“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind… Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:1-2, 5 ESV).
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 ESV).
Yesterday, I spent an hour on a Facebook Messenger video call with my great friend and former college roommate, who now lives in Istanbul, Turkey. It was great catching up with him and hearing how God is blessing his gospel ministry among the Muslim majority people in Istanbul. When we talk, it’s as if we have not been separated by time and geography because of the deep love and brotherhood that we share in Christ for one another.
Speaking of time and geography, he spoke of the strategic time and place of living in Istanbul during one of the most massive human migrations in modern times. He said his church has been inundated with Syrian refugees streaming into Turkey on their way to Greece and Europe. He said that it’s not just Syrians, but Iranians, Iraqis and other Middle Eastern peoples who are coming across Turkey’s porous border seeking to find a safer and more peaceful home for their families.
One of the ministries that he and his church offer is an English club. Both the resident Turks and the migrating Middle Easterners want to learn English to improve their opportunities in the world economy. English is the language of the world’s marketplace.
The English club that he leads offers a place to learn and practice conversational English with members of his church. It is not outwardly Christian, but they do not “bait and switch” people into coming in for English learning and then, surprise them with a high pressure gospel appeal. They really just teach English.
Yet, according to the Arabic and Turkish speaking peoples who attend there to learn English, “There is something special, something loving and peaceful about the teachers who facilitate the club.”
My friend reported that several have asked to learn how to become Christians after attending the club.
“Why?” I asked him. “If you’re not doing evangelism and explaining the gospel, why would they be asking about how to become a Christian?”
He said, “They tell us it’s because of the way we treat one another. And because of the way we treat them. One mother and her son attended together and she said that they have never felt such peace and love as she and her son feel when they are with us. She wants to have what we have.”
“But did you say something about the gospel or being Christian?” I asked.
“No, I think it was the loving and peaceful presence of the Holy Spirit in our gathering that caused her to ask. Of course, we were more than ready to tell her about Jesus when she expressed her interest. We live for these gospel opportunities.”
As my friend and I said our goodbyes, expressing the deep love and affection that we have had for one another for the last 38 years, I was reminded of how that was the very love that was attracting the people in Istanbul to his English club.
Many of us are quick to say what we think of Muslims. We are often motived by fear and distrust, so we express ourselves accordingly. But do we ever ask, “What do Muslims think of us?”
For that matter, do we ever wonder what anyone thinks of us? What do our neighbors, co-workers, fellow students, family members and others think of us? I suppose the answer has a lot to do with what we think of one another, with what kind of attitude we have towards fellow believers.
The apostle Paul challenged the Christians in Philippi to have the same mind as Christ, towards one another, to be like-minded, loving, and serving the same purpose together. Jesus described it even more simply by saying, “People will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
My conversation with my friend in Istanbul reminded me that the community of Christ-followers, living, loving and serving together in unity, is the best and truest apologetic for those who would consider Christ. Ultimately, what Muslims and others, think of us, will affect what they think of Christ.