Jamila loves shoes. She giggled with guilty pleasure as she showed me a closet in her house dedicated just to her shoe collection. She also loves to read, to run, and to have her nails manicured. Jamila changes her living room around when she is bored.
Jamila’s husband is a businessman and she is the mother of three very active children. In the car line at school, she usually sits and checks her Twitter feed and catches up on text messages.
This description of my friend Jamila could very well be a description of me. (Although I do not have an extra closet for my shoes, sadly.)
The difference is, Jamila and her family are Muslims, and I and mine are Christians. They worship at the local mosque on Fridays. My family and I worship at our church on Sundays.
I never expected my Muslim friend to be like me. I am a bit ashamed to admit I was surprised at how well she spoke English, how much she likes John Grisham novels, and how frustrated she is with juggling her children’s extracurricular activities. I was surprised at how normal she was.
Besides revealing my own ignorance, this reveals my wrong assumptions about the Muslims living here in my community. They are in many ways seeking the same goals I am, facing the same frustrations, pursuing the same dreams. They even cherish some of the same values. Family. Hard work. Faith.
How do I bridge the gap between us? What is the gap between us, exactly, if we have these things in common?
Although Jamila and I are alike in many ways that surprised me, we look at the world through different lenses. These lenses are called worldviews. As an American, I see the world through a right versus wrong, guilt or innocence worldview. Things are black and white. An action is right or wrong. A person is innocent until proven guilty. I am guilty of sin and need a Savior.
Jamila, on the other hand, sees the world through the framework of honor and shame. Actions preserve and protect honor, or they bring shame. Behavior determines whether you remain part of the group (honor) or are expelled from the group (shame). A person is judged honorable or shameful according to their position in the group. Shame must be avoided and honor preserved at any cost.
The Source of Our Hope
My hope is in the grace of Jesus Christ. Because no human can stand perfect and innocent before a holy God, Jesus stands for us, taking our place, making it possible for us to be reconciled to God. I have the hope of heaven because of my belief in and acceptance of Jesus’ death and resurrection in my place. Through Christ, heaven is my guarantee.
Jamila, on the other hand, hopes in her ability to follow the rules. If she does enough good deeds to outweigh the bad, she might be accepted by God. Her hope is in her own hands, in her own ability to perform. Heaven is not guaranteed for Jamila, according to the Qur’an and the Hadith. She may work very hard and be very good but still not make it.
Alike in the Most Essential Way
There is one way, however, that Jamila and I are exactly the same, no matter our ethnicity or where we worship each week, regardless of our worldviews. We are both equally and identically in need of a Savior, a Rescuer, a Mediator to reconcile us to God. We both need Christ. Without Him, neither of us have the hope of heaven.
I never expected her to be so much like me.