picked up a brick and a small stone lurking in Yusif’s garden. I placed the brick on my left shoulder and the pebble on my right shoulder.
Yusif was perturbed and he burst out: “Watch out for the muck on the brick, Rocky.”
“Here’s the problem me old chocolate chicken. How good do you have to be to earn Allah’s forgiveness? In other words how do you know if your good deeds cancel out your bad ones?”
Yusif decided to crack open another can of Stella as I poured out my theological musings.
“Christians have a very different way of looking at forgiveness from Muslims. We believe that all of us have rebelled against God. God expected us to look after His beautiful world, love each other and even our enemies. This would knock wars, Mafia hit-men and environmental disasters on the head. You and I know we have failed to do this. Our lives are caked in sin, failure and shame. The good news is that Jesus Christ has died for us. He has taken our sleazy sin upon himself. Whoever believes in Jesus has all their bad deeds wiped out. Every filthy thought, word and deed obliterated. This is God’s grace, His undeserved mercy. If you trust in the Lord Jesus Christ all your sins are forgiven and you will not be condemned on the day of judgment. Instead you will receive an amazing resurrection body and you will live in a restored and perfect world.”
“Let me be very honest with you, Yusif. To be a Muslim brings incredible anxiety. Who is good enough to enter paradise? Definitely not me. What about you? I trust in Jesus, His death and resurrection and not in my good deeds. This fills me with confidence and hope for the future.”
Yusif did not say anything to me but I had witnessed to him without incurring his displeasure.
Compare and contrast is a very helpful tool as we seek to obey the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).