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How to talk to Muslims about faith

Words can get in the way of communicating. When talking to those who disagree with us, we need to focus on meaning, not words. Here’s a story Carl Medearis tells that illustrates what can happen with even the most antagonistic person if we’ll just ask clarifying questions instead of trying to ram…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
Words can get in the way of communicating. When talking to those who disagree with us, we need to focus on meaning, not words. Here’s a story Carl Medearis tells that illustrates what can happen with even the most antagonistic person if we’ll just ask clarifying questions instead of trying to ram information down their throat.

I saw my Muslim Arab friend sweating as he talked to my other friend,
a fine conservative-minded evangelical Christian. It looked like the
two had locked horns and were in a battle to the death.

It was here in Colorado this summer. We hosted a gathering of some of
our long time friends from the Middle East and brought in a bunch of
American Christian friends to talk about God, the Middle East and how to
bring hope.  There were about 45 of us together for 3 days.  We were
having a great time – until I looked over and saw these two all tangled

The next thing I knew, my Muslim friend (not yet a follower of Jesus)
had gone out on the deck and was smoking a cigarette like his life
depended on how fast he could suck it down. I walked out and
nonchalantly said, “What’s up bro?”

His response: “Why the $%&^@ do these people want to convert me?
Why can’t they just leave me alone. I know that YOU don’t want to
convert me. Right?”

Well, talk about a loaded question full of semantic nuance. Here’s my answer and what happened!

I asked him what he thought my other friend back inside the house
wanted to convert him to. He said, “He wants me to be a Christian, but
I’m a Muslim.” I asked him what he thought this friend meant by that.

“He wants me to stop living in the Middle East and loving my family.”
I told him I was pretty sure that’s not what this friend meant, but if
that’s what “conversion to Christianity” is, then I agree – he shouldn’t

“SEE,” he said to me, “I knew you weren’t into conversion.”

“No I’m not,” I said. “Not like that. Not at all. I think you should
stay in your country, love your family and be who God has made you to

Then I asked him this: “What do you think God thinks when he looks down at all 6.5 billion people on earth?”

“He thinks they’re all screwed up,” he said.

“Yep, that’s what I think God’s thinking too. So what do you think
God would like to do with all these messed up people? Muslims,
Christians, Jews, Hindus, nothings, everyone?”

He had never thought of that before, so he wasn’t sure. But he did
say God would probably want to “help them not be so screwed up.” I

“So you might say that God would like to convert all 6.5 billion
people on earth. Not to a religion, but to himself. He would like
everyone to be like him. To be converted into him. But how would he do
that. He’d need a converter.”

I went on to say that if he was going to buy an appliance here in the
states and take it back to the Middle East, he’d need something to
change the current from 110 to 220. “What’s that called?” I asked him.

“A transformer or converter” he said.

“That’s right. So what is God’s transformer to get us all back the way God wants us to be? To change us? To convert us?”

He gasped (literally) and said “It’s Jesus. I never thought of that – but it’s Jesus. He’s the converter.”

He got so excited he called his wife out and told her the whole conversation. She started to cry.

We sat on the deck and prayed that God’s “converter” or “transformer”
would change us into the current that can be connected into God. And
that he would do this with all of our friends.

It was a profound moment. Amazing that just a half hour earlier he
was about to bite this other guy’s head off for “trying to convert” him
and now he sat with me in tears praying.

The power of words. Of the right message. Of the Holy Spirit illuminating the role of Jesus Christ in the world.


Comments (14)

  • I spent a lot of time thinking about loving others, including our enemies on Saturday. How do we become enemies? Why do so many villify others?

    Anyway, I promised my daughter I would take her to Hershey Park, which I did, and rode so many roller coasters I still have a headache, but had I not done that I envisioned another way of spending September 11th, and I will do it, just another day.

    I have two lovely, lovely lady friends who are both Muslim, and I want them to know I love them and God loves them, so I imagine having tea with them, inviting them into my home and opening a conversation about how we truly want the same things; we love our family; we want our children to grow into citizens of integrity, we want to be active in our communities, etc. I want to acknowledge to them that it must be difficult to be a Muslim woman of faith in this town, in this day and age, and that not all Christians would celebrate memorializing September 11th by burning their Holy book.

    I’ll keep you posted after we have tea.

    Peace. And yes, choose words carefully.

  • When I saw this piece I thought of you. Glad you got to share it. Simplicity and loving without an agenda were earmarks of how Jesus spoke and ministered. Thanks, Seth!

  • This story speaks to my heart! Thank you so much for sharing (and thanks Glenn for passing it along).

    It’s amazing what can happen when we stop talking religion and start talking Christ and His furious love for us.

  • I read this a cried. It makes so much sense and it was bourne of a long standing friendship. Reflective. Encouraged. Thank you.

  • beautiful… i remember a pakistani muslim I met in D.C. and we spent way too many hours trying to convert each other via reason… i hope i know better now… thanks for passing this along!

  • Thanks Seth…

    People know real love when they see it and they sense manipulation even when it is hidden in the Trojan Horse of good intention. The bottom line is that it isn’t our responsibility to do what only the Spirit of the Living God can. We need something real which attracts a hungry heart. There are too many analytical Christians who plug God into an algorithm then hope their intended “convert” is smart enough to get it. Years ago a homeless guy named Calvin helped me understand that better. By the way he had no clue who John Calvin was but he knew more than I did about what it means to be an authentic follower of Jesus. He died a few years ago within eyeshot of the Union Rescue Mission which used to be his home.

  • 1 Corinthians 10
    1If I speak in the tongues[a] of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,[b] but have not love, I gain nothing.

    What a great reminder that we need to see people through God’s eyes and not just as a body to be ‘converted’. Thank you for sharing!

  • ya what an amazing story, i find it the hardest talking to people with other religions that there passionate about and trying to get them to understand the real reason why we are here. and ya u can deff not shove it in there faces because then they just get upset and dont want to talk about it anymore, u have to be there friend, and act like u want to hear about there side and etc and not act like u want to just talk all about ur faith… its so hard to tell others the truth about there lives and Jesus, but we all just need to pray for each other, and most of all the non believes

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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