My Friend from Syria
“You Were Different Before!”
I had a friend from Syria in college. We had several classes together & it seemed we ended up sitting next to each other in most of them. He was muslim. He was full of life. He was always smiling. He was always joking. He was very interested in American life. We did set some things on fire in the chemistry lab, but he had no ulterior motives, except getting an education. Religion came up a lot, especially after my second speech in Speech 101. 7-minute informative speech on a particular aspect of a historical persons life. I chose the miracles of Jesus. I talked about the first & last miracles of Jesus, how many miracles are recorded in the New Testament, & then about how John said that if all the works Jesus did had been written down, the world couldn’t hold the books (John 21:25). Then I finished by stating that miracles still happen today even though you may not see one yourself. And then about how the greatest miracle is how God changes human hearts through a relationship with Christ & I gave my personal testimony of that change. I sat back down & my Syrian friend was visibly disturbed. He whispered to me with an angry look – “I want to talk to you after class!” Well, I didn’t know much about muslims at that time, but I’d read a few issues of Voice of Martyrs, so sweaty palms & extreme possibilities filled my mind. When class ended, I tried to shoot out quickly, thinking he may forget about it, but he caught me. Forcibly & loudly, he began putting his finger in my chest & almost shouting over & over again, “You were different before! You were different before! You were different before!” I said, “what are you talking about?” He said, “Your story. You talked about how you were changed on the inside. You were different before you found religion! And that there was something powerful that happened inside your heart!” He went on to tell me how he is pulled back & forth between his religion & the world & how there’s no power in his religion to change his heart. We skipped our next class to talk. I shared the gospel with him & about how Jesus does change us inside out when we confess him as Lord & believe in him & his work. He said it just seemed too simple & that being Muslim was a part of his family identity, like it probably was mine. I asked him to share his faith with me on several occasions, but he would just say, “It isn’t as good a story as you have.” The last few years of college we had fewer & fewer classes together & he moved on to a different campus for our senior year & we lost touch. But I’ll never forget that day in the hallway. It’s been a reminder to me of the power of the Gospel – “You were different before! You were different before! You were different before!” There’s real power in the gospel to change people from the inside out. That’s the hope we see lived out in the lives of other believers around us everyday. That’s the hope that keeps us sharing the gospel with others. That’s the hope that our muslims friends around the world & in our neighborhoods need to know about, & what many of them, like my friend from Syria, may be looking for.
Christian, you were different before! Live it! Share it! Never forget it!