Lessons Learned

by Thomas Davis

Ahmed is Muslim. I am Christian. And we are friends.

In fact, since we met about 10 months ago, Ahmed has become one of my dearest friends on the planet.

A native of Afghanistan, Ahmed became my pal last April in New Delhi, India, where I had taken an interim assignment as director of a small English language school. Ahmed had come to Delhi to improve his English skills and to pursue a Masters degree in Political Science, and he was already enrolled in the language school when I arrived on the scene.

The first day I met Ahmed, he invited me for a special breakfast at his home. The following Saturday morning, I hired an auto-rickshaw to drive me to his residence. Ahmed greeted me warmly, invited me in, and we sat down to what would become a five-hour feast. As we talked about life, politics, theology and the Kingdom of God, we discovered an enormous amount of common ground.

Over the remainder of my three months in Delhi, our friendship blossomed. I saw Ahmed five days a week in class, and every weekend we met for five to eight hours of intense, enjoyable, one-on-one discussion. After my return to the U.S. last July, Ahmed and I vowed to continue our friendship over the internet. Via video conference, we "meet" weekly, usually for 60-90 minutes.

Together, Ahmed and I often study both the Qur'an and the Bible. He has taught me much about Islam and about life. Driven by a passion for God and compassion for humanity, Ahmed, at age 30, is wise beyond his years. I have immense respect for Ahmed, I cherish his friendship, and I give thanks to God for bringing him into my life.

A number of months ago, Ahmed and I were studying Paul's admonition to love radically as found in Romans 12:9-21(NRSV):

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.' No, 'if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals oon their heads.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

After reading those words and pondering them for amoment, Ahmed asked me a question that still haunts me: "Why don't more Christians live by their book, Thomas? This is a wonderful and extraordinary teaching, but why do so many Christians not live by it?"

I did not have a good answer for Ahmed then and still do not today. Do you?