There are many reasons people convert to a new religion. Some through and intellectual pursuit of the “Truth” but throughout history the primary reason people adopt a new religion is through relational example. People are persuaded through their personal relationships and the examples of how faith shapes others. Rodney Stark in his book “The Rise of Christianity” gives a great example of this. In 165 AD a devistating epidemic swept through part of the Roman Empire. Like most communicable diseases it was particularly devastating in the crowded cities. Anyone with the financial means to escape the city did so. In some cases Christians stayed behind, believing that leaving was abandoning their responsibility to “love their neighbor“. As a result Christians who stayed and took care of their sick and dying “neighbors” often died themselves. But those that survived couldn’t deny the compelling example set by the Christians. As a result it made Christianity a compelling alternative to other religions and many converted.
And it’s also my story. I started going to church because a friend invited me (luring me with invitation of basketball and girls that were there – Thanks Bob Greeber!) In a very short time it was clear to me, from the example of the people there, that there was alternative way of living, that really contrasted to my lifestyle and values. Their example was definitely compelling. It was the beginning of my own conversion.
So when I read about a US military serviceman who was serving as a guard at the US military jail in Guantanamo Bay Cuba, had converted to Islam from the example set by the detainees that he was guarding, I wasn’t all that surprised. The devotion they continued to showed to Islam as prisoners was compelling. The answer they provided to what life was all about seemed simple and easy to follow. Contrast those two examples with what most Americans religious lives are like. It cost most of us little or nothing to believe. Few of us can give simple clear answers to questions people ask us about what we believe.
It’s a great reminder for us. We live in a world where people are looking for compelling example of a devoted life that serves something bigger then themselves. And people are looking for answers to life’s big questions.
Questions for you:
1. Is your life a compelling example of devotion to God that makes others curious about why you live the way you do? (before you say “yes”, give some examples!)
2. Jesus says that you must take up your cross daily and follow him. This sounds a lot like we are being asked to sacrifice some things to follow. What is it costing you to follow Jesus?
3. Islam (like we discussed a few weeks ago) is attractive specifically because it does provide simple answers to most of life’s big questions. Christianity has lots of paradoxes that often makes it a challenge to give short easy answers to questions we get asked. That being said though, 1 Peter 3:15 reminds us that we ought to be able to give an answer for why we believe what we believe. Can you deliver a clear and concise answer when asked why you are a Christian?
Here is the article I read: http://www.nydailynews.com/gitmo-guard-converts-islam-demands-release-detainees-article-1.1357918