" 'I’ll treasure that.' This was the response of a Muslim man to the handout for my presentation on 'How We Understand God' at the March 15 meeting of the Muslim-Christian dialogue group at the Islamic Center of Minnesota. I had outlined key aspects of the biblical picture of God and illustrated them with numerous Scripture references, cited in full. I expect this man was happy to have the material organized for him in this way; we who know the Bible well don’t perhaps realize how daunting a book it can be for those who are less familiar with it. Thanks for your prayers for that presentation. There was a bigger than usual attendance, and the afternoon went well, with Christian, Muslim and Jewish presentations on the topic, and lively discussion."After some praises and petitions (click here for the full text of the letter, 1 page, pdf) John adds one more prayer:
"That more Christians will reach out in friendship to Muslim acquaintances, the essential step for making some space in which the Gospel can be shared. The man I mentioned at the beginning of this letter still remembers after many years the neighbors who brought cookies for his family, a day or two after they had moved in as new immigrants."Making friends is key for all God's work in our community too. Last Friday at the food shelf I met a man who claimed to follow a "Norse" (pagan) religion. We talked for awhile about that and about his family. I got his name and phone number and am at the moment looking for the paper where I wrote it so I can call him, ask him more about his religion, and know how to pray for his needs.
There's always risk in friendship, but it's a step that can't be skipped. You can find numerous examples in Jesus ministry and in the work of the first followers of Christ. God's work is done in our friendships in the world. Yes, it's important to gather at church to hear God's Word and be strengthened in Christian community, but wherever you go, when we act as Christ's followers, we are his voice, his heart, his hands.
Pastor Spaulding's outline of the "biblical picture of God" is available here (4 pages, pdf).