Red Hot Rage

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Red Hot Rage

I once wrote an essay about what I learned from Muslim prayer rituals that enhanced my personal prayer life. I submitted it to a Christian magazine and received the response that, “There is nothing for Christians to learn from Muslims about prayer.”

I was furious. And really, really sad. I couldn’t have cared less about the article being rejected, I can handle rejection just fine. But the sentiment? The exclusivity and loss and inherent disrespect? I was shocked and then realized that this was essentially what I see all around the world. Division. Borders. Fences. Me versus you. Us versus them.

Today Marilyn Gardner of Communicating Across Boundaries and the author of Between Worlds deftly and beautifully and forcefully challenges us to knock down those dividing walls and to enter relationships.

Red Hot Rage, by Marilyn Gardner

Many of our close friends are Muslims. Several have been dear friends since college years. These friendships have continued through marriage, children, international and cross-country moves, and now middle age. One couple are especially dear to us. We have stayed in each others homes, had deep, late night talks, and discussed everything from raising children to faith. We are honored to be their friends, to share conversation and meals with them.

They are faithful Muslims, taking their faith seriously in a multicultural, pluralistic country. We are Christians also taking our faith seriously in the same setting. Though the faith differs, the struggles are similar allowing us to relate on many levels .

At one point while visiting we began talking  about their neighbors. Did they know them? Were there neighborhood children that their kids could play with?

They paused and then relayed to us that they had attempted to befriend the family next door. The family had four children and were often seen playing outside. They said that there had been little progress in connecting their kids. Every time their little boy went outside to play with them, he ended up being excluded from play. His mom continued to encourage him, telling him to keep on trying, but this without success.

A few months later our friend ended up seeing the neighbor in the community. He mentioned the desire to have their son play with his children. At this the neighbor stopped him and said. “We are born again Christians – we don’t socialize or let our kids socialize with people who don’t have the same beliefs.”


At this point in the story, our friend was calm and matter of fact, saying that at least he now understood and wouldn’t push the issue.

I on the other hand was boiling in a red, hot rage. I was beside myself with anger at these neighbors.


How dare they use their ‘Christian’ status as an excuse for bad behavior. How dare they exclude our friend’s son under the label ‘born again’? How dare they misuse the name of Christ under the clothing of bigotry and prejudice?

I wanted to march next door and ring the doorbell long and hard. I wanted to scream at them that we too were Christians and this family had been dear friends for years. I wanted to scream at them that they were “white-washed sepulchers. Pharisees of the worst kind.”

But I did none of those things. Because a gracious Muslim couple who had far greater love than me had let it go.

They had simply decided they would not push themselves into a situation where they were not wanted. They continued to live as cohesively as possible next to a family that outright rejected them with no second thoughts, no remorse, definitely no repentance.

It has been several years since that time and there are still times when I want to hunt that family down. I have thought many times about this event and God has reminded me of it at points when I wear my own Pharisaical robes, when I misuse the name of Christ and act in ways that hurt and break relationships.

Being in our world but not ‘of it’ does not give license to meanness and prejudice. Holding our truth claims close, and giving them high value is good. Using them to justify bad behaviour is a dishonor to the very truth that we claim.

Our friendship continues to grow and flourish – we count it as a gift from God. Each time we see them, faith holds a place in the conversation. Why wouldn’t it when it is as important to them as it is to us?

And I’ve learned to think more kindly toward that family next door. If your faith is that weak that connecting and offering friendship to those who don’t believe as you do could hurt it, then it is weak indeed.

If I could sit down with them, I would gently challenge them that grace is a miracle, that a gospel that can’t reach out to a neighbor is a small gospel.

Because this Jesus who befriended prostitutes and tax collectors, women with multiple husbands and demon possessed people; this Jesus who reached across the great divide between heaven and earth, offering his very life for us is surely big enough to reach across a yard.

Read more from Marilyn on her blog: Communicating Across Boundaries or click here to check out her book.

By |October 13th, 2014|Categories: christianity, Faith|Tags: , , , , |23 Comments


  1. Living Liminal October 13, 2014 at 6:22 am - Reply

    I, too, felt very angry when I read this. And then I felt sad – incredibly, deeply sad. I’m sure Jesus weeps over this sort of behaviour.

