Ritual vs. Repentance

A couple of years ago, I was doing an intake of a guest when he told me he could not stay with us because of his religion.  He then asked how he could get connected with the local Muslim mosque and shelter.  I told this gentleman that I had no idea where a mosque or Muslim shelter was located.  I advised him that he was sent to the Mission by New York State Parole; therefore he would have to talk to his parole officer and request to be moved to another shelter.  I also told him that I had never seen parole move someone to another shelter on religious grounds, but he could try.

With his permission, I engaged him in a dialog about his Muslim faith.  When I asked if he had converted to Islam while in prison, I was surprised when this young Caucasian man said he had always been Muslim and grew up in a very religious Muslim family.  I said to him, “Then you have a lot of experience and knowledge of the Muslim faith, since you grew up in the faith and took an active role in practicing?” He nodded and I asked him simply, “How do Muslims atone for their sins?”  He said, “Well, we pray five times a day, and we go to Mecca on a pilgrimage.”  Then I asked him how many times he had gone to Mecca.  He admitted that he had never been, but plans on going at least once in his lifetime.  So I said, “Well doesn’t that mean you are still living in sin, and your sins are not forgiven?  If you were to die today, you would have only atoned for half of your sins?”

I got a long pause, and a thousand mile stare from the gentleman, which gave me a chance to preach the Gospel to him, so before he could speak, I told him that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ died for all our sins – it is not about works, but believing that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

I told him, “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him, for ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” (Romans 10:9-13)

This young man listened, but soon changed the subject, resuming his efforts to find the local Muslim shelter.  After a number of fruitless phone calls to his Muslim “brothers”, the young man left my office.  I found it interesting that he never did answer my question about what happens to Muslims who don’t make it to Mecca.  I gave it to the Lord in prayer and went on with my day.

Recently, I was paged to the front desk to meet a visitor, the young man reached out to shake my hand, and said, “You probably don’t remember me, but I just wanted to stop by and say thank you for what you did for me.”  When I still didn’t recall he said, “I was a guest here 2 years ago, and I will never forget our conversation.  I was the Muslim guy whom you asked the question about atoning for sin. It bothered me so much when I left your office that I started asking questions. No one seemed to be able to answer me.  Then I looked at what Jesus did, and how He paid it all – the Lord opened my eyes to the truth and thanks to you, I am now in my 2nd year of seminary school.”

I was totally blown away and give all the glory to God that he could take a lifelong Muslim and elicit such a drastic change – it could only be a God thing.  This is one of those testimonies that I will never forget, it’s amazing how the Lord works in the hearts of men – we are called to plant the seed, and let the Lord do the watering.

David Poach
Admissions Director

Categories: Perry's Blog