In 2016 I had the privilege of visiting Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. What I found there pushed my understanding of acceptable Christianity to its limits. Because there, in the birthplace of Christianity, a new church is rising. And it’s full of new believers from a Muslim background.
One night in Bethlehem we arranged to meet with a young couple and their newborn son. The mother, Sally, began to share her story.
Image: Street scene and markets in Bethlehem.
She was born into an Islamic family with four sisters and three brothers. Her father was an extremist. She remembers as a child how often he spoke about starting Jihad – waging war for Islam.
When Sally was 14, her sister developed an eye problem and her family couldn’t afford medical treatment. A church gave them the money they needed, but they also wanted to share the gospel. They gave Sally a Bible.
Christians from a Muslim background often take all the spiritual discipline they learnt in Islam and point it towards Jesus.
She felt that although she did many good things, God still didn’t love her. Sally ended up deciding to become an atheist. But after three months she found it very difficult. “You can’t just stop talking to God after a lifetime of doing it.”
She kept reading the Bible the church had given her. “I was Muslim but I now need to be Christian,” she prayed.
That night she had a dream that her whole family were together in heaven. They were lining up to see Jesus. Sally had been searching for God all her life, and now she had finally found Him.
After the dream, Sally decided to follow Jesus. To this day she still hasn’t told her family because of fear of persecution.
“As a Muslim I used to pray five times a day to a god who terrified me,” she said. “Then when I met Jesus, a God of grace who reached down to us, I prayed 10 times a day.”
There is a new church rising, and sometimes it looks a little different.
Christians from a Muslim background often take all the spiritual discipline they learnt in Islam and point it towards Jesus. They memorise the scriptures from cover to cover and are bold and passionate evangelists.
They might pray five times a day using a prayer mat, but instead of Mecca, they face Jerusalem (quite similar to Daniel 6:10). They often still fast for the whole month during Ramadan, but now in pursuit of Jesus.
They are unwilling to let their Christian friends live out a half-hearted faith in Jesus. It’s all or nothing. Because for them, leaving Islam to follow Jesus can cost them everything.
Image: Messianic Jews and Arab believers study the Bible together at the Sea of Galilee.
For Christians, this is the time of year we come together to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Jesus spent the later part of His life performing miracles, fellowshipping with His disciples and committed to building His Church.
I believe God is still building His Church today.
So are we willing to stand with our new brothers and sisters, as part of a global body of Christ?
Jesus is building a new church. This Christmas, I’d love if we could stand together to support Christians living out their faith in some of the hardest places on earth.
Send a message of hope to Abdu, a 15 year-old Christian from the Middle East who is having a tough time…
Give a gift worth giving. Check out our Secret Santa page to give a gift of hope to persecuted children on someone’s behalf…
This post is taken from the blog of our friends at Open Doors Australia.
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.