“You are going Weir?” Grey said, and the room resounded with laughter. We were sitting in a room at one of the largest churches in Mississippi, located in the heart of Madison—a metro area of Jackson, MS. Broadmoor Baptist Church has a heart to take the Good News to the ends of the earth, and they are very active in educating their congregation about the most critical needs of the world. They invited me to come and share how to engage Muslim communities in Jackson. Pronounced “where,” Weir is a small community that represents a typical town in MS. When my wife and I arrived at a small old Presbyterian church located next to a cemetery, I tried to shake off the culture shock before the congregants arrived.
My wife and I were invited to come and share about the work we do in New York City through our Church—Calvary Baptist Church, to engage the city and reach Muslim communities. The New York Metro area has one of the largest Muslim community in the United States, and since 9/11 Calvary has had a loud voice of embracing Muslims with truth and love. Calvary is perhaps the only church that has a strategic ministry to Muslims in New York City. The senior pastor at Calvary is by far one of the most excellent preachers in its history, and led the church through the grief of 9/11 and preached love, mercy and compassion towards our Muslim neighbors while condemning extremism.
The question that everyone has, whether they are from a populous city like New York, or a typical Mississippi town of a few thousands like Weir, is “Should we love Muslims?” after all, they are the ones who are killing and taking over the world. “Look at Al-Qaeda, and ISIS” one said to support her argument. “Yes, but most Muslims are not Al-Qaeda or ISIS” I said. “Al-Qaeda and ISIS have kill more Muslims than Christians, in fact” I said, presented my argument with a fact largely unknown in the West.
Loving Muslims has nothing to do with Al-Qaeda and ISIS because Christ calls us to love our neighbors. The exact words of Jesus were and are “’You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:31, ESV). He said these words and then told the story of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritans were hated by the Jews and were called half breeds with impure blood. Jesus also said, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthews 5:44, ESV).
I understand that sometimes our neighbors seem unlovable, but that is no excuse not to love them. My family and I have experienced and continue to experience persecution personally by some Muslims who believe in the same teachings as Al-Qaeda and ISIS, but that does not mean that we should start a hate campaign against Muslim communities. Loving Muslims goes alongside what Christ teaches, and hating Muslims goes along with what the devil and his advocates want the Church to do so that we may lose our witness and invite chaos, distress, and division among us.