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섹션 AFMI > 등록일 2011-05-20
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Become Like So They Remain Like
Harley Talman


Ihis brief article will examine what it means for the messenger/message to ―become like‖ the target people enabling those who believe to ―remain like‖ their people and a mass movement to emerge.

BECOME LIKE


Before I had ever met a Muslim, I took a seminary course on Islam. I was shocked by the theological mis-understandings Muslims had about Christianity. But in further readings, I found mission scholars who held that cultural, social and communal barriers[1] were even greater than the theological ones. The logical response was for us to emulate the apostle Paul's practice as ex-pressed in 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 and ―become like‖ those we seek to reach.
19 For since I am free from all I can make myself a slave to all, in order to gain even more people.
20 To the Jews I became like a Jew to gain the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) to gain those under the law.
21 To those free from the law I became like one free from the law (though I am not free from God‘s law but under the law of Christ) to gain those free from the law.
22 To the weak I became weak in order to gain the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that by all means I may save some.
Paul became like the people he sought to win: those whose religion had biblical origins (Jews), pagan gen-tiles who were ―free from the [Mosaic] law‖, and even the ―weak‖ whose religious scruples kept them from enjoying the benefits of Christian freedom. So when I moved to a Muslim country, I ―became like‖ the local Muslims. I wore a full beard like the religious, and im-mersed myself in the culture and religion. Consequently, I was often asked ―Are you a Muslim?‖ This provided abundant and natural opportunities to share my faith. Moreover, I studied the Qur'an and memorized helpful verses. Over time, I was able to share key biblical truths and correct misunderstandings and objections to the gospel using Arab proverbs, Islamic concepts and Qur'anic verses. I saw that the more I ―became like‖ my Muslim friends, the greater was their comprehension and acceptance of biblical truth.

REMAIN LIKE


But what happens to Muslims after they come to faith in Christ? Muslims who embrace the gospel have been encour-aged, expected or compelled to become like the national Chris-tians and/or Western missionaries. They became ―converts‖ - not only in Christian faith, but also in culture, lifestyle, reli-gious identity and practice. Their becoming ―Christians‖ and joining the Christian community (most of whom were only cultural Christians) has resulted in persecution and expulsion from the Muslim community--not necessarily for following Christ, but for bringing shame upon their family, rejecting their culture, and betraying their community. This phenome-non has not only been unfortunate, but often unnecessary and unscriptural, contradicting apostle Paul's instructions in 1 Co-rinthians 7:17-24:
17 Nevertheless, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each person, so must he live. I give this sort of direction in all the churches.
18 Was anyone called after he had been circumcised? He should not try to undo his circumcision. Was anyone called who is uncircumcised? He should not get circumcised.
19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Instead, keeping God‘s commandments is what counts.
20 Let each one remain in that situation in life in which he was called.
21 Were you called as a slave? Do not worry about it. But if indeed you are able to be free, make the most of the op-portunity.
22 For the one who was called in the Lord as a slave is the Lord‘s freedman. In the same way, the one who was called as a free person is Christ‘s slave. 23 You were bought with a price. Do not become slaves of men. 24 In whatever situation someone was called, brothers and sisters, let him remain in it with God
The essence of the principle is for the believer ―to remain in the condition in which he was called.‖ While the preceding context concerns remaining in one's marital situation, here the principle applies to religious, social and cultural identity. If someone came to faith while a Jew (circumcised), he should not seek to change that (through surgical procedure - v.18). Likewise, gentiles should not seek to be circumcised and ad-here to the Mosaic law and Jewish way of life. In all cases, remaining in one's situation involves social, cultural, and reli-gious affiliations.
What are the reasons that the apostle advocated ―remaining like‖? This passage surfaces at least three: first, ―the Lord has assigned to each one‖ (v. 17) the situation in which he was called - his station is God-given. (cf. Acts 17:26). Second, the believer can remain with an unbelieving spouse and yet not be defiled. In fact, the presence of the believer ―sanctifies‖ the unbelieving mate (v. 14). Third, remaining in one's place may bring salvation to that partner (vv.12-16).
These are also hold true with regard to the larger social com-munity of the one who remains. God assigned the Muslim fol-lower of Christ to the Muslim community. His association with Muslims who do not believe and live like him does not defile him; rather his presence ―sanctifies‖ the community for God's purposes. Most importantly, by remaining among them, the gospel of salvation can move through the believer's entire network of relationships, making possible a movement to Christ.

BECOME LIKE … REMAIN LIKE


These two truths are tied together. Messenger and message must ―become like‖ the community to promote maximum acceptance. Likewise, those who believe must ―remain like‖ their people if a movement is to emerge. I like the way a friend stated it: ―We become like so they can remain like.‖ Sounds good, but what might it look like?
My team is now engaged in an contextualized ministry to Muslims in Africa. We have adapted to their culture and relig-ion, and sought to incarnate God's love through holistic humanitarian work, despite insecurity and physical dangers. We have trained the area's sheiks (tribal chiefs and village elders) in community health development. This has opened doors for us to teach them about spiritual health and the message of our holy scriptures that the Qur'an testifies to. We made it clear that we are not asking them to change their identity and be-come ―Christians,‖ but rather to become citizens in the king-dom of God.
In keeping with traditional decision making processes, the sheiks interacted with our new teaching to reach group consen-sus, so that well over 100 Muslim sheiks trusted in Jesus as the Messiah who has authority to forgive their sins. They continue to perform salat (ritual prayers) and fasting, but according to Jesus' instructions (cf. Mt. 6). Most importantly, they are in a position to lead the thousands of people in their villages to become like them in their allegiance to Christ and the Bible, while remaining Muslim in identity and culture. It's that sim-ple: We become like so they remain like.(AFMI/ASFM)

Dr. Harley Talman and his family served with Christar for 24 years in church planting and theological education in the Arab world. He has studied at Dallas and Fuller Seminaries and is a professor of Islamic, biblical and mission studies in Southern California. He is involved in mission mobilization and training as well through ―Encounter Islam‖ program.

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