With news of ISIL (ISIS or IS, or whatever. Basically, violent terrorists desecrating the beauty of Islam.) filling the news, my *relatively* conservative news feed on Facebook is blowing up with hatred toward all Islam, stating that all Muslims are terrorists and violent and, in general, evil.
Over thirteen years ago, the Twin Towers and part of the Pentagon were in ruins as people claiming the way of Mohammad crashed planes into them. I had no clue what the ramifications of this would mean. I was only a fifteen year old immature high school student who thought hitting myself over the head with a water bottle saying “Jesus is my Valentine” was the greatest thing I could do for myself, but I do remember thinking, “There is no way these terrorists represent the entire Arab nation, or the followers of Islam. I want to know more about those people.”
Christians claim the Abrahamic promise of Genesis 12:1-3 along side the Jews, but often neglect that the promise was to Abraham before he had Isaac. At this point of his life, I’m sure Abraham was probably thinking, My wife can’t have kids, so I think you’re crazy, God, but I guess I ought to trust you. Think of Sarah as not only being older, but essentially past menopause. Her baby maker was shut down, so it would take a miracle for her to have kids, and I honestly don’t blame Abraham for trying to make this promise, this covenant, work the best way he could. I mean, God moved Abraham from a polytheistic culture to a monotheistic belief. He probably thought that he had to work to make God’s promise valid, so he went his slave and had Ishmael through her. You know what the cool thing about this is? Even though God intended the promise for Abraham and Sarah, he tells Abraham after his older son is cast aside after the birth of Isaac (Hello, sibling rivalry brought on because of the mother…), “And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring…” (Genesis 21:13). God keeps His promises. Do you get that? God loves us. He wants a relationship with us. And when we try and take control of things ourselves, God is faithful.
Even though the promise was intended to be passed down through Abraham, Isaac, and eventually Jacob (AKA Israel), Ishmael is also included because God made the promise to Abraham. Nations are blessed through the Arabs, through the descendants of Ishmael. How? Our numbers are Arabic. They gave us algebra (even though, sorry, my Muslim friends, I loathe math…), contributed greatly to astronomy, navigation and geography, architecture and arts, horticulture, and those majestic Arabian horses! Yet many of us shy away from acknowledging their contributions and go straight toward hatred, toward biases and prejudices because that’s what we know and we cease trying to understand.
I challenge you, dear friends, to first seek to understand. Meet people of all nations, cultures, religions that you can so that you can diversify your life and understand another’s actions or beliefs a little better. The world need love and truth, but in order to do that, we can’t hide in our shells.
And may all those promises you haven’t seen fulfilled yet keep you on your toes. God isn’t slow, at least, not like we think. He’s rather like Gandalf and arrives precisely when he means to.