Love Like Dogs Love
By Carl Medearis
In a World full of animosity and confrontation here's a better approach.
"One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life. That word is love." ~ Socrates
"Love never fails." ~ The apostle Paul to the Corinthians
Zoe is our family’s nine-year-old golden retriever. I know it’s not fair that our kids had to share a chapter while our dog gets a whole chapter, but she has a point to make. Plus, Zoe is amazing. Smart. Obedient. Personal. And everyone loves her.
I’ll come back to my dog in a moment.
I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon among some missionaries to Muslims in my over thirty years of working in that vineyard. It’s sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. With several variations, it goes something like this: Muslim soil is hard. By that I mean it takes years of building relationships with them before we can effectively share the good news of Jesus Christ. They are sometimes antagonistic to the gospel, and many of the countries where Muslims are the majority do not like us and what we do. The work of church planting is difficult, dangerous, and downright daunting (you might call them the three Ds of Muslim missions)!
Do you mind if I bring up a story I shared earlier in this book? It’s when I went to Yemen as a twenty-year-old kid. You may recall that I spoke to the head of a large mission there who ran a hospital. A wonderful man. He and his wife were having their retirement party—going back to the United States after twenty-two years of faithful service. I was so excited to meet a real live missionary to Arab Muslims and so disappointed when he told me that in all that time, he had seen only two or three Yemenis come to the Lord. As wives sometimes do with us overexaggerating husbands, his wife even gently chided him:
“Honey, I’d say one for sure and maybe two.”
I tried to smile but couldn’t. I didn’t know what to say, or even what to think. They looked like they were okay with those numbers. I had been told—many times over—that Arab Muslims were “difficult” and not to expect too much fruit. So this seemed to simply confirm that teaching. Twenty-two years, and one, two, or maybe three Arab Muslims came to follow Jesus. There you have it. Teaching principle #1 confirmed.
I know the verses. They’re in the Bible. The way is narrow. Like a camel going through the eye of a needle. The parable of the soil—only one in four seeds seems to make it. The odds are not in our favor. Few will be chosen. And it seems like Muslims are the fewest of the few. We have theology to back up our experience.
This task is difficult. Or is it?
Back to my golden retriever. It has to be at least a bit interesting to think for a moment about which comes first: most people liking my dog because my dog is inherently friendly—or my dog is so friendly because everyone likes her. Do you see the difference? Zoe has never met a “stranger.” Everyone is her best friend. She never stops to think, Hmmm, I wonder if that guy over there is a dog person. Zoe thinks everyone is a dog person. She gets confused when someone doesn’t lean over and pet her while making silly human noises.
So everyone likes Zoe. They tell us things like, “You have the nicest dog,” or ask, “Are all golden retrievers this friendly?”
Yes, Zoe loves people. And people love her. But again, which came first? I think it’s Zoe’s assumption that every person in the world will love her—and then they do. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
And that’s what I think about Arab Muslims. I’ve met tens of thousands in my thirty-plus years of spending time in every Arabic-speaking nation. They all like me. From the Al Azhar University and Seminary in Cairo and the imams of Saudi Arabia, to the Hezbollah of southern Lebanon and the Hamas of Palestine, Arabs respond positively to me—and to our message of Jesus the Messiah. In every instance—100 percent of the time. Okay, one time a guy got angry at me. So 99.9 percent of the time. Why do you think this is?
It’s because I assume Arab Muslims will like me. And more important, I assume they will want to hear the message of Jesus. And then they do. It is not because I’m so nice—or good-looking, suave, or debonair. Nope. It’s just because I assume that Muslims will like me.
For every verse that sounds like Jesus is hard to get to and the path to him is narrow with tons of obstacles, I will show you five that are the opposite. They are inviting. Open. Easy. Remember James’s end point in Acts 15:19? “We should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” Maybe we are the ones making it hard on Muslims to see and believe in and follow Jesus. They are not hard at all. They respond easily to Jesus.
The crowds loved Jesus. They followed him en masse. They wanted to make him king. Children came to him—and kids always know who’s right on and who’s messed up. Kids like only adults who like them. Same principle. And the kids and the poor and the sick—all those who had been disenfranchised by the system—came to Jesus. They sensed he was for them!
I have found that when I assume someone wants to know me and hear what I have to say, they do. This is not positive thinking on my part. It’s not a method. It’s faith working through love. Jesus loves
Muslims people. I love what and who Jesus loves, so I love Muslims people. And when I love them, they love me back. We form bonds of trust. They give me access to their hearts, and I share with them the best news they’ll ever hear.
It really is that simple. Perfect love casts out fear. And it can also be the other way around—fear can cast out love.
Let’s be like Zoe.
It is wonderful to see someone for a change write about nice and friendly Muslims. I am tired of hearing about nothing but fanatical machete-wielding, machine toting Muslims. The fanatical organizations have all been created to cause FEAR. The average Muslim is not interested in the Fanatical Muslim image. The situation in Western Europe is very sad. On the one hand I do think the West should help genuine REFUGEES, but too many of those coming into the West are not real refugees. I am seeing a tendency now in both Europe and the USA for a serious public backlash against having any more REFUGEES coming into the West. In a way I blame the Media for trying to paint all Muslims with the same brush of 'potential fanatism'. All the Muslims I have ever met in the UK have only been friendly and helpful. The Media blames the Muslims for not integrating into Western society. Why? Could it just be that the West had lost its sense of Morals and human dignity and faith in God? The West has become largely atheistic which is indeed abhorrent to Muslims. Those who believe in God or Allah, like to be together with other believers. This is perfectly understandable. My daughter started a new job as a chef at a restuarant.One of her assistants is a Syrian refugee newcomer. He is also Muslim. My daughter tells me that he is a very sweet person and knows about living under harsh conditions. Here he just wants to learn and improve his situation. My daughter sees him as a friend. in my opinion is that as Christians we should do more to befriend the Muslims so that they don't feel isolated.
I would like to add a little different angle on this good testimony .As a ex-moslem ,my life was in extreme danger ,each time I travelled in moslem countries .It seems that arab moslems respect more white people ,when they talk about their religion or when they befriend them .( a prophet is not received by his own .??) As for me ,I had to practically hide my new religion with Jesus to save my neck ,in these moslem countries .Still I have a few real friends who came to me for "christian" prayers to help them with their problems ,but they really have to hide their "christians tendencies " .I know some who were beaten .and almost killed .Love in Jesus
I really like the dog story. So true: expecting succes is half the victory. I experienced it in Asia, in Europe, and by God's grace soon in Latin-America. - It was a beautiful reminder! Thank you! - Love, Filip