    • Marilyn October 13, 2014 at 7:03 pm - Reply

      I think that’s what I have come to as well – incredible sadness that we make people the enemy. Thank you for engaging with the piece.

  2. Tamie October 13, 2014 at 10:12 am - Reply

    Oh my word! So much yes! Our govt in Australia is currently enacting laws specifically designed to target Muslims and I’m outraged by the so-called Christians groups supporting them! Fortunately, some fantastic Christian groups standing in solidarity with Muslims as well.

    • Marilyn October 13, 2014 at 7:07 pm - Reply

      Outrage is a great descriptor – I know just the feeling. And it makes me long to challenge all of us on building bridges and relationships with those whose truth claims differ from ours. Why are we so threatened? I’m saddened to hear this about Australia and share your frustration. What don’t we get about loving our “enemies” and in many cases they can become true friends.

  3. Kay Bruner October 13, 2014 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    “If your faith is that weak that connecting and offering friendship to those who don’t believe as you do could hurt it, then it is weak indeed.” True that.

    • Marilyn October 13, 2014 at 7:30 pm - Reply

      Thanks Kay – it’s something I think about a lot in my world.

  4. Sophie October 13, 2014 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    I have no words! But then we live in an area with many exclusive Bretheren families who do the same to everyone around them.

  5. Marla Taviano October 13, 2014 at 9:17 pm - Reply

    I’m angry with you. We live in an apartment complex (in Columbus, OH) that’s predominantly Muslim (mostly Somali refugees). We love our neighbors so much, and I hate hate hate when they experience discrimination or injustice ESPECIALLY when it comes from people who say they love/follow Jesus. My chest is pounding as I type. 🙁

  6. Margie Hoffman Johnson October 14, 2014 at 12:43 am - Reply

    I am struggling with this- trying with all my heart to think biblically and respond with a heart full of grace. Your red hot rage feels like pluralism / faux spirituality / that states that any faith is equal to another as long as you believe deeply in something. The Bible says that only Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and The Life. What friendship does darkness have with light. I would be gracious, polite to your Muslim family- I would – in your shoes- having developed relationship – lived a Christian witness in front of them – attempt to share the Gospel. At some period of time- that only your heart and the Holy Spirit could determine – if they chose to reject the gospel – then I would pray – I would continue kindness – but there would be a lessening of association. I know how “good” how polite , how honest and sincere many Muslims are. But they are enemies of the cross of Christ – they actively recruit folks to believe what will result in Eternal damnation. Is is truly ” loving” to affirm that?I may not bluntly speak that regarding my child – but I want my child to understand all faiths are not equal and depending certainly on age- I too, would want my child in fellowship with other believers who would deepen and strengthen His faith. I don’t see any hypocrisy there – there was no pretense – they spoke – truth as their heart and conscience dictated. Each one will give an account to God. I cannot work up a red hot rage against them. Many Christians have experienced death of family members at the hands of very radical Muslims. Certainly we can show as much grace and compassion for Christ followers as we do for the Muslim who was ” socially insulted.”

    • Marilyn October 14, 2014 at 11:22 am - Reply

      Hi Margie – thanks for this response and for your desire to communicate with grace. Which you did well! I’d like to respond to a few things – the reason I used “Truth claims” in the post is that I hold dear the truth of Jesus as Saviour – as the way to the Father. I hold it close. I value it above all other. And to me that is why I believe in relationship. If Jesus gave up all to bridge Heaven and earth, cannot I give up the comfort of just being with those who believe the same and stretch out a hand? No where in this post do I claim that our beliefs are the same – what I claim is that there are commonalities that bridge a gap that many, many in the West never want bridged. In this case it wasn’t about our friends being socially insulted – they handled it well. It was about a family never trying to bridge a gap. They never attempted to share the gospel as they never forged a relationship. In terms of showing grace to the family – yes, that was my point in recognizing publicly that I am a Pharisee many times and need to repent of that, not blindly point a finger. I still hold to what I say – that I would gently challenge the family that grace is a miracle – a miracle that saves me, and a miracle that reaches to all of us. As one who has lived most of my life either in a Muslim country or with Muslims I have struggled with attitudes toward Muslims that I see in the West. I see far more forgiveness and love extended by Christians in countries where there is true persecution at the hands of Muslims, concrete examples of “Loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us.” than I do in the U.S. Thanks for engaging the piece – I don’t think any of this is easy – I do think it is necessary.

