“I want my life to be used like a rag to wipe away the dirt that has obscured
the breathtaking beauty of God.”
God Knows My Name
Yesterday (October 29th) we traveled into the interior of the West Bank through Samaria and into the small villages of Aboud and Zababdeh.
In Aboud we visited a small Christian school that was started by an American woman over 40 years ago. My friend, John, took photo’s of all of the things that needed to be repaired, replaced or “refinanced.” As we walked through the school and saw the children dressed smartly in their uniforms I was struck by how all wanted to be known. I would wink at one and all would wink back. I would pat one on the head and all would want that touch or I would smile and all would smile back.
As we walked out I noticed a piece of artwork on the wall prominently placed that simply said:
“I AM NOT FORGOTTEN. GOD KNOWS MY NAME.”
I took note of this with the head of the school, Suhaila El Khoury. Her smile is infectious and she has reproduced that smile in the faculty and students. It is loving and kind and patient and gracious and courageous, but it also reveals her pain and her confidence: “Does anyone know me? Do I really matter? GOD KNOWS MY NAME!”
As a small child I remember my mother taking her three children in tow to a fabric store in downtown Tacoma, Washington… the BIG City. We were told to hold hands and stay close. I was three. It was more like herding cats. As was common, I went one way while they all went another. In a moment I realized I was separated and lost. Too short to see over the tall isles of fabric I went to that place that all children go: “I wonder if they will find me?
Do they even know? Do I matter?”
As I stood with Suhaila I commented on this piece of art (felt backing and bright colored felt letters). She smiled and said, “Yes, He knows my name…” Her voiced cracked and silently her tears fell to the ground. In that moment I knew that in spite of her courage she longed to be known.
It really is the way of this land. So much of what drives the people is “fear and rejection.” But in so many ways it is the same where I live. I find when I smile the saddest faces respond and when I reach to touch them they ALL reach back.
We left Aboud and continued to Zababdeh… Dothan. It is a valley that stretches for miles and in one direction you can see where Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and in another direction Jesus healed 10 lepers and beyond lay the Galilee in all of its beauty. As we drove through the Jordan Valley and Jericho back into Bethlehem the recurring stories of God intersecting lives was both profound and, yet, simple: “I know your name.”
“I destroy my enemies by making them my friends.”
I received an email from a friend today asking this question: “Can you share Jesus specifically with people or is that troublesome or life threatening in some Muslim areas?”
I would say “Yes, you can.” But if it is Christianity you are talking about, “No, you probably can’t.”
What do I mean by that? In most of the Muslim world the idea of being Christian is a Western Idea. It is political. However, the idea of Jesus is received with respect and there is even an admiration for Jesus within the Muslim world. There are many things that the Koran speaks to that we as Jesus followers would agree with. But I am far from an expert on this issue. People like my friends Michael Ly and Rick Love with Peace Catalyst or Carl Medearis (find him on Facebook) have lived and breathed this stuff.
Here’s what happened late last night. My friend John and I were invited by two Muslims (one a doctor and one with a PHD) to see their NGO that cares for the poor here in Gaza. We had met them the day before. We watched videos of their work and heard their stories that were compelling. They gave us tea followed by Turkish coffee (strong) and cookies.
They showed us great honor and respect. They asked nothing from us except to “come and see.” I turned to one of the men and said that John and I as followers of Jesus longed to build His kingdom and to show His love to the world. I told him that what he and his life-long friend were doing was expressive of the heart of Jesus. He was visibly shaken by what I said to the point of tears. He repeated what I said in Arabic to his friend who in turn said, “oh, thank you, thank you….” He could say no more. A bit later they both expressed that they could have received no greater honor than to be told those words. Did they fall on their knees and become followers of Jesus? I am not sure, but I know that they were reminded that Jesus looks a lot like what they were doing. Their response was that they welcomed John praying for them in Jesus name followed by taking us out for a fish dinner. When we left them they told us we were to be as family to them and that their home and places of business were to be considered ours. They embraced us and kissed our cheeks. Salvation is a work of God’s spirit in the life of an individual. It is not our responsibility to “spiritually throw-up” all over them. But it is our responsibility to gently spill Jesus’ love into their lives.
Earlier today John and I went to meet a friend who would be considered an enemy. We have gotten to know him over the past five years through our friend, Brother Andrew. We have no way of calling him, so we always show up unannounced. He dresses in the typical Arab style and his silver beard and striking deep brown eyes are a bit intimidating until he smiles. His smile says, “come in and stay awhile!” His smile says, “brother, there is no one more important than you!” His laugh is hearty and his hospitality overwhelming. We speak of his nine children and his beautiful wife (who we have NEVER seen nor probably ever will… very Muslim) and his 11 grandchildren. We speak of his dreams and passions and of his hopes that have been dashed time and again. He shows us his post-war home where rockets and shrapnel have left their mark. AND we speak of the Jesus that we would like him to know so that he will find a peace that he will never find in this world. We lay hands on him and pray for him in the name of Jesus and he again smiles and he will hug us until the sun goes down and he will kiss us a 1000 times. There is one who is mighty to save and it is not me. But some how, some way, I believe that Jesus Christ in me can move the hearts of men and women because Jesus said that his presence in me would give hope (Colossians 1:27). The question is, “Am I willing to be a presence wherever I go in order for His presence to be known?”
Yes, I believe you can speak openly and honestly about Jesus to a Muslim, but my question is would you speak to your neighbor who isn’t a Muslim or the person sitting next to you on an airplane who is visibly troubled because his/her life has just been dealt a terrible blow. The Gospel/Good News is good because it is about Jesus who is the centerpiece and hero
of the story. But the story is a dangerous story. It will radically change your life…