Justin Bieber paused twice during his concert Thursday to respect the Muslim call to prayer. His concert took place in Turkey, and Bieber was making an effort to be respectful of the Muslim tradition of praying five times a day. When I first read this report, I didn’t know what I thought about it. It honestly took me a minute to process the information and decide how I felt about a proclaimed Christ follower making time during a concert so that Muslims could pray to Allah.
As a Christ follower myself, I felt very conflicted. On the one hand, I don’t believe in alienating people of other religions. Putting down other people’s beliefs doesn’t make them want to know about the God you serve. However, it kind of makes me uncomfortable to picture myself making room for prayers to Allah. As I mulled Bieber’s decision over and over in my mind, these verses popped into my head.
“’You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’”
These verses don’t say, “Love your enemy and let those who persecute you pray to their god.” But it does say to love those who hate you. The best way to love those who hate you is to show them respect even if they don’t deserve it. When Bieber was showing respect to his Muslim’s fans, he was basically telling them that even though he doesn’t agree with their beliefs, he respects their right to believe what they want to believe.
I applaud Bieber. Muslims don’t try to hide their disdain for Christians. Some go so far as to attack and kill the “infidels” who believe that Jesus Christ is God. By pausing his concert to allow Muslim prayer, Bieber was overcoming evil with good. He was sending this message: You can hate my God and try to kill His people, but Jesus still wants you. Jesus has never been about hate. He has always been about radical, death defying love.
I believe that what Justin did last Thursday was show compassion and love for a people that he doesn’t agree with. That is Jesus Christ. It reminds me of the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel. Elijah allowed the followers of Baal to pray to their god for three hours straight to see if Baal would send fire down on their altar. The followers of Baal pleaded to their god and cut themselves to show their passion. Nothing happened. Finally, Elijah prayed to God using thirty two words, and immediately God sent fire that consumed the water soaked altar.
The Muslim people can pray to their god with all their hearts, but in the end Jesus is the only God with power to answer prayer. If we alienate people, Jesus appears to be a God who hates those who hate Him. If we show love and respect to people who do not believe, we are accurately representing Jesus Christ. Jesus doesn’t need our anger and disdain as a means to fight unbelievers. They are not a threat to Him. No one is. His heart simply breaks that people are missing out on knowing Him. Good job, Justin Bieber. Hopefully there will come a day when your Muslim beliebers will become Christ followers because you showed love instead of hate.