A Prophet of their Own

In light of recently finding out that a new “believer” actually is a police informant I found this following poem written by a North African 100 years ago to be quite instructive for the trusting foreign missionary encountering the Muslim facade for the first time.

It reminded me a lot of what Paul said in Titus 1:12, “One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always…”

You can never know man
By a mere surface scan
Or a glance at his face. You must pierce to his heart
And be ever alert
If his motives you’d trace.

The man is not honest
Because he has promised
To grant you tour wish;
For a promise may be
Like a net in the sea
That catches no fish.

Behind many a smile
There is hidden a wile,
So watch for this dart;
For a man’s smile may be
Like the fruit of a tree
That’s rotten at heart.

When men in your presence
Bow down in obeisance
Beware of their words;
For obeisance may be
But a trick of the knee
For hiding their swords.

When men bring you a gift
Then forget not to sift
The motive behind;
For these presents may be
Giving two to get three,
As we often find.

When men come to borrow
Put off till to-morrow
And take time to think;
For this lending may be
Like stones thrown in the sea
Which out of sight sink.

When a man swears by God,
That he will keep his word,
Watch his palavers;
For a man’s oath may be
But the trick of a key
To unlock favours.

When the barber takes in
The penniless orphan,
Shares and trims his head;
Such a free gift may be
Good opportunity
To teach boys the trade.

So keep your eyes open
Trust not the word spoken,
Dig beneath the smile;
Set a watch on yourself
Lest the robber by stealth
Gets in to make his kill. 

The solution to this duplicity that is so deep in the Islamic culture? We are tempted to do the following:

1. Trust anyway. This results in the missionary being naive and burnt time after time. He gets hurt. His family gets hurt. His church gets hurt. He doesn’t adjust from his culture of trust to this new culture of suspicion. The nationals think he’s lovable but just too naive to be of any use.

2. Reject the sin, the culture, and the people. This results in such discouragement and lack of deep relationships with the people that the missionary goes home.

3. Reject the sin, the culture, but not the people. This results in the missionary turning into an island living in the host culture. He distrusts everyone. He groups all of the nationals into one lump of contempt.

Paul knew Titus faced this same situation. He quoted a poet of the Cretans, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” He quoted the poem not because he hated the Cretans but because he loved them enough to be honest about the struggles they faced and the decisions Titus would need to make while working with this people. So his solution?

1. Reject the sin

2. Rebuke the sinner

3. Teach the Word to faithful men

4. Trust the faithful men in the culture to such a level that they are appointed as pastors and leaders.

He specifically said, “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee…Rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.”

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