After studying law for two years I had a chance to go to another Arab country for a practicum in a small village. Many of the people here were very poor and had no education. In my free time I started teaching some of the village children how to write and read, and I also helped to settle disputes between neighbors and families. But it was heartbreaking to see the shame of many of these people. Not only are they poor and in debt, they were disrespected and treated badly. And their children were often used as labor in the fields and factories in return for food. Many of the poor are filled with fear, hate and bitterness. The law does not make people kind.
There was not much to do in the evening in the village, so I stayed at home and watched satellite television. One day I tuned in to a channel where they were talking about Isa, or Jesus, as you know him in the bible. They were talking about Jesus like he was real and helping them with their problems, even answering their prayers.
I wrote this channel and asked for a Bible of my own. When I got it in the mail, I started reading it at once. I knew the stories about Abraham and Jacob and Ishmael, they are in the Koran as well. But I was so surprised when I got to the New Testament and started reading about Jesus. In the Koran it says that he healed people, but it was His teaching that really struck me. When I got to the Sermon on the Mount, I started trembling inside. I had never heard words like this before!
I was literally shaking when I understood that this is how God views the poor, the grieving, the destitute, the peacemakers and the merciful. I was always taught that people deserve the judgment that is upon them because their very lives show that they have sinned. But now I read that God says exactly the opposite!
Jesus says that it is humility, gentleness, and purity that God truly values, rather than power or wealth. Using stories and examples, Jesus undermines the idea that simply following the law is enough to make us righteous. The God of the Bible looks at our hearts, not just at our outward words and actions.
This is basically what Jesus said: (the Message Bible) “Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, gift-wrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life.
Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect praise? That’s what everyone does. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a reward? If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.
Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
When I listened to Jesus’ sermon on the mountain I was astonished that Christianity had all this share of forgiveness and grace! I decided to study Christianity, and I am completely convinced that Christ is the only way and the truth, who forgives, gives mercy and love. I write this message because there are many people like me who become Christians through you. But now I really suffer pressure from everyone around me. My friends asked why I didn’t go to prayer in the mosque anymore or fast, and I implied to them that I had become a Christian. Then one of them threatened me and told me that it is permitted to kill me, that I am now godless and that I could be killed any time. I told him I am not Godless but I have learned the truth and I now I follow it. But my family and friends humiliate and harass me all the time, so to get some peace I am obliged to go to the Mosque so that things can calm down a bit. If they really believe I follow Jesus they will kill me. Please pray for me and for every new believer in Jesus Christ in Arab countries. God bless you.”
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