So, I finally did it. I had one of those “talks” that people on these kinds of trips dream of. Before I go into detail, I just want to say that any good that came out of it was spoken by my Father alone. Also, I may be excited that it happened, but trust me when I say my heart breaks even more for these people after talking to this young Islamic student.
I am sorry if you are offended if you claim such a religion, but I will never be sorry for speaking my beliefs.
So, it all started out kinda randomly to be honest (sometimes He works in such weird ways right?) I was sitting outside one of the schools and talking with one of our translators…let’s call him Abe. He is around my age and a student who wants to go into theater and script writing; being a theater hobbyist, I was extremely interested and found good conversation in his company.
One of my little friends came up and I complimented on her performance in a group choir for a program we had done earlier (Yes…they also made me sing Adele for this program…again). She then spoke in the native language to which Abe translated that she likes to sing Quranic songs. Something (or someone) within me added “I like to sing songs from my religion too.” Abe translated for her, to which she giggled and ran off. He then turned to me and asked what my religion is, to which I told the truth (This is safe because they pretty much assume that most people from the US are followers. This is often a bad thing, but that’s a different subject matter).
This led to a good discussion on the differences in our religions. He first started out by saying that he felt they were very similar. To this I replied that maybe in a few facts and people, yes, but I felt the underlying ideas were very different. The conversation kind of took off from there. I won’t bore you with the whole talk, but I’ll point out a couple of things about Islam that, yes, I have heard of before, but were stated rather blatantly throughout our discussion.
It’s All About What We Do
This is something that I figured would come up a lot should I ever have such a talk here. Tidbits of it are even found in the actions of fellow followers in the States! However, While we may think that many followers in the US act upon a very much works-based salvation in their hearts, at least they (hopefully) know in their head (through reading the Word) that they can’t rescue themselves through what they do. Here it seems that the entire religion is based on what they do to please Allah. Yeah, he may have spoken through their prophet, but after that, it feels like everyone is left wandering in the dark with their book, doing their best to “be good” with what they got.
The truth is we can’t be good. The Word even says that our good deeds are dirty cloths compared to our Father. Even if it was a deal of measuring between the “light side” and the “dark side,” how many more bad things have we done than good things? I don’t know about you, but for every great deed I do there are at least 10 more wrongdoings I commit (if not substantially more). So a works-based salvation just doesn’t work in my mind because literally no one could ever attain it. Unless you can tell me that I just sin more than everyone else. In that case I have no argument.
Before moving on, I want to add this one thought: Isn’t a religion where we are trying to rescue ourselves rather self-centered? I mean when you think about it, the thought that we can even save ourselves from all the horrible stuff we do (and yes, WE ALL do wrong every day, whether in our hearts or in our actions) is rather egotistical.
They Don’t Get Grace
Grace is something that has been preached a lot ever since the world was turned upside down about two thousand years ago. As much as it is talked about, it is definitely something that just does not make sense. My friend Abe gave me this example “A man who goes to jail for a crime has to pay his own bail or face his own punishment, no one else can take the punishment or pay the bail for him.” Well, in a world that is “fair” in its strictest human definition, yes. But we always talk as if that was just another person. What do we think when we make that person us?
Even if you committed the worst crime imaginable, wouldn’t you love an official pardon from all that you have done? Or if you were in enormous debt at no ones fault but your own, would it not be wonderful to just one day get a call saying that it has all been payed for? I think most people would agree that these are more pleasant alternatives. These of course are imperfect examples as compared to the ultimate example. Even with the modern-day clarity they might give us, it still holds true that grace is something that does not seem right. Even Abe was quite confused when I attempted to clearly explain the idea. But when we are the ones about to be put on the scaffold it sure does seem nice.
The culture here, as beautiful as the people are, can be dark. Forgiveness and grace are choked out by works and sometimes twisted morals. It just seems that they do good for their own rescuing, while I have freedom to work because He rescued me.
Please keep Abe in your thoughts. The way that he so easily jumped into the conversation indicates that fact that he may be asking some questions, and I fervently hope that some day he will find the one true answer.
Also keep the us in your thoughts. This is a dark place, and it can be rather pressing on us, emotionally and even physically.