1 Peter 3:15…Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. 2 Timothy 1:7…For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. The call to present one’s faith to individuals of different faith groups is not an easy task.
There is a fear amongst Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, to present their Gospel Faith to Muslims who are the second majority in terms of religious composition in Kenya. To justify their inert state in engaging in evangelism, respect of other people’s faith is the excuse. This is grounded on the second, which is the fear that they will be quoted for some scripture(s) and will be turned into a spectacle for not answering the question put across. People will say: Waislamu wanajua Bible sana so siwezi argue na wao ( Muslims know the bible so I will not Argue matters of faith with them). In writing this, I share my two times engagement with them in a public forum even though I have shared with some at personal level.
Last Sunday, 7th November 2021, an open door to share my Faith was presented just outside of the flat I live in. There was a mhadhara (Debate), by Muslims,which in real sense doesn’t qualify to be called a debate. I was quick to get to the debate because the first person they had set on the hot seat was a drunkard who claimed to be a Christian- their definition of a christian is different from who a christian really is. Anti-Muslim in Kenya will be branded a Christian since Hindus are openly known by their skin colour.
They asked who I was And I responded that I’m Ken, a born again Christian; follower of Christ Jesus. That was their genesis of the flaws. I was rudely interrupted with a citation of Matthew 19.26 part a only… Humanly speaking this is impossible….In Swahili : Hakuna anayeweza kuokoka. In the efforts to explain that there is no need to cite scriptures halfly and without a context, I was cut short. This time round to a different angle of how they’re the ardent follower of Jesus Christ and how he is one of the best prophets they follow. I proposed that we have a one topic discussion without mixing issues and I was told the discussion is being led by them and so should I follow to which I agreed. Before time we were on the issue of marrying many women and how that is evident in the Bible and Quran through Prophet Mohammed.
‘Abraham, Solomon, David,Etc had many wives but your pastors tell their flock to marry one and have mipango ya kando (gigolettes)’ stated one sheikh. I stated that it is evident that the so quoted individuals had many wives but that narration or description doesn’t amount to prescription. In Christs’ own words, it was not so from the beginning since God created one woman for Adam whose name is Eve. Secondly, Abraham had one wife Sarah whose death led to the marriage of Keturah. They had cited Genesis 25.1 … Abraham married another wife whose name was Keturah. Again my effort to draw to the context drew no attention because the microphone was being swiped to their guy reading the Bible and quran in perfect swahili and Quran Surah 4: An-Nisa’: 2-3…If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two, or three, or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess…was read. In the explanation that Adam and Eve are mentioned in the quran as two individuals without polygamy I was advised that mohammed is the last prophet and he was handed a book which led to another angle: vitabu vya mitume hupewa Manabii, Biblia ni kitabu cha nani juu hakuna nabii aliyepewa bible? ( whose book is the bible since all of God’s books are handed over to prophets?).
My argument was that the Bible is God’s word, authored by over 40 authors under inspiration of the holy spirit over a period of 1500 years with unity in the contained message. Before the grabbing of the mike I was told the bible is corrupted with torah, psalms, injeel not being as they were and I demanded from them the original copies- which I’m sure they will not hand over any soon. I reminded them that the Quran has amended the verse which their prophet kept on changing at his will. And I asked whether he composed it or it was handed and from where did he learn about allah before the quran and whether he practised it. Before the question was handled satisfactorily the discussion was headed for the doctrine of trinity. Not mentioned earlier is that before taking the so-called hot seat, a guy had just taken shahada which is what I asked about its location in the Quran and the rounds were many.
So much was discussed and I decided to change the course by introducing the deity of Christ. ‘The bottomline is that the whole bone of contention we have today is built and revolving around the person of Christ Jesus who you refer to as prophet while we Chrsitian refer to as God,’ ‘I said. The obvious question was posed: where in the bible does Jesus say that he is God and that we should worship him? “Show me and I’ll never speak about Islam?” The obvious answer is Nowhere. You should have seen the confusion because he thought I would gamble through the question. I asked him if he was married, had children, takes care of the family and so fourth to which he replied yes.’If a third individual heard me ask these questions and reported to a fourth individual that you, the sheikh, are a husband and a father, will he be wrong?’ he said no. I said that there is evidence about the deity of Christ in the Bible. The quranic verses do not depend on each other, majority, for meaning unless in the bible where you have read within a context to grasp the meaning. Text without context is a pretext I said.
In John 8.58 is a verse within a context where Jesus is presenting nhis case as one from God and being one with the father and that he was not of the devil…John 8:56-59… Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.” The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!” At that point they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple. Why would they seek to stone him? It was out of the reason for citing Exodus 3:14 … God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you.” Jesus said ‘I AM’ not ‘I was’. Their counter argument was the original bible says ‘i am’ in small letters but our edited versions say I AM in caps. The question I posed was: did they want to stone Jesus for editorial reasons really? Can’t you grasp the concept. Which is your original version? I said that John 3.16, John 14.6, are within a context and the argument flew to grammar (lugha) as opposed to the concept. In explaining the context, the guys became hostile and they asked so many questions without time to answer and with a lot of mockery. In Matthew 26 during the mock trial, Jesus in verse 64 made Caiphas tore his holy garments because he cited Daniel 7.13-14. That was blasphemous as per the law. Jews understood monotheism, Jesus did it too yet he did cite these words being aware of the punishment. Was he mad? I asked. Before long the sheikh was doing some recitation and it, open forum, was over. One individual approached me and told me: read in Swahili Jeremiah 8.8 and I said that there is a context too that’s far from what you intend to mean: that the bible is corrupt. So was 1 Corinthians 1.25 too which they said makes the bible unbelievable. All these are texts that will shake a non-believer or a christian who does not read their bibles.
Lessons learnt: Read and study the bible. This is one way of being sure and certain of that which you believe in. This calls into place the use of mind too. The bible says we love God with everything which means reasoning through scriptures ain’t no sin. Read commentaries and gain perspectives of individuals points of view. Listen to religious discussions and debates. Depend on God for guidance. The spirit of the Most High is a teacher, guide,etc. He leadeth us. He gives us utterances, what to and how to say. Live and practice godliness. Visible evangelism goes beyond the theoretical format. We are able to change many if we live out the faith . The call to reach the non-believers is a fundamental call as Christ ordered us in Matthew 28.18-20, John 20.21. It is also of essence, if one has the stability and capacity, to read other people’s belief system. Understanding other individuals’ faith is key and lays a foundation of comparative discussions and being in a position to identify points of discussion.