Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country” . . . So Abram went, as the LORD had told him . . . Genesis 12:1-4
In today’s passage we’re introduced to Abram – or Abraham – the common Hebrew patriarch of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In Islam, Abraham is known as Ibrahim, which I only bring this up because in my clinic, a significant portion of the population knows me as Dr. Ibrahim. For 20 years, I’ve worked in a town with a significant Somali population, almost all of whom are Muslim. I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I was more than a little phobic of this population when I moved here in 2002, but over the last two decades, I’ve grown to love them. When they see my name – Abrams – most of them immediately recognize it as a variation of Abraham and so, they call me Dr. Ibrahim.
As I said, my relationship with this population has evolved over the years. Initially, after 9/11, I was suspicious of their motives for being here. As I came to know them though, I saw that, like me, they simply wanted to build a life for themselves and their children. Additionally, I’ve often been convicted by their commitment to their faith. I do believe in Christianity, and I do believe in the Bible. I won’t apologize for believing that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Often though, I’ve clung to my beliefs, while not living in accordance with those beliefs. Years ago, as I claimed to follow Christ, I used my license to divert opioids for my own use. Now, living in faith and recovery, I believe that I must obey Jesus’ command to love my neighbors – even those who’re Muslim. This change in my view has of course, radically altered my relationship with them.
Still, there are days when I’m humbled by them. It’s not uncommon for one of my Muslim patients to tell me they and their friends pray for me – Dr. Ibrahim. What? Why? When’s the last time I prayed for them? When’s the last time I asked God for an opportunity to share with them the love that God has shown me? I don’t believe all religions are equal, which only makes it that much more frustrating when I’m out-Christianed by a Muslim. Observing the Muslim population has made me think about my own beliefs and the impact those beliefs have on my behavior. In today’s passage, God told Abraham to pick up his entire life and move. So, he did. Abraham believed in God and that belief directed his behavior.
Is that how we live? If we claim faith in Christ, then that belief should radically alter our daily lives. Often though, we live exactly like those who don’t believe – simply following ourselves. We tell ourselves that if God spoke out loud – like it seems he did to Abraham – we’d listen. But he has spoken. He’s commanded us to love our neighbors. Are we willing to do that?
If I claim that my faith is right and true, then I must live out that faith. I’m not saved by what I do, but it does me no good to cling to correct doctrine if I don’t live by it. So, today, I’m going to start praying for more opportunities to show my Muslim neighbors the love and grace that God has shown me. God, as you have loved me, help me love those you’ve put in my life.