What if you have a Muslim neighbor in your backyard?

Some Christians would be uncomfortable, while others may become overly concerned. Still, some may find this as a great opportunity to proclaim Christ to non-Christians. After all, while many can travel to other countries to preach the gospel to Muslims, here and now we can do the same just around the corner.

To encourage you to bring the Gospel to your Muslim neighbors, I want to tell you about three Muslim friends I have in Louisville. They are different from each other in many ways, but quite similar in other ways. While I will not use their real names, their stories are real and they will encourage you to love and befriend Muslims around you, and will exhort you to become intentional about sharing Christ with them.

Ahmad is from Iraq. Born in a Sunni Muslim family, he moved to the U.S. about 15 years ago, to avoid the aftermath of the Iraqi war and to seek a better life in the States. In Iraq, Ahmad was never serious about practicing Islam—rarely read the Quran or attended the Friday Muslim corporate prayer. Three years after moving to the States, he was introduced through a relative to an Iraqi lady. They got married and now they are proud Louisvillians. One of the first things you notice in Ahmad is that he is deeply in love with America and its system. Unlike many Americas who complain constantly about their homeland, Ahmad cherishes this country and love what it has to offer to its citizens. He loves to talk about politics, and often leans conservative. Religiously, Ahmad heard the Gospel many times and attended ample Bible study sessions. He has several Christian friends. He says that he doesn’t believe in Islam anymore. Nor does he consider Muhammad a true prophet. For Ahmad, Muhammad didn’t live a good example as he attacked people in wars and lusted after many women in his lifetime. Ahmad says he is in love with Jesus, but sadly insists he cannot convert to Christianity because of the shame this will bring for his small family among their Iraqi relatives. Culturally, Ahmad loves to hangout with Christians and often goes to churches, yet mostly in a discreet fashion.

Hamid is an educated Muslim. Born in Michigan to Pakistani parents, he grew up in a religiously conservative home near Detroit. Believing that the best Islamic education is in the Middle East, Hamid traveled to obtain bachelor and master’s degrees from Egypt and Saudi. He also learned Arabic—the language of Islam’s scripture, the Quran. After returning to the States, he moved to Louisville and currently participates in helping the Muslim community in town to learn and practice Islam. Politically, Hamid is moderate left. He adheres to conservative family principles, yet is appalled by recent sexual ideologies promoted in America. Still, he is constantly annoyed and concerned that many on the right don’t want to welcome Muslims in the States. Religiously, Hamid believes that terrorist Muslims are not true followers of Islam. He is convinced that Islam is indeed a complex religion and cannot be summed up in one or two groups, but the core teaching of Islam, says Hamid, is about doing mercy and loving humans. Anything else is not of the core of the religion. For Hamid, Christians and Jews who act lovingly and do good will definitely enter Paradise. When I ask Hamid as to why anyone would then be encouraged to convert to Islam, he responds that Islam is the final religion with the perfect revelation which brings the most developed system for humankind. This, for Hamid, is the truest compelling point about Islam. Unlike Ahmad, my conversations with Hamid can go deeper as we can reflect on Islamic texts and theological matters. Still, Hamid noticeably wants to stay away from any open debates or sophisticated religious conversations, as he believes that Islam is all about being charitable and nice to those around you. As for Jesus, Hamid acknowledges him as an exceptional prophet who came with love and mercy to humankind and received a heavenly book from Allah that basically contains the same message as the Quran. For Hamid, this book is now lost and Jesus was not divine in anyway.

Kamal is a third Muslim “friend.” And yes, there is a reason for the quotes. Born in Syria, he moved with his wife and two children to the States a few years ago, when he just turned 52. He studied Islam in Damascus and became an imam (leader, preacher) in a local mosque. When I heard of his arrival with his family to reside in town, I got his number through a friend. Hoping to help him if he needs suggestions as a new resident in town, I contacted him to meet for coffee. Kamal immediately welcomed to meet with joy, as he learned I am from the Middle East, particularly from Egypt. In general, Middle Easterners love to get together with people from their heartland and in particular they love the Egyptian accent as Egypt produces numerous movies which makes the accent attractive to many in the region. We met for coffee. Unsurprisingly, he thought I was Muslim because I was born in Egypt. Many mistakenly think that anyone from the Middle East—especially Egypt—is Muslim, but this is wrong. There are millions of Christians in the Middle East. A couple of minutes after our first sip of coffee, I kindly and with a big smile corrected Kamal’s assumption and revealed to him that I am a follower of Christ. This immediately changed the tone of the meeting and the direction of the discussion. He began to forcefully preach Islam to me and openly insist that I will perish in hellfire as I follow a corrupt scripture and believe that Allah married a woman and had a son. I tried kindly to interject some ideas or switch the conversation, but failed. After his long sermon to me, I finally got a chance to talk. I stated that I was basically hoping for an initial introduction, aiming to get to know him more. He was loud and clear that he doesn’t hangout with Christians as they are infidels. Still, he said he would continue to consider me a friend and brother in humanity. I tried to connect again with Kamal, but it never worked.

Ahmad, Hamid, and Kamal are here and now among us. They represent different kinds of Muslims and reflect various responses to Christ. To be sure, there are more kinds of Muslims around us. I only described three, but we can identify some very liberal Muslims, who eat pork and consume alcohol, or encounter some significantly radicals in their interpretations. However, they are all arguably in our neighborhood, or in America in general. To all of these, we are called to be ambassadors of Christ. We cannot be selective in our witnessing. You don’t have to fly to the Middle East to proclaim the Good News to Muslims. They are here and now in our midst. Befriend Muslims today. Grow in your friendships, as you reflect Christ every time they meet you. Begin religious conversations with them, and always imitate Christ. His love surpasses every human expectation. With continued friendships, there is no doubt that the gospel will breakthrough and Christ will be magnified. Some will accept, and others reject. This is expected, but, in all, the Gospel of Christ is told, proclaimed, and emphasized. If you want resources and more suggestions, see these excerpts, get a copy of this book, and connect with the Jenkins Center at Southern Seminary—we would love to help you and even serve with you.