Once you are good enough friends with a Muslim person to be ready to engage in a productive dialogue about the differences between Islam and Christianity, there are many aids at your disposal:
1. Pray for your friend regularly — 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Pray that you can share truth in a loving way and not screw up (Colossians 4:2-4). Let your Muslim friend know you pray for him or her. If you do pray aloud, make sure it’s short, warm and conversational, not formal and preachy. Muslims don’t have a concept of a relationship with God. So they are very impressed when your spoken prayers reveal that you know and love God, and believe He knows and loves you, individually and distinctly. When you believe the time is right, share your personal testimony — how you came to saving faith — how you know God is real and is Who He says He is in the Bible. They may or may not have a story to share in return, and that’s OK.
2. Both of you need your eyes opened in a non-judgmental, “safe” way. Now is the time to use your God-given minds! Engage in a factual, respectful and accurate Bible course written specifically for Muslims and Christians to study together. There are several available. Here’s a good one:
3. Resolve to practice “empathetic listening” to one another. Keep the dialogue friendly and conversational, not confrontational or adversarial. There are many misunderstandings on both sides. For example, I was visiting a Muslim friend’s home and saw the Qur’an stored on the highest shelf in the living room. She said no one in the family ever opened it up and read it or studied it. They considered that to be disrespectful. I felt bad about this, because I felt that left them open to possible damaging misinterpretation of their imam. Later, I showed her my 20-year-old Bible, which was worn out and highlighted, with corners bent down and a few pages loose, and she could not believe I could do that to God’s holy Word. I showed her my concordance and the hundreds of Christian reference books I own. I tried to explain that the Christian concept is that the real Bible is the meaning of it, not the physical pages of it. I believe the beat-up state of that Bible was actually pleasing to God because it signaled that I turned to His Word a lot, constantly tried to improve my understanding of it, and tried to live by it every day. God came down to Earth in the Person of Jesus Christ, so He didn’t think His Word was too good for us to handle. I think she understood, but it was a surprise to both of us.
4. Practice hospitality. Definitely invite a Muslim and family to your home for a meal, and always accept a reciprocal invitation. Ask what you can bring, but don’t be surprised if they don’t want you to; it is a very bad deal if they eat something that is not allowed under Islam. Definitely ask your friend to coach you on etiquette of being in a Muslim person’s home and eating in the correct manner, to meet the Islamic need for honor in everything you do. DEFINITELY make sure when it is your turn to host that you are not serving anything that is forbidden to them, such as ham or pork. Not even one bacon bit should be in sight! You do more damage through ignorance than anything else. So don’t be ignorant! It’s a good idea to pray as you normally do, before the meal, but clue your guests in so that they don’t feel “roped in.” Word to the wise: lock away your household pets, including cats and dogs. They are considered dirty. One time we had a Muslim family over for dinner, and it was such a nice night, we decided to eat outside on the patio. Well, our barn cat zoomed right over, seeking scraps, and I thoughtlessly reached down to pet her. I saw the dad of the family recoil in horror. I apologized, shooed the cat away, and jumped up and washed my hands. But he was still very insulted. Gulp! So be very mindful, and get your home prepared to show the utmost respect.
5. Many Muslims-turned-Christian say that the major difference between the two faith systems is the assurance of salvation. Christians, who voice a belief in Jesus Christ’s divinity and resurrection, have that assurance. Muslims say that no one can ever be sure that he or she will enter paradise. Making sure never to demean, ridicule, dismiss or denigrate the Muslim person’s beliefs, you can humbly say what you believe about heaven, and ask the Muslim person to share his or her own concept.The Socratic method of communication — asking questions — might be a very good way to bring out this difference. Don’t comment one way or the other, but ask the questions that will delve into the Muslim person’s concept of paradise and Who lives there, and listen very carefully and speak very thoughtfully, to make sure that the Muslim person is the one drawing conclusions, and you are not drawing them FOR the person. You know you are doing well when the Muslim person asks questions about Who Jesus is. Believe me: they want to know, and many, if not most of them, do not know.
6. Practice the Biblical principle of apologizing and asking for forgiveness FIRST, even if deep down you think the “other” should do the same back to you. In this case, many Muslims are still perceiving hurts over past clashes involving the Crusades several centuries ago in Europe. Though it could be argued that the Muslims brought that on themselves by warring against Jerusalem, capturing it, and blocking Christian and Jewish entry, and the fatalities were about equal on both sides of the Crusades battles. But don’t bring those up, for they may be seen as defensive. One episode in particular does demand an apology from Christians, even today: there was a massacre of mostly Muslim women and children in Jerusalem, and the death toll was 3,000. Though that pales compared to the hundreds of millions of non-combatants killed by Muslim invasions over the centuries, it is still completely out of Christian character, and should be confessed, mourned, apologized for and pardon sought. That may go a long way toward reconciling with a Muslim person. And it’s the right thing to do, as a Christian, anyway.
7. Be a friend, even if the person shuts down any further discussion about spiritual things. Just live life alongside him or her! Share a recipe, make a call about a job for a teenager, give a ride, suggest a doctor or dentist, spontaneously invite to a movie or out for a walk. Of course you should not allow yourself to be used, or let the person become dependent on you — that’s not a Christian “good” — and it is true that there are some Muslims who fake friendships with Christians just to get intel about other Muslims who might be close to leaving Islam. So be wise and play your cards right. Keep being yourself and trusting in the truth and power of the Gospel. Even if you never hear those beautiful words: “Will you lead me to Christ?” you can have the priceless fulfillment of knowing that your friend loves you and trusts you. Remember, love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8), so every second you invest in your friend will pay off somehow — not the least of which in maturing you in your own faith!