While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” Jesus replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”Matthew 12:46-50
The above Bible verses remind us that there are two types of family: the birth family and the chosen family. This is certainly the case for believers from a Muslim background. Many of them move away from their birth family in order to grow and develop independence of mind and spirit. Doing so can leave a certain gap in their life. This can, therefore, be a time when they need Christians, their chosen family, to step in and fill the gap. This was my own experience. My moving away journey took some 25 years, before I found Christ. At times it was a lonely journey. It improved in its later stages when I had several Christians supporting me. Relating to them gave me a glimpse of their faith and their behaviour towards me, an outsider, gave me a helping hand to becoming a follower of Jesus. As someone said, they were the trailer of a feature film. I was able to see Christ in their conduct. They stood out from others of their, often hostile and racist, community. What I saw in them impacted on me enough that I wanted to join their family.
So, what of the birth family? It is rare that God wants believers to completely sever their links with their close relatives. It was certainly so for me. I remember very clearly the Lord saying to me: “your parents and your family and community were a part of my plan; they were chosen to give you birth”.
Just before my rebirth into his family God had said to me (in Jeremiah 15:19-21) that I would be his spokesperson. However, to achieve this, I would have to behave in a certain way i.e. to speak worthy, not worthless, words. Later, he drew my attention to James 3:13 i.e. to live an honourable life so that my close relatives and the wider community are able to see Christ in my words and deeds.
With this route-map in my hand I have tried to live my life as a follower of Christ. While doing so, I have often been aware of the trinitarian God fully with me and ahead of me – opening the doors and creating the conditions. He has often given me the courage to go into situations, providing the words I needed.
My relationship with my birth family and the wider community now is richer and deeper. I thank the Lord that they were and are a part of his plan. I ask him to revive me and use me to reach out to them.
So, what does this mean for my chosen family? While believers like me are embarked on our journeys we need the continued support, through prayer and encouragement, from our Christian church family. We also need guidance on how to share our faith, in word and deed, and hand-holding as we come out as Christians to the Muslim community and the wider world.