What Muslim Students Have Been Teaching Me About The Bible

Something’s happened this semester that I hadn’t anticipated: Muslim students have been consistently showing up to the Bible studies I help lead at HFCC. I’m not exactly sure why they’ve been coming (although, if I had a similar chance to get to know the Quran alongside an open Muslim community, I’d probably do the same thing), but I’ve loved having them in on our conversations.

When I’ve mentioned this surprising development to some of my Christian friends, I’ve been met mostly with encouragement. “What a great opportunity!” I’ve been told. “You must be so excited to teach them about the Bible!”

And of course, I’m always eager to introduce students to Jesus—I think he’s pretty great. But what’s excited me most isn’t the occasional moments when we’ve taught Muslims about the Bible; it’s been the consistent ways they’ve helped us Christians understand the gospel.

The world Jesus was born into overlaps so frequently with the cultural context of Muslim students; there are so many similarities between Islamic culture and first century Palestine. Despite not sharing our understanding of Jesus, Muslim students often get these stories better than I do.

Each time we get together, I’m surprised by the aspects of the story my Western eyes refused to see, cultural dynamics that are immediately apparent to an Iraqi immigrant. In ways that I never could, Muslim students get the scandal of the prodigal son longing for pig food, the local tensions between Jews and Samaritans, and (especially) the social and familial cost of leaving everything to follow Jesus.

Or, to use an example from yesterday morning, Muslim students really seem to grasp the depth of the controversy surrounding Jesus eating with tax-collectors. As one student explained as we read Luke 19, “It’d be shameful and sinful for me eat my lunch next to a bank manager, for instance. He makes his living by collecting interest from others and exploiting them. If I ate at the same table as him, my meal would become like dung.”

He continued, “So it makes sense that the whole town would have been shocked that Jesus was a guest at Zacchaeus’ house. No holy person would do that. He must have seen something in the tax collector that no one else saw.”

I can’t think of a better way to describe what is happening in this story. Jesus broke all social expectations because he saw something in Zacchaeus that no one else saw: the image of God, the potential for change, a future as a Son of Abraham. And it was through that scandalous act that Jesus brought salvation to Zacchaeus’ house.

And I can’t help thinking that it’s through the scandalous act of trying to welcome the perspectives of every student at our table—Christian or not—that Jesus is bringing salvation to every person in our small groups.

All of us.

Especially me. 

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The Best Donation I’ve Ever Received

For DePaul students, today is the first day back to school after a seven week break, which means two things: (1) I’m suddenly very busy and excited about our plans for the upcoming months, and (2) I don’t have any recent stories from campus to share with you all, because it’s been closed for a while.

This isn’t to say I haven’t been doing anything for the past month; most of my time since Thanksgiving has been spent connecting families, alumni, and churches with the movement at DePaul and inviting them to join in through prayer, volunteering, and financial support. I’ve visited seven different states in the past seven weeks sharing stories and cultivating partnerships; chances are, if you’re getting reading this, you and I have talked sometime in the past month. (It was good to see you; you’re looking great!)

Speaking of partnership, as far as support goes, this past month has been incredibly encouraging. As I mentioned in my last update, it’s been a struggle to raise the money needed to fund our ministry on campus. However, in the past couple months, dozens of people have generously given extra gifts; an additional $9000 has been donated since October! What amazes me most about this is that the majority of these recent gifts have come from people I’ve never actually met: alumni, their family and friends, and friends of current monthly donors. I can’t express how encouraging it is to experience God’s provision through the generosity of strangers!

Which brings me to the story I promised in the title, the story of “the best donation I’ve ever received.”

When I got home last week, after spending most of the month out of town, I found a large manila envelope leaning against my door, with a return address from Kentucky. Reaching inside, I found this card, from a couple I met only briefly when I spoke at a church they were visiting in Michigan:

encouragement card

And this stack of coloring pages:

encouragement coloring pictures

This is awesome for so many reasons.

Our theme for this quarter is “embodying God’s love.” I can’t think of a better example of God’s love embodied than this group of kids working hard on some coloring pages to support a group of strangers at a university in a city they’ve never visited. They couldn’t help fund our ministry or volunteer to mentor a freshman, and they’re still just learning how to pray. But they did what they could, and it made my day.

These coloring pages sum up what has been so moving about my recent season of support-raising. This past month, I’ve been reminded of the vast network of people across the country doing what they can—some giving $100’s of dollars each year, others praying every week, others inviting students into their homes—to embody God’s love for students at DePaul. And I’m filled with gratitude for each of you. It’s a joy to be the staff worker for the chapter here, but it’s an even greater joy to be a part of such a large team of generous families, loyal alumni, hospitable students, and now, artistic little kids.

To follow what’s happening with DePaul InterVarsity throughout the rest of the school year, click here. 

To support DePaul InterVarsity financially, click here.