Recently, a friend of a friend told me that a pastor from Jordan would be visiting my area and would have time for a small get-together and lunch. I’m a rather eclectic fellow and did not want to pass up such a wonderful opportunity to glean from the wisdom and perspective of a church leader in such a vastly different environment. So, I met with and listened to the stories of this Jordanian preacher, and many of his words are worth sharing, but one in particular struck my soul.
This man serves a congregation that meets across the street from a Muslim Brotherhood office. His congregation is persecuted – not just shamed and ridiculed, but physically persecuted. He told us the country is estimated to be 0.004% Christian, and they are not welcome by “the majority,” his designation for Muslims and Islam. He told us stories of Christians being killed while they worship, and he told us of how he was raised to resent and resist his Muslim neighbors, a likely relatable and (for better or worse) justifiable response.
Until one day, when bringing and installing a water filtration system at a church in a neighboring village, he decided to change his strategy. There was an ISIS cell group close to this church, and they had just killed fourteen Christians at the church just a week or two prior to his visit. In an attempt to love his neighbors, he raised the funds and purchased a second water filtration system for the mosque next door. Knowing that he very well might die for his act of love and generosity, he knocked on the literal, physical door of ISIS and, as a Christian, offered them clean water.
He did not know what would happen. Perhaps they would kill him on the spot, or drag it out and make an example of him. Perhaps they would punish the Christian community in the village for his actions. He did not know what to expect. What he knew were the words that had been haunting him: “If love doesn’t change them, love them more.” In what he can only describe as a message from God, these words had driven him to change his view of his Muslim neighbors. He found himself turning from resentment to love, from resistance to compassion. So, in an effort to change the relationship between Islam and Christianity, he chose to show love to his very real and very dangerous neighbors.
The mosque accepted the gift graciously. They took him into their homes, fed him well, and treated him as an honored guest. They committed themselves to treating the other Christians in their village with greater respect, vowing not to harm them again. They even helped negotiate a deal with the local government to provide the Christians with more land so that they might expand their facilities.
With one act of love, an ISIS cell that was responsible for the deaths of fourteen Christians changed their behavior from hatred to respect. The choice to love his enemies brought peace to that village.
Take what you will from this story. I choose to take hope that love wins. I choose to see the possibilities of peace that can come from love. And I choose to be challenged to adopt the same principle in my own walk of faith, that I might love others – my neighbors and my enemies – and if love doesn’t change them, to love them more.