Hug a Muslim?
Let me share an amazing encounter in a coffee shop between a Christian and a Muslim. I heard this story from my friend, Melissa who was there when it happened. She was sitting talking at a table with a group of ladies while her father Alan was enjoying his cup of coffee by himself. She saw him get up and walk over to a table with three Muslim men. It was only afterward that she found out what he actually said to them, “I apologise if this seems a bit strange, but I can't help feeling that one of you needs a hug. Am I right?”
There was a pause and two of them said, “You're right. Our friend here has just been told that his family doesn't want to have anything to do with him.”
Alan asked the man, “May I hug you?” But before he could reach out the man put his arms around Alan. In fact, he clung to Alan and sobbed while whispering into Alan's ear, “My family has rejected me because I accepted Jesus as my Savior.”
Upon hearing this story, I wondered, “What would I have done if I had been in Alan's shoes? Would I have heeded the Spirit's prompting and obeyed? Or would I have been too timid, too self-conscious?”
The following Sunday our worship leader concluded the church service by reading half a dozen Scriptures focusing on the mandate to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth. As he dismissed us to the foyer for coffee, I felt compelled to go to the front and tell Alan's story. I had to muster up a great deal of courage, though maybe not as much as Alan.
I started by reading two Scriptures which urge Christians to overcome our reticence or timidity when proclaiming the message. In chapter 40 verse 9 the Psalmist said, “I have told all your people about your justice. I have not been afraid to speak out.” In 2 Timothy 1:7-8 Paul tells Timothy, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News.”
None of us should be ashamed to speak about the Lord. I concluded by reminding the congregation that Christ didn't just give us a command to proclaim the Gospel, he promised to be with us and empower us, saying, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” (Acts 1:8)
When I finished everyone surprised me by applauding. To God be the glory!
Should all of us go out and do what Alan did? That's not exactly what I'm suggesting! It is good for people to show their love for others in more demonstrative ways, like hugging. However, my main thing is for us to be sensitive to the Spirit's leading and willing to obey him.
The Lord may not lead us to do what Alan did. He might simply prompt us to reach out by saying hello (salaam) to a Muslim and engage him or her in a friendly conversation. (Matthew 5:46-48) Have you ever felt prompted to do something like that? And have you actually done it?
When we are faithful in small things God will entrust us with greater opportunities. As it is written, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.” (Luke 16:10)
If this story has stirred you why not share it with friends? As the song puts it, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going.”
Another article you may want to read which is relevant to this theme is entitled, God is hospitable: Shouldn't we be too?
All Bible quotes are taken from the New Living Translation.
If you have any questions or want to contact me directly please email me.
A month after sharing this remarkable story in my home church I was visiting another church. The pastor preached a powerful sermon based on the story of Peter walking on the water. He concluded with a very challenging exhortation explaining various ways how we too should venture out of our comfort zone and walk on water. He asked, “Are you ready to follow Christ by doing something far-fetched that may even make you appear weird or foolish to those around you?”
I recognised that the Spirit was again prompting me to tell this story. As the sermon ended and the pastor walked to his seat I found myself still glued to the pew! Seeing the window of opportunity slip away, I felt compelled to speak out like the fire Jeremiah felt in his bones. (Jeremiah 20:9) But how was I going to muster up the courage to “interrupt” another service? I reminded myself that I wasn't doing this to please others so I decided to keep my eyes on Jesus and take the plunge!
Everyone listened with wrapped attention. When I finished, the pastor began to thank me but his voice was drowned out by loud clapping to the glory of God. He saw from how I apologized for “interrupting” the service that I was not showing disrespect for protocol. Afterwards, he re-emphasized how much he appreciated me for having the courage to speak out!