  7. Kristin October 14, 2014 at 1:14 am - Reply

    Dear Margie,

    I understand that you’re concerned about pluralism. But I don’t think that’s what this post is driving at. My family and I are missionaries in SE Asia. We are raising 4 daughters in a dark place, with very few believers. One of the main ways that we bless & minister to people is through relationships. Relationships tell people that we care about them & love them, and those relationships cannot be conditional upon their acceptance or rejection of the Gospel – that would give them a wrong perception of love – that we only care for them if they come to believe as we do. Of course, our goal is to love people holistically – blessing them in their physical/educational needs, while also blessing them spiritually with the truth & love of Christ. Our desire is to plant a community of missional house churches, but along the way, we & our children must love well & unconditionally, as Jesus did among sinners. I don’t see any pluralism in loving our neighbors & never giving up on the possibility that they might come to know Christ through our family. If we keep our children from playing with the neighbor kids, it also gives our kids the message that those kids are not worth their love & time. Of course, we talk with our girls about how many people here don’t know Christ, & we pray together for people we know. Just because our kids play with non-Christians doesn’t mean that we are saying any faith is as good as another.
    Sorry, this has gotten too long! Just my thoughts. I really respect your desire to think & live biblically.

    • Marilyn October 14, 2014 at 2:07 pm - Reply

      Thanks so much for sharing some of your story Kristin and the practical ways of working through some of this and the emphasis you put on relationships.

    • Margie Hoffman Johnson October 16, 2014 at 8:10 am - Reply

      Thank you all for taking time to respond and graciously clarify. I am old and certainly less traveled and not knowledgeable about missions. I am a Sunday School teacher in a 60’s class who tries to keep informed by reading younger bloggers like yourself. I promise to ponder what you have written. This one thing I know- God surrounds us with other believers who will refine us sharpen us and reveal blind spots and prejudices . While certainly we can learn many things from unbelievers, He uses the Christian community around us in the long walk home of sanctification to conform us to the likeness of Christ. We must love one another, bear with one another and edify one another. We can all experience ” red hot rage” with another believer but we cannot afford to stay there. God bless you younger generation of women as you serve our Savior at home and abroad.

      • Rachel Pieh Jones October 16, 2014 at 8:18 am - Reply

        Margie, this is beautiful. You honestly made me tear up a bit. Your response is so gracious and honest and well, Christ-like. Not that everyone has to agree, not at all, but simply the willingness in this comment thread of people to engage and respond, iron sharpening iron, right? We all need that. I really appreciate this and consider it an honor to host Marilyn’s post and your comments, and the others, thank you.

      • Marilyn October 16, 2014 at 2:43 pm - Reply

        Beautifully said “We can all experience ‘red hot rage’….but we cannot afford to stay there.” So true and so what I have learned through this journey. In fact we are commanded not to stay there. Thanks Margie.

  8. Shari October 14, 2014 at 6:30 am - Reply

    My mind races on many levels. Just speaking on a practical level….. this mindset would eliminate the possibility of public school interaction, and sports team involvement for most Christian children. There are many kids in Christian schools that are a terrible influence on their peers, and likewise with many adults in churches. I am living in a Buddhist nation right now, and while I don’t embrace their faith, I do learn things in the exchange. I do know that we can learn SOMETHING from all people. Even if it is how not-to do a thing. I have probably learned more not-to lessons from other Christians (myself included) than from non-Christians. I have learned a lot from reading this post. Thank you. Everyone.

  9. Rachel Pieh Jones October 14, 2014 at 8:17 am - Reply

    I agree Shari – thanks to everyone who has commented, it is really good to hear various perspectives and experiences. I agree with you – that if we refuse to engage relationally with people of different faiths that is a serious detriment to our ability to be involved in the world, and that we can learn from one another. While living in a Muslim country I’m thankful for those families who have welcomed us as guests even while we are all honest about our personal convictions.

