How Rick Love’s Love for Jesus Led Him to Love Muslims

Image: Aaron Huberty / Courtesy of Joseph Cumming / Rick Love at the 2011 Building Hope Conference at Yale University
Image: Aaron Huberty / Courtesy of Joseph Cumming / Rick Love at the 2011 Building Hope Conference at Yale University

Rick Love loved Jesus above all else. He loved the Bible as God’s Word.

Rick’s love for Jesus led him to love Muslims. But his love for Scripture eventually changed his mind about how to love Muslims.

Rick, who passed away on December 29, did not always love Jesus. In a candid confession in his book, Glocal: Following Jesus in the 21st Century, Rick describes how in his youth he “embraced the ‘sex, drugs, and rock and roll’ lifestyle of the sixties.” After partying through the night of his 18th birthday, he woke up in the morning thinking, “There has to be more to life than this, and I’m going to find it.” It was of the 1970s Jesus Movement he would later write, “I encountered Jesus, and my life radically changed.”

From the start, Rick’s faith was all about following Jesus, which he distinguished from the cultural trappings associated with “Christianity” and traditional ways of “doing church.” It was certainly not about a heretical fusion of Christianity with American nationalism, that he believed has tragically damaged the witness of American Christians.

The other element at the heart of Rick’s faith was the authority of Scripture. Not content with merely upholding inerrancy as an abstract doctrine, he would steep himself daily in the biblical text, allowing it to guide his life. His wife Fran describes how day after day she witnessed Rick holding up his hands in prayer and worship as he studied the Bible.

From Scripture, Rick understood early on that God cared about all nations and cultures. This moved him to care about Muslims. For decades, he assumed this meant he should become a missionary in the traditional sense. He and Fran went to Indonesia to serve Jesus. Later Rick was asked to lead Frontiers—one of the largest evangelical organizations worldwide dedicated to reaching out to Muslims.

Rick’s “second conversion”—a term he used himself—began after the terrible events of 9/11 and the so-called “War on Terror.” In early 2002, Rick was stung by an article titled “Stealth Crusade” in Mother Jones magazine, which depicted Rick as the prime example of a deceitful approach to missionary work among Muslims. In the overheated and interconnected post-9/11 world, this article quickly went viral. Translated into many languages, it found its way onto the front pages of Muslim-run newspapers around the world.

The article misrepresented Rick, and distorted his views. But it also made him acutely aware that Christians frequently talk to each other as though no one else were listening. Terms familiar to us are easily misunderstood by others. For example, in his youth Rick described himself as “militant” for Christ, by which he meant “passionately committed.” Later he came to understand that to non-Christians, “militant” sounds aggressively militaristic.

But Rick was also troubled in his conscience. Though he had never been dishonest in the way Mother Jones implied, he felt he had not truly been honest with his Muslim friends either. He believed he needed to repent.

Rick urged Frontiers to adopt what he called “3D Communication”—communicating with integrity and consistency before three key audiences: fellow Christians, Muslims, and secular news media. Under his leadership, Frontiers changed its mission statement to read, “With love and respect, inviting all Muslim peoples to follow Jesus.”

Notice the emphasis on “following Jesus”—not “Christianity”—echoing Rick’s first conversion.

Ultimately, Rick’s second “conversion” took him deeper, guided by his love of Scripture. He had always been a peacemaker in relationships among Christians, but the wars and violence following 9/11 led him to a fresh study of biblical peacemaking.

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Source: Christianity Today