Overcoming Fear of Muslims, by Darla Oksnevad; permission is given to copy & reprint this article
Fear of Muslims
Muslims are often in the news—reports of violence and killings by Muslims in the U.S. and other countries, war in Muslim countries, terrorism, oppression of women. The media often emphasizes the violence, stirring up fear and alarm. How do these reports affect you and your view of Muslims?
Are there Muslims in your neighborhood or at your workplace? Have you ever met them and talked with them? Do you have a Muslim friend? Have you had the opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus with a Muslim? Perhaps you are like a lot of American Christians—you have a fear of Muslims, or you know people who are afraid of them and the “Muslim agenda”, that some believe exists. Some of those fearful people may attend your church.
Fear is probably the biggest hindrance keeping Christians and churches from reaching out to Muslims with friendship and the Gospel. Fear can cause locked doors (literally and figuratively), discrimination, hatred, ignoring people, and disobedience of Christ’s commands to love and witness to all people. Some churches support and encourage reaching Muslims overseas in their own countries, but want no involvement in neighborhoods near them.
What is your greatest fear concerning Muslims? What hinders you and others in your church from meeting, befriending, and witnessing to Muslims that you have contact with?
Why are People Afraid of Muslims?
There are many reasons why people are afraid of Muslims; perhaps you have some of these thoughts or feelings:
–Fear of the unknown: you don’t know their language, culture, or anything about their country; if they have come from another country or if they are American or second generation; what they believe or how to share your Christian beliefs with them; cultural norms, so you don’t know what you should or should not do.
–Fear of rejection or failure: you’re afraid you’ll do or say something wrong, that they may reject you, or won’t listen to you; or that your friends and family will reject you if you become friends with a Muslim.
–Listening to “voices” that stir up fear: reading, listening to, or watching newscasts, books, articles, and sermons that promote fear and an alarmist mentality; “sensational” newscasts; and Satan’s lies to “be afraid of them”.
–Wrong beliefs: that Muslims are here to take over America, that all Muslims are trying to convert us to Islam, that all Muslims hate Christians, or that “all Muslims are terrorists”.
Therefore, be cautious and discerning with what you read, watch, and listen to. Don’t allow Satan to plant seeds of fear in your heart and mind.
God’s View of Muslims Moving to your Neighborhood
While the Apostle Paul was preaching to the Athenians in Acts 17, a major economical and philosophical city with thousands of people moving in and out, he made a statement that is so true for our communities today: Acts 17:24-27—“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth… He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” God moves people to places where they can hear the Gospel, seek God, and find Him. The majority of Muslims moving to the U.S. cannot openly seek and worship God in their home country, attend church or Bible studies, or seek Christian fellowship. Because of war, terrorism, famine, a negative economy, and lack of freedom, Muslims immigrate to western countries where they hope to live in peace and safety, to live their lives free from an oppressive government. The majority of Muslims are peaceful people who want a positive place to raise their families, make a living, and enjoy freedom. Will they hear and respond to the Gospel in your neighborhood?
God’s Leaders who Overcame Fear
Some men that God chose to lead His people experienced fear, but they learned to trust God to overcome that fear so they could accomplish the work God had for them.
Moses, who led 2-3 million Israelites out of Egypt to their Promised Land, was too afraid to lead and speak. He was timid and fearful, afraid to return to Egypt after 40 years to face Pharaoh. He was even too frightened to speak to the elders of his people. Remember the argument he had with God? (Ex. 3) “Who am I to go and lead? What if they won’t listen to me? Who should I say sent me? Send someone else!” So God allowed Moses’ brother, Aaron, to be his spokesman. But Moses did eventually trust God and speak out for Him; he became a courageous leader.
Joshua was afraid to fill the sandals of Moses as leader of the Israelites; God told him many times, “Do not be afraid, I am with you; be strong and courageous!” (Josh. 1:5-9) “The Lord was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land.” (Josh. 6:27) Joshua became the gallant leader that God needed to defeat the enemies in the Promised Land. Gideon hid in a hole, but God empowered him to become a mighty warrior to save the Israelites.
