When missionary doctor Martha Myers was shot and killed in Yemen in 2002, it may have looked like it started with hate.
But in reality, it started with love, said David Garrison, executive director of Global Gates and author of “A Wind in the House of Islam.”
Myers, an International Mission Board missionary from Alabama, had spent her life showing the women of that Muslim country what Jesus’ love looked like and one of those, a young woman struggling with infertility, had gone home and told her husband about it.
“She said to him, ‘No one has ever shown me the love that that doctor showed me,’” Garrison said.
“Her husband replied, ‘That kind of love would change my country and turn it upside down.’ He felt he had to stop it.”
The man might’ve responded with heartbreaking violence, but it’s that same gripping realization of love that is prompting other Muslims around the world to leave their religion behind and embrace Christ, Garrison said.
He knows that because he’s seen it happen over and over all around the world.
“In talking with former Muslims who now follow Christ, there were three surprising things within Islam that led many of them to look beyond Islam and ultimately find Jesus,” he said.
One of them, he said, is simply seeing who Jesus is.
If you ask Muslims to describe Muhammed, the founder of Islam, many of them describe someone who “sounds a lot like Jesus” — kind, loving and peaceable, Garrison said.
“Many Muslims don’t know the historical Muhammed,” he said. “They have heard stories, but they don’t know the man himself — a man who had multiple wives, accumulated a lot of wealth and territory and had a lot of blood on his hands.”
So many Muslims coming out of Islam to faith in Christ in recent decades are actually well-educated people, Garrison said. “They know the historical Muhammed’s character well, and when they compare it to Jesus, they say there’s no comparison.”
One thing Christians can do to encourage Muslims toward Jesus is to suggest they find out more about the Muhammed of history for themselves, he said.
That’s how Nabeel Qureshi, the author of “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus” came to faith, Garrison said.
“The Muhammed he grew up adoring was the sum of all virtues, a sugar-coated, idealized man. When he went back and read some of Islam’s own historical documents about the founder of Islam, he was stunned and horrified.”
Another seed of Islam that sometimes pushes Muslims toward Jesus is the Quran itself, Garrison said.
The Quran, Muslims’ holy book, was originally written in Arabic, but there’s been a trend in the past couple of decades of translating it into other languages, he said.
“It’s amazing how many Muslim background believers said that when they read the Quran in their own language, they realized for the first time that they were lost because there was no plan of salvation in the Quran.”
But even though there’s no sure forgiveness spelled out in the Quran, something else is mentioned in the Quran 96 times — Jesus.
“Jesus is venerated in the Quran,” Garrison said. Not everything in there about Jesus is accurate — and there are a lot of anti-gospel things in the Quran — but it does portray Jesus as “one of the righteous ones” and never mentions Him committing any sin.
Looking into Jesus
It’s enough to encourage an interest to look into who Jesus is, Garrison said. “Muslims who read it in their own language sometimes say, ‘I need to know more about Jesus.’ Then they read the New Testament and find a solution to their sin problem.”
A third seed of Islam that is driving many Muslims to the gospel is the violence within Islam, Garrison said.
Oftentimes it is Muslim-on-Muslim violence that compels many Muslims to seek a better way, he said. Other times it’s violence like the act that killed Myers in the Baptist hospital in Yemen 16 years ago.
“With conflict after conflict, sometimes Muslims say, ‘This cannot be Allah’s perfect will,’” Garrison said.
And today more than ever before, they have access to an alternative message through reading the Bible in their own language or through satellite TV or the internet.
“That’s opening up doors of gospel access,” he said.
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