“Can I tell you a secret?” My friend Ali said to Ethan as they were leaving the Gym a couple weeks ago.
“Last night I asked Jesus into my life.”
Now, a conversation like that one is always exciting, but it’s even better if you know the back story.
You see, Ali is Muslim. His family is Muslim. His country is 99.98% Muslim. And so becoming a follower of Jesus is a big deal.
A few weeks earlier, as we were talking about the cost of following Jesus (looking at Luke 9 and 10), Ali said, “You know, I’m not a Christian yet. I’m still Muslim. But if I were to start following Jesus, I would lose all my friends and most of my family.” Wow. Here’s a guy who considered the cost of following Jesus and found Him worth following.
Let me go back a few steps because the whole story of how we’ve gotten to know each other and how Ali came to follow Jesus is really exciting.
We met this fall in a Starbucks in a freshman dorm at BU. Ali and his friends had been in America for over a month, but my friend and coworker Patty was the first American to say, “Hello,” to them. Ali and his friends started hanging out with us at social things – boat cruises, apple picking, etc. and Ali started coming to our men’s small group too.
Throughout the fall, Ali came to our Bible study every week. He was often apologetic to be asking so many questions, but we loved it. It is always so refreshing to have non-Christians in our midst as we open the Bible.
We spent the fall connecting with Ali, praying for him, and doing life together. I’m reminded of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the Gospel of God but our lives as well” (1 Thess 2:8).
As he left for Christmas break, my friends Todd and Ethan gave Ali a copy of the New Testament (that’s the Injeel in Arabic) and a copy of the Jesus Film. Ali devoured them. Over break, he watched the Jesus Film, a movie that reenacts the Gospel of Luke, three times – often late at night once his roommate had fallen asleep. He read a couple of the Gospels. And he came back to campus with pages and pages of questions.
Then came the small group Bible study I led on Luke 9. I was trying to show my students that there was a great cost of following Jesus. Here’s the passage we were looking at:
“As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.”
But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”
And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”
Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62)
I wanted my guys to know that it’s costly to follow Jesus. Ali said, “You know, I’m not a Christian yet. I’m still Muslim. But if I were to start following Jesus, I would lose all my friends and most of my family… but I’m still interested. I’m figuring it out. And I really like you guys.” Wow. Here’s a guy who considered the cost of following Jesus and found Him worth following.
Just a week later, Ali met with Ethan and told him his secret. “Last night I asked Jesus into my life.”
Ali said that as he had been reading the Bible, “I was trying to find something bad that Jesus said. That was stupid.” Once he realized that, it all made sense.
As I look back, one of the things I’ve realized is that our relationship with Ali made the Gospel plausible and interesting – he saw the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ lived out in our lives. Then the story of Jesus became very interesting, and it’s the Gospel that won Ali over.
When I heard that Ali had begun to follow Jesus, I started to cry. What a privilege it has been to work with Ali this year.
The next night, I joined Ethan, Ali, and a bunch of Ali’s friends at a BU Hockey Game. After the game, I went back to Ali’s place and had a great conversation about spiritual things. Now Ali hasn’t told his friends that he’s started following Jesus yet, but, of course, I’m a Christian. So it was totally natural for us to talk about Islam and Christianity. We had a great time exploring spiritually.
As the night ended, Ali leaned over to me. “How do you learn how to share about Jesus with Muslims? I feel like I’m going to need to know how to do that a lot.”
Doesn’t that get you excited for what God’s doing here in Boston? Have you ever had conversations with Muslim friends about their spiritual journeys? Tell us your stories in the comments.