Many prophets were afraid and didn’t want to accept their “assignment” to go, preach, and confront their people and enemy leaders. God told Isaiah (41:13), “I AM the LORD; do not fear; I will help you.” Jonah ran in the opposite direction to avoid preaching repentance and salvation to the wicked vicious Assyrians. When Jonah finally obeyed, went, and preached, God had already prepared the Assyrians to listen, repent, and follow Him for a few years.
Peter, an ordinary fisherman called by Jesus, was filled with fear when Jesus was arrested, and he denied His Lord. Peter had spent 3 years with Jesus, learning from Him, observing miracles He did, and maturing in his own faith. Jesus had a plan for Peter, even though he was fearful and turned away from Him; Jesus corrected him, forgave him, and gave him the mission to “Feed My sheep”. In the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter became a mighty speaker, evangelist, and leader; he stood up and preached, and 3000+ were saved. (Acts 2-4)
Just like leaders and evangelists in the Bible overcame their fears, you can overcome your fear of Muslims. God can empower you with the Holy Spirit to visit Muslim neighbors, befriend the colleague at work, and build meaningful relationships.
Overcome Your Fear
Fear comes from Satan, to hinder us, cripple us, discourage us, and defeat us. When we allow fear to control us, we become disobedient to God’s commands to share His Word. Heb. 13:5-6 reminds us that “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid;…. I will never leave you.” In Rom. 1:16, Paul states, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the POWER of God for the salvation of everyone who believes,…” As we begin with small steps of obedience, God increases our trust in Him to have boldness to talk with and get to know Muslims that God has brought to our path. God loves all people, Jesus died for all the world, including Muslims.
What is your fear? Give it to God, submit to His heart and commands; memorize and meditate on “do not fear” verses. Pray for God to bring people into your path, to your doorstep and your neighborhood. Talk with a newcomer in your neighborhood or at your job, pray for him or her, build a friendship, share the message of Christ.
Help Others Overcome their Fear
Perhaps you don’t have fear of Muslims, or any other group of immigrants, but you know people in your church who are afraid. There are several ways that you can help them overcome their fear and take small steps:
–Talk with them about why they are afraid; help them realize that fear is a dart of Satan; pray for them and with them to overcome their fear.
–Teach a Bible study, class, or sermon on overcoming fear.
–Use Muslim-ministry training materials in classes and small groups, such as “Journey to Jesus” DVD curriculum (from COMMA) and “The Bridge” (Crescent Project).
–Invite a missionary or person in ministry to Muslims to share stories about Muslims coming to Christ.
–Show video clips and films of outreach to Muslims and other immigrants, and persecution in their countries, to build compassion and show how Muslims can come to Christ. (“All Saints” movie, “Behind the Sun” movie, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-qXcHfTNKE, video clips—www.commanetwork.com)
–Invite a mature Muslim-background believer to give his/her testimony at your church or small group; or have a dinner with Christian friends and MBBs, so they can get to know one another.
–Eat together at a Muslim-owned or ethnic restaurant: Indian, Pakistani, Middle Eastern, Moroccan.
–Take them with you when you visit Muslim friends, so they can experience your friendship and Muslim hospitality.
–Volunteer together at ministries to Muslims, such as World Relief, refugee ministries, ESL classes, outreach events.
Faces in the Crowd: Reaching Your International Neighbor for Christ, by Donna Thomas, New Hope Pub.
Woman to Woman: Sharing Jesus with a Muslim Friend, by Joy Loewen, Chosen/Baker Pub.
Muslims Next Door: Uncovering Myths and Creating Friendships, by Shirin Taber, Zondervan Pub.
www.commanetwork.com for resources, articles, training events, links to ministries and other resources
“Journey to Jesus” DVD curriculum, 6 lessons with teacher notes, handouts, dramas, available from COMMA