  10. Dalaina May October 14, 2014 at 1:46 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this. My family recently moved to a Muslim nation and absolutely adore our host culture and its warm, loving people. But I am struggling a lot with how to handle people back in the USA who just seem to have such… hatred for Muslims. I find myself often in quick defense (or ironically pointing out historical flaws in my own faith!) and falling into that rage that you wrote about against people back home. Not sure what to do with it all, but I am praying that my own red. hot. rage. will cool to sadness soon.

    • Marilyn October 14, 2014 at 2:11 pm - Reply

      So empathize with this Dalaina. I have had to be really careful getting into any kind of online discussions because they so quickly have dissolved into what I also see has hatred and visceral reactions. In person I’ve been able to have good discussions and challenge as well as be challenged but it’s in the context of relationships and not anonymity. Thanks for sharing and my heart is with yours in this.

  11. Mark T October 16, 2014 at 11:28 pm - Reply

    ” How dare they misuse the name of Christ under the clothing of bigotry and prejudice?”

    Can you explain why it is bigoted to decide who you choose to socialise with?

    For Tamie re “Oh my word! So much yes! Our govt in Australia is currently enacting laws specifically designed to target Muslims and I’m outraged by the so-called Christians groups supporting them!”

    Do you think that is slightly exaggerated? Don’t Australians have the right to protect themselves from those who are radicalised? Do you honestly believe the anti-terror laws are deliberately targeted toward Mulsims (plural) or only the radical fringe? Also, are we not able to distinguish between political decisions to protect Australia and showing genuine and honest love to Muslims by sharing Christ with them? I think your comment lacks nuance.

    Overall, I think the thesis that it is most loving to “befriend” Muslim people needs to be challenged.

    • Marilyn October 18, 2014 at 8:47 pm - Reply

      Hi Mark – thanks for engaging with the piece. I’m going to push back a bit. I don’t know where you live, but for the sake of discussion let’s say you live in Minnesota. Went to college in Boston and had a best friend. Kept in touch with this best friend through marriage, moves, and kids. They don’t believe as you do, but they are dear friends, lovely people. You pray for them all the time, you get in discussions all the time. Now you’re visiting them and they relay to you the story that their kid has been hurt numerous times by neighbors. These neighbors have 4 kids, your friend has one and every time he tries to play they are mean, reject him etc. So your friend has given up finding out that they are Christians and don’t associate with those who are not. This isn’t just about not associating, which I think is categorically unbiblical – this is about being mean, and rejecting. As I admit in the article, I have had to work through this and I’m not angry at these neighbors. In fact our friends moved out of the neighborhood a couple years later. But I challenge you that as a believer you think that’s okay. I don’t know in what universe this is okay and it troubles me that there are those of us who have lived our entire lives in the Muslim world to learn to love and give grace and show who Jesus is and we contend daily with people who’d just as soon see them all go to Hell. I want to be gracious in this space and appreciate so much Rachel inviting me to share but can we not believe that the miracle of Grace that saved us is available to all? And can we not believe that it is important to live as people saved by Grace, not as isolated, fearful people? I hold to what I said in the article: If this Jesus bridged Heaven and Earth to reach us, can we not reach across a yard?

  12. Laurel Becker October 17, 2014 at 12:56 pm - Reply

    Hi Mark:
    I am in no way an expert in politics in any country and I dislike arguing. The only thing I have is the gospel and the example that Jesus lived out for us to imitate. This world is broken and all the differing sides will attack each other. However, Jesus lived a simple message. Lay down your life for a friend, love your neighbour as yourself, pick up your cross and follow me. I don’t really like it – but Jesus never said ‘protect yourself’. Quite on the contrary, his message was for the lost, the hurting, the broken, the rich, the poor, the Jew, the Gentile. He was not exclusive- He loved.
    When a Christian lays down his/her life for a Muslim, Buddist, Hindi, Atheist, etc. he lays down his life for Christ. And you know what happens – People see Jesus.
    This world will fall a part, but the love of Christ and His saving grace will never die. How could we not befriend non-Christians – we were all lost and now we’re found. I am so thankful that someone showed me Jesus through genuine friendship.

  13. […] Marilyn Gardner. Marilyn wrote Red Hot Rage, A Third Culture Kids Talks about Raising Third Culture Kids, and Let’s Talk about Hijab: […]

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