I’m a Muslim

You knew it, right?  You’ve been wondering – has Carl crossed over. Now he finally admits it. I can hear it now – “See Ethel, I told you the boy had lost it. He’s gone and converted. Became a Mohammadan.  A jihad-er.  Darn, we lost him. And he was such a nice guy.”

Words are powerful. It seems that in our day of everyone-knowing-everything-that-everyone-is-thinking-and-doing, we have to define and re-define what we mean.  Remember when “gay” meant “happy.”  Or when you told your neighbors you were going church, they knew what you meant and thought it was nice.  Or when the word “Christian” meant someone who acted properly and did nice things for people, like mow their lawns.

I have friends in the Arab world who are from America and grew up in the Christian faith who would call themselves “Muslims.”  They reason that the word simply (and literally) means “one who submits to God.” And they do, so they are.  Or…are they?   Depends on who’s doing the defining.

The two greatest principles of communication are: what do I mean when I say something and what do you hear when I say something.  What I mean and what you hear are often different – thus a lack of communication ensues.

I can insist that when I say “I feel gay today” that I simply mean what the word ORIGINALLY meant. I’m happy. I can keep on doing that if I want to.  My guess is, it won’t really work.  I can keep calling myself a “Christian” and simply HOPE that people understand what I am, but I doubt it’s gonna be all that helpful.  I can call myself a Muslim in Muslim lands and think to myself I’m simply one who submits to God, but I know that’s not what my hearers are thinking I mean.

So what to do in this age of over-communication (that often doesn’t actually communicate)?  I suggest we think of these three things when we speak of anything potentially controversial or complicated:

  1. Be sensitive to the hearers.  Place yourself in their shoes. Ask questions to fully understand where they’re coming from and how they might hear (feel) what you’re about to say.
  2. Avoid one-word terms.  Or at least if you use them, define them. Words like “conservative” or “liberal” or “church” or “Christian” or “bible” or “evangelical” don’t really communicate that well these days. Be skeptical of your ability to really say what you mean by using a one word term.  I prefer to not use words like that at all, but rather explain what I mean in 2 or 3 sentences.
  3. Ask the hearer if they caught what you said after you say it. Don’t assume.  You know what ass-u-me…ing does.    🙂

Are you a good communicator or just a good talker?  I’ve done both. Talking is easy. Actually communicating takes a lot of work.  I’m up to about 20% on actually communicating – but working on it.  Join me….

Comments

  1. Ryan Wobbrock says:

    Excellent! I’ve found (and continue to find) out the hard way that those one word labels are often/always a point of no return, unless nipped at the outset of a discussion.

    My actual purpose for writing, though, is to see if all is well with your trip to Israel, given today’s bombing in the north. If you could send a blast email with a one sentence status update (as you undoubtedly have more pressing things to attend to), that’d be much appreciated.

    1. Ryan Wobbrock says:

      “Bombing” was an incorrect word – now reading that it was rockets that were fired and seemingly no major issues.

    2. Carl, I am ecstatic about your boldness and the heaven-given ability you have to communicate Truth and offer us the opp to get OUT OF THE BOX. I want out of the box! Every thing you write teaches me. Thanks for setting up the blog. I pray LOTS of seekers and boxed-in people find it!

  2. Mohammad Sheikh says:

    I totally agree on that. Submission to God is whole point of all religions. I read that also in Mark Siljander’s book, he said that the Aramaic word in the bible that was translated wrongly to convert is a word means to be devoted to God and submit yourself.
    I’ve once read a sentence that says: ” I am Muslim by faith.. Christian by spirit … a Jew by heart.. and above all I am human being.” What do you think of Christian by spirit ?
    Can we Muslims say this as you say that?
    Thanks

  3. ~Katherine says:

    Wow.. what a great conversation. I’m interested in what people think of Mohammad’s questions.

  4. […] Medearis has written a short post about the need to be careful with our words so that our hearers actually hear and understand what we […]

  5. […] Medearis has written a very helpful post addressing this issue on his blog.  I found these principles helpful in thinking through how I speak of who I am and what I’m […]

  6. Solar Panel says:

    Hey, aesome post. I just found your site and I am already a fan. :]

  7. […] common knowledge that words lose their meaning over the course of time (in fact, I recently read a great post on that very subject). So because words have the potential of having many different meanings and […]

  8. guy hrushka says:

    A Muslim who has heard the Gospel denies the Truth of who Jesus is plain and simple “if” he still calls himself a Muslim. Let’s not play with words. Love the Muslim hate the lie they live.

    1. Wow Guy. I almost never even read the comments made about blogs I write, but since I know you and you’re a good and long-lasting friend, I can’t help but reply. I would have to say that your statement is unhelpful and really doesn’t clarify anything. Since I know lots of Arabs who would still consider themselves to be “Muslims in Culture” and yet follow Jesus as truly and passionately as I do, what you say doesn’t actually work. Since being “Muslim” is more like being “American” then it is a religion, we have to find new categories and terms that are helpful, true and that work in a given environment. That’s what Jesus did when he came to earth, became human and lived in our context. How can we help our Muslim friends see the beauty of following Jesus without giving up the parts of their identity they don’t need to give up? (Just like we wouldn’t ask Americans to stop placing their hand over their heart when they hear the pledge of allegiance – just to follow Jesus).

      1. Concerned Individual says:

        Respectfully, no one is asking Arab believers in Christ to give up their culture. However, a significant portion of that “culture” revolves around the actual faith of Islam. The music, the literature, the cuisine, the dress, the architecture, the art, all of that is fantastic and certainly Arab believers shouldn’t westernize, but the practices and traditions associated with the belief in Allah, one can’t claim that those are harmless.

  9. guy hrushka says:

    My daugher just did a search on the net trying to find some dirt on my past. I told her I think it’s buried pretty good. Well she comes across your responce to my responce. I wasn’t refering to “Muslims in Culture”. A Muslim to me has always been a beleiver in Islam, not “just” submitted to God. So I’m not against the word Muslim in culture. Jesus is the Only name given amongst nen by which we must be saved. This TRUTH can be very ofensive to the Muslim culture.
    Love you bro,
    Guy