I had made these travel plans in a hurry to take advantage of good airfare and in my haste I booked the hotel and the car rental for the city we were flying through instead of the city where we needed them. I humbly told him what I had done and he had a good laugh at my expense, particularly when I told him that I had done the same thing with a hotel reservation. When I asked if they had a vehicle for us to rent, he assured me that they did and started looking for one. And that is when this interaction became very interesting.
As he was looking, he asked me why we were there and I explained that we were on vacation and going to visit the National Parks in Utah. He smiled and asked what I did for a living and I told him that I was a pastor. His face lit up and he said, “That’s great! God bless you for doing what you are doing! We need people like you to help others!” As he worked on my car mix-up, he asked me more questions about my work and what the challenges were for me in my work. We had a very nice brother to brother conversation about the importance of believing in God and living for him. He was so touched by my owning my careless mistake and perhaps my profession that he upgraded the vehicle I was hoping to get and threw in full insurance coverage as well.
When I thanked him for his kindness and generosity, he smiled and said that he hoped God would bless our time and that he would bless my work. And then he said, “I am a Muslim, but I believe the work you are doing is very important. We need better people in the world and together we are working on this.”
I was floored! Not only did I get an extraordinary deal on a car rental but the clerk who helped me was a person considered by some to be an enemy of our nation and of my faith. Yet he viewed me as a brother and a colleague in ministry to a broken world. Thanking him profusely, I walked away not sure what to make of this encounter.
This man is part of the world who does not believe in Jesus as we do. He may believe that Jesus was a prophet but only a mere man and not God. We don’t agree on the way to be accepted by God. His is a way of proper living and good morality. I believe in grace that should transform our lives into being the kind of person that we both want. We disagree in our faith but we both agree that we want a better world.
There are a lot of people out there who are like the car rental Muslim. They want a better world. They want peace. They want security and the best for others. We share many goals in this world with them. And I believe that we have the answer that will bring those things about. And it’s not how much we do or how good we can be. It’s reliance on the transforming and amazing power of the Holy Spirit for those who believe in Jesus Christ.
That’s what Pentecost is all about. It’s not up to us but God can use us to do powerful things to change this world and the people in them. And while the world does have many who are out to destroy the church and Christians, there are many others who share the same goals as we have. They believe it is through what they do and how good they can be. We believe that it is through the saving and transforming power of Jesus alone that will change things.
I find it very disturbing that recent studies have shown the majority of Christian evangelicals are the ones most opposed to having Muslims in the United States. Yet we must realize that having Muslims here is in fact a mission field that is at our doorstep. I know that there are some who are radicalized and who are intent on harming us. What better way to teach them the love of Jesus rather than hating them.
I was too taken aback in my exchange and didn’t have the time to really engage this man at the airport rental car kiosk. Yet our conversation alerted me to those around me who may believe as he does and whom I can share more than common moral goals, but the saving way that those things can be achieved through Jesus. This man was an illustration of grace shown to me. I pray that someone will someday show him an even greater grace as seen in Jesus and I pray that someone will at some point share with him what the Christian faith is really all about.