After sharing with several Hui friends and acquaintances here in our city, I’ve encountered an interesting, and admittedly very frustrating, phenomenon. It seems that no matter how much I try to emphasize and articulate the clear differences between salvation by faith alone in Christ and what I have just been told about Islam and good works, the response is almost always the same, “Yes, we believe the same thing.” I cringe each time I hear this, wondering several things all at once–Is my language really that bad? Are they just trying to get me to be quiet? Or maybe, just maybe, do they really think we believe the same thing?? It can’t be! What I’ve just shared is totally, radically different from what they have just expressed. And yet, after coming across these verses again recently, I’m beginning to wonder why I’m so surprised by this response:
“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:3-5
Let me give you an example. I recently met a new friend. Her name is Sue. We have many things in common. Over dinner together we had a great conversation sharing many things about life, work, family, relationships, and most importantly, our faith. Sue is Hui. When I asked what will happened when she dies, she replied quite confidently that she will go to Heaven (this isn’t usually the case for Hui…they usually say that only Allah knows). But anyway, Sue believes that she will based on the fact that she is, in her words, “a good, kind person with good intentions.” She admits to being a sinner and messing up sometimes, but she said that Allah knows her heart and will forgive her. When I tried to understand what this forgiveness is based on and how it is just, I didn’t get a very clear answer. After listening to her share a lot, I began to share that God is good and just and therefore must punish sin. But because He loves us, He sent Christ to die in our place. I explained that I know that I will go to heaven, not because of anything I have done, but because of what Christ alone has done. I shared much more and then asked her what she thought. Once again the dreaded response came, “Yes, it’s pretty much the same.” I wanted to scream…NO!!! It’s so NOT the same! But I took a deep breath and tried to rephrase once again, asking the Father for wisdom of how to articulate clearly the truth of Gospel. After another attempt, she then smiled and replied something along the lines of, “It doesn’t really matter what you believe (Islam, Buddhism, Christianity), the important thing is being a nice person and helping people.”
Spiritual blindness. I think it’s the best explanation for what I (and others working among the Hui) have experienced on so many occasions. So lately I have been pondering these responses and asking the Father: What should we do? How should we respond? Here are some things He has shown me in the Word. First, He has given me encouragement through the commission that Paul received from Jesus which he recounts in Acts 26:18. Paul is sent to the Gentiles “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in [Jesus].” As with Paul, the Lord has called us and sent us out to proclaim the gospel among those in darkness. Pray that we are faithful to share His truth, but also that we will trust Him to open the many blind eyes that we encounter. Second, I am reminded of the supreme importance of prayer in our work among the Hui. “At the same time, pray also for us, that God my open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ…that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak” Col 4:3-4. Pray that God will open many doors for us to share and that we will be empowered by His Spirit to boldly proclaim truth. Pray also for diligence to learn the language well so that we can clearly articulate the Gospel. Finally, I am comforted by 2 Cor 4:7 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” Praise God that He works mightily through our weakness! Pray that we will rest and trust in His timing and faithfulness as we labor among the Hui.