“The Bible has been changed.”
It was an assertion I’d heard before. I’ve heard it from nearly every Muslim friend I’ve talked about the gospel with and so I wasn’t surprised when my new friend John tossed it into our conversation.
We’d been talking and as is often the case, something he’d said reminded me of a story from the scriptures. For probably the fourth time in our conversation I’d gone to the Bible and shared a passage or a story, a proverb or a psalm.
There are a number of helpful responses to the claim that the Bible’s been changed. Indeed, the ability to defend the validity of scripture is a necessary skill that all involved in Muslim ministry must acquire. Thankfully there are great resources for equipping believers in this skill [see Fouad Masri’s small booklet “Is the Injeel Corrupted”]
And perhaps in a later post I’ll unpack a few of those.
It has often been said that one can win the argument but loose the person. It seems there are times when this is used as an excuse for shoddy theology and weak-kneed gospel proclamation, but it does reflect Jesus’ instruction to do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Matthew 7:12).
Abdu Murray is an example of someone who does this well. His winsome proclamation and defense of the gospel is a living example of 1 Peter 3:15 where believers are exhorted to “honor Christ the Lord in our hearts as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
In his hour-long presentation at the Defend Apologetics Conference, Abdu begins with an encouragement from Paul’s letter to the Colossians.
Colossians 4:5-6 says, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
Murray points out that Paul does not say, ‘each argument'. Arguments are plentiful and they deserve answers, but as followers of Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, we are encouraged to answer ‘each person’.
My friend John is a person. He is fearfully and wonderfully made. He was created in the image of God, a God who knows every hair on his head and who willingly went to the cross for him.
And so we must take care not to dehumanize our non-believing friends into caricatures of the arguments they espouse. While rude caricatures and gross mischaracterizations are the tenor of these days, as disciples of Jesus we must love non-believers as Christ loves them.
We must have the First Corinthian’s thirteen kind of love that is patient and kind. We must not envy or boast or be arrogant or dishonor them. We must not insist on getting our own way. We must not get angry easily or hold grudges and we can’t rejoice in their wrongdoing but rather must rejoice in the truth. And we protect our non-believing friends, trusting with a deep hope that never gives up.
Because love won’t fail.
And yes, because the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, we must be prepared to help remove those blinders with sound teaching, good questions, gentle rebuke and prayerful perseverance.
But we must do all of this first and foremost, in love.
Here is Abdu Murray's talk.
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