Did you know that several times in history Christians came close to Muslim leaders and were invited to stay and teach their people, but left? If they had stayed with Muslims, how might the world be a different place now?
Let’s look at three examples:
SAINT FRANCIS: is famous for his gentleness and love of animals. In 1219 A.D. Francis crossed battle lines to take the gospel to Muslims. He was captured, insulted, beaten, and nearly killed. But he reached his goal: the Sultan of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria – al Malik al Kamil.
Francis showed love for the Sultan. But he was also bold. He preached the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Because Francis had suffered to deliver this message, the sultan defied his imams and refused to behead him.
Francis stayed there a few days. The sultan implored him to stay longer. But Francis left to write up the rules for the Franciscan order – and he also wrote a manifesto for evangelizing Muslims. The church accepted his rules, but it smothered his manifesto. Muslim evangelism was shelved for centuries.
MARCO POLO: The second example occurred a few years later on the other side of the globe where Marco Polo, his father and uncle spent years in the court of the Mongol Chinese Emperor Kublai Khan.
The Great Khan had an enormous realm which included peoples of many races and religions. Despite his violent past, the khan was always looking for ways to better his kingdom. Himself an idolator, Kublai Khan nevertheless was interested in all the religions in his ream. Islam, he felt, provided a legal basis for the practice of vices that he did not want in his empire. He decided that Christianity was the best of all for the fairness of its teachings and the lives of its people.
And so, he requested that the Polo family return to Italy and have the pope send to him 100 missionaries to teach him and his people, answer their questions, and lead mass conversions into the faith.
Sadly, the Catholic Church lost this opportunity. The request came during a change of popes. When they finally sent missionaries, only two went. Guess what? They turned back fearing war – far from China. In this backwards situation, the Polos, who were only merchants, had more courage than the missionaries. Despite the risks, they went back to China.
Kublai Khan said if they had sent the missionaries, he would bring more Christians into the fold than those already in it around the world!
MARY FISHER: She never attained the fame of St. Francis or Marco Polo, but then she wasn’t trying to. Like St. Francis, Mary also sensed God calling her to share the gospel with the sultan of her day. Already persecuted in England and America, she was prepared for difficulties. After many adventures, in 1658, Mary arrived on foot in Turkey where the sultan was stationed with 20,000 men.
Boldly, Mary claimed to be an emissary from the Most High God. She claimed and persisted and claimed and persisted until finally, the Grand Vizier allowed her to meet Sultan Mahomet IV.
Mary shared salvation through Jesus. Impressed, the sultan invited her to stay; with his people and teach them more. But as with St. Francis, she also departed. The regional English authority then forbid further Muslim evangelism in the region.
Did these brief encounters bring any benefit? After all, the leaders and their people did not clearly convert.
Actually yes! Even these brief encounters made a difference. Sultan al Kamil and Mahomet IV treated Christians better after his meeting with St. Francis. One report even claims that al Kamil made a deathbed conversion.
What if St. Francis had stayed with the Sultan? What if 100 missionaries had gone to Kublai Khan? What if the church had been more interested in Muslim evangelism than monasticism? What if Mary Fisher had stayed? What if others had followed in their steps? Isn’t it possible that the world would be different now if they had?
Muslims are willing to lose their lives to promote Islam. What risks are we willing to take to share the gospel? We are assured of heaven. Can we be faithful where others have failed?
“In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths… Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations…Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Proverbs 3:6, Matthew 28:19, Joshua 1:9