Jews, Christians, and Muslims all acknowledge that Jesus is a sign from God. Their present understanding of the meaning of Jesus as a sign is different. The Jews have no problem with the words of Isaiah in chapter 7:14 ‘The Lord himself will give you a sign: the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel.’ Most Jews are still waiting for the fulfillment of this prophecy. It is encouraging to hear of Jews coming to faith in Jesus the Messiah. We hear of groups of Messianic Jews but as yet there are not many like Simeon…
Rick Love’s life and legacy resonate deeply with the Zwemer Center of Muslim-Christian Relations at Columbia International University. As Ed Smither, Dean of Intercultural Studies at CIU, put it: “Rick loved Muslims and they loved him.” Yet, beyond his work with Muslims, Rick was known for conflict resolution among families, in the workplace, and in cross-cultural relationships all over the world. Below is mostly personal reflection but also how colleagues and friends remember him.
Many Christians are unaware that Muslims have an annual celebration that commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son and God’s merciful provision of a substitute ram in his place. The celebration is called Eid-al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice). The celebration takes place at the end of the Hajj or pilgrimage. Everyone who is financially able purchases an animal to sacrifice. The animal must be killed in accordance with Islamic law in order to be considered Halal or permissible. This entails a short prayer of blessing while slitting the animal’s throat, giving careful attention to drain all the blood. The meat is then shared with family, friends and the poor. The celebration happens all over the Muslim world but it is certainly not limited to Muslim countries. Here in the United States I have seen goats and even a cow sacrificed to celebrate Eid. It is always a treat to see the interaction of my Muslim friends with rural South Carolina farmers negotiating the purchase price of an animal.
Several years ago, I memorized the story of Abraham and Isaac so that I could go to the Mosque and share it with my Muslim friends during this celebration. As I entered the mosque my friends greeted me with excitement, “Eid Mubarik” or “happy Eid!” The atmosphere reminded me of Christmas celebrations. The food was abundant. Everyone had on new clothes. The mood was genuinely joyous. I sat down with a small group of guys I knew fairly well from previous mosque visits. I told them how I had memorized the story concerning Abraham and his son and asked if they would like to hear the story. Everyone wholeheartedly agreed and so I began: “God told Abraham to go to a mountain and sacrifice his son…” but before I could continue, a young man interrupted, saying, “I have heard this story, it’s about Abraham and his son Ishmael.” Someone else in the group replied, “no, the story is not about Ishmael, it’s about Isaac.” Within seconds people began taking sides. My friends looked to me and said, “Well, which is it?”
The greeter at the door completely ignored her, as did others. Wandering around in an attempt to find her own way she felt like a leper and a pariah.
Wondering what would happen if a Muslim had a dream about Jesus and wandered into a church, she teamed up with a Muslim female friend for a scary experiment. (The Muslim friend said she would be terrified to try such a thing herself.) They decided to attend a church as first-time visitors. She wore a hijab (head covering), while her American-looking Muslim friend discreetly sat two rows back, and took notes. It didn’t go well. Someone (probably a plain clothes police officer) practically sat in her lap throughout the service! As Islamic radicals continue to carry out unspeakable acts of violence, Muslims will become increasingly feared, hated and shunned in Western society. Knowing how Jesus responded to Samaritans in his day tells us how he would want his followers to reach out to Muslims today.