He's considered a leading expert in the U.S. on Islamic leadership, and he's involved in middle east peace efforts with Tony Hall. He travels around Iraq with bodyguards, a motorcade, and helicopters overhead. He's won big-time medals for big-time whatever stuff. He's got degrees from everywhere, blah blah blah. Neat. His name is Dr. Monsieur...something.
A group of us from Florida sat in a hotel suite, and he told us about an interaction he'd had a few years ago with a man who told him he should follow Jesus. Dr. Monsieur Something thought about it, and decided to do just that.
It changed his life. Drastically. He studies Jesus, and tries to emulate Jesus, and wants to be revolutionary in peacemaking, like Jesus.
He's learning to love his neighbor, and love his enemies, and even forgive them. Because Jesus said to do so.
He says he believes that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He identifies himself readily as a Jesus-follower.
...and a Muslim. And that's when my head blew up.
He's from Lebanon, grew up Muslim, and hasn't repudiated his Islam. I respectfully asked him about this ("Can you synthesize Jesus's behavior and teachings with Muhammed's?") and wasn't satisfied with his answer.
Yet, as I say, and I'm a skeptical sort: He seemed genuine, truly committed to following Jesus, and convinced that Jesus was calling him to a life of radical servanthood, and he'd had a drastic change of heart regarding his enemies. He talked about how he'd had to struggle, then forgive those with debts against him. And he told them why. He follows Jesus.
Honestly? I think he holds beliefs that are in stark contradiction. I needn't enumerate them. Truth is, all of us do that, on a lot of things, but the whole thing sure made my head spin...
Why does this Muslim seem to understand the radical nature of following Jesus, when so many Christians don't?
Is there a reason I feel like I have to pronounce final judgment on this guy's ultimate status before God, as if it were up to me?
Is Jesus more pleased with a theologically-messed person who actually does the things he says, or someone who's got the right answers, but doesn't follow?
Carolyn, my brilliant wife, mentioned something about that time Jesus told the story of the two brothers. One said he'd do the farm-work, and then didn't, and the other said he wouldn't, but then did do it -- or something like that. And Jesus was more pleased with the guy with the wrong answer and the right action. I don't know if this is what Jesus was talking about.
There's a classic question: What about those who never hear about Jesus...? But now I've got another one. What about those who don't like Christianity, have a conflicting cultural/religious identity, but actually put Jesus in charge of their lives?
And, again, why do I feel like I have to figure everything out? What accounts for that?
My head hurt. Couldn't...process...new...thoughts...so while he was talking, I ate some of those mini-candy bars they left on the coffee table. I like the Krackel ones with the rice in the chocolate. I remembered someone suggested one time that I should make rice and put a bar of chocolate in the rice-cooker, too, and I thought that would taste pretty good, like Krackel, I thought. Maybe.