Earlier this month, I made a new friend named Prema* who is an MBB, which stands for “Muslim Background Believer,” meaning someone who grew up in a Muslim family but now follows and puts her faith in Jesus Christ. She loves Jesus so much that her every word is filled with His truth and she cannot contain the fire within her soul to share how Jesus is moving in her life and the lives of people around her. As Prema shared her testimony, I was moved by so much of what she said. One section of her story in particular made me aware of my own pride.
In her story of following Jesus, one of the main characters is an American woman named Rachel* who became friends with Prema. This is an unlikely friendship, as Prema is from Bangladesh and there are many, many differences between American and Bengali culture. Yet Rachel followed God’s prodding to befriend Prema and share Christ’s love and truth with her. Prema explained how, after some time, Rachel gave her a Bible in her first language of Bengali. But this Bible was translated by William Carey, and as soon as Prema said this, my chest puffed up with pride, because I was certain that translation was the wrong choice for any Muslim. I quickly interjected my knowledge of how William Carey translated the Bible from a Hindu understanding of the language, using the word for “god” that conjured up the image of an idol, which is extremely offensive to Muslims, among other major translation errors. Prema agreed with me and explained how, reading through that Bible, she struggled each time she encountered the word “god” and could not make significant progress in reading the Word of God. However, as she continued to tell her story, she lovingly described how Rachel was a consistent presence in her life, always listening and never judging, and showing up to pray with and for her at vital moments, including when Prema wanted to take her own life. Rachel acted as Christ’s hands and feet throughout five years of consistent relationship, led Prema to the foot of the Cross and Prema’s life has never been the same.
As I contemplated Prema’s story, I had this thought: Anything done out of love will never prevent someone from following God. Only actions done out of selfishness, pride, and hate by so-called Christians deter others from the true God. I may have all sorts of knowledge about which translations of the Bible are best to share with Muslims, but God’s love will not shine through if my actions come from a place of pride. Other times, I let fear of the unknown and ignorance about other cultures deter me from sharing Christ’s love. Once again, that is an example of relying on my own knowledge rather than on God to intervene in my limitations, just as He did in Rachel and Prema’s relationship.
If you give a Muslim a Bible…
…she’s going to ask for you to love her first.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1
*names changed for privacy