Tables Turned - A Case Study
by Martin Brooks
When he first came into the room, I initially thought he was a homeless person looking for food. The restaurant workers greeted the man as though they knew him. “Maybe he is a regular beggar,” I thought. He was an American in his twenties, wore a faded heavy coat and had a scraggly beard.
The restaurant owner was telling our group how his grandfather had owned many acres of land in Israel, but now Cubans had moved to Israel and were farming his grandfather’s land. “I should have been a millionaire,” he said with a shrug. “Now I manage a restaurant.” He went on: “I’ve always been Muslim, but my friend here,” he pointed to the bearded man, “he might have a different perspective. He was a Christian but converted to Islam.” He then asked his friend to speak.
The young bearded man stood up and said, “I’d like to share my testimony.” “O great,” I thought. I began to take inventory of the friends I had invited to this event. Fortunately, they were all mature believers or Muslims. I had never heard a Muslim talk about sharing his “testimony.” He obviously came from a church culture.
For the next 20 minutes this Muslim convert attacked Christianity.
“My dad was a Baptist minister, so I know what Christians believe. Eventually it just did not make any sense to me anymore, so I converted to the truth of Islam. For example, Christians teach that Jesus was 100% man and 100% God. Well, that makes 200%. How can anyone be 200%? See? It just does not make sense.”
“You’re telling me,” he went on, “that God came through the birth canal of a woman and was dependent on that woman’s breasts to survive! That just can’t be! If Jesus was God, then that would mean that God urinated and defecated like any other man. I saw a slight smile come over the restaurant owner’s face. He had brought in a wringer who I’m sure he thought would “know how to relate to Christians.”
“Christians all believe that if they repent and do more good than bad we will go to heaven, right?” Well, no. I wondered what type of Christianity he had come from. Had his Baptist dad been a jerk? Had this guy rebelled as a teenager? Maybe he came from some legalistic cult, or they were snake handlers from eastern Kentucky (probably not). He was saying highly offensive things about teachings I hold to be dear and true. He was misrepresenting my Christian beliefs and had convinced his Muslim friends that he was an expert on Christianity.
He became increasingly incredulous as he performed his monologue to a captive audience. We could have argued. There were logical ways to address his misperceptions, but I did not have the impression that he came to listen. He wanted to talk. We could have walked out or told him his statements were inappropriate for a “Peace Feast.” Instead, we let him speak, and we listened.
He finally finished. He said he would be around and would be happy to answer any of our questions. I thanked him for sharing his perspective and noticed that one of my Muslim friends had moved to his table to carry on the conversation.
In many ways it was a great object lesson for the Christians that were there. The evangelistic tables had been turned. I asked some of them later, “How did it make you feel to have everything you hold dear insulted? Didn’t it just make you want to become a Muslim?”
Insulting another person’s faith is usually not a good way to kick off a relationship. I thought of the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I did not like having my faith insulted. Maybe I should not be condescending about other’s concepts of God. Maybe we should think twice before we go into attack mode and attempt to dismantle another person’s faith. It is probably a better tactic to brag on Jesus and tell the blessings we have experienced in following Jesus. Didn’t Jesus say that if he were exalted, he would draw people to himself? What is it about us that makes us want to discredit another person’s faith journey? Aren’t we all sinners desperately in need of mercy? Why can’t we follow the example of Aquila and Priscilla with Apollos? Adding on to his faith journey, they helped Apollos see Jesus more clearly.