What should I do differently on Muslim soil? Biblical fidelity demands that I preach Christ and him crucified. But Muslims have no category for a crucified Savior. Then again, neither did the Jews, even Christ’s own disciples. The Greeks thought that a crucified God was lunacy, yet apostolic gospel proclamation was resolutely and stubbornly cross-shaped. The apostle Paul writes,
For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Co 1:21-25)
As I think ahead to pastoring an evangelical church in Sharjah, the United Arab Emirates, hailed as the capital of Islamic culture in the Arab world, I must admit my flesh is pulled in many different directions. I am tempted to think that my temptations are special. I am tempted to think that this context is special and that my task is unique, possibly revolutionary. The battle rages within my mind. So I draw near to the throne of grace with confidence, that I may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. I pray that I would trust in the foolishness of the cross and the power of gospel to open blind eyes and not give in to the temptation of removing the biblical offense of the cross. I pray that I would rejoice in the conversion of any soul and not be tempted to glamorize the conversions of certain ethnicities or religious backgrounds. I pray that I would strive to communicate truth clearly and not strive to impress men with lofty speech and worldly wisdom. I pray that I would rightly divide the word of truth and strive to be faithful and not be tempted to develop a worldly vision. I pray that I would be able to declare what a sovereign God has done in human history in Jesus Christ to save sinners from every tribe, tongue, and nation by his substitutionary atonement for his own glory and not be tempted to develop my own little theological niche. I pray that I would preach, baptize, make disciples and teach them to obey everything that Jesus commanded in the context of this local church and not be tempted to adopt novel church planting strategies. I pray that I would be able to shepherd the flock with care and compassion and not be tempted to manage an organization from an ivory tower. I pray that I would rejoice in God’s wisdom in ordaining a plurality of elders and resist the temptation to control everything. I pray that I would not shy away from teaching biblical church membership and discipline and resist the temptation to succumb to opinion polls and cultural pressures. I pray that I would be able to passionately teach about the glory of God and his grace in the local church and not be tempted to proclaim a church-less Christianity. I pray that I would be able to tell sinners saved by grace to boldly confess Christ before men and resist the hesitation to call saints to suffer for the name. So help me God. Abide with me.