Ramadan Series #4: An Opportunity to Atone

“Ramadan is a bundle of opportunities,” said my local friend.

By a Pioneers worker in the Middle East. This article is the fourth in a four-part series exploring why Ramadan is an important season for Muslims and how Christians may respond.

Besides fasting from dawn to dusk, Muslims are to abstain from coarse speech and anger. Instead, they are to tell the truth, show discipline and be polite.

It is so important to control your anger and to tell the truth. But what empowers and motivates Muslims?

A Time to Atone

“I will atone for myself,” my local friend told me. She is endeavoring to achieve her own salvation, and there are plenty of opportunities for her to earn credit during Ramadan.

This friend is a Shia and the Shia begin fasting a few days before the beginning of Ramadan. There is always a question about when exactly Ramadan begins, as it depends on the sighting of the new moon, which might only be visible for 20 minutes on the first night of the lunar month. But she is safe, as she is already fasting.

A Christian Reflection on Atonement

Before you can give someone the Good News of the gospel, you need to tell them the bad news. We cannot pull ourselves up on our own. We are “dead” in our “trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Dead means we cannot rise up and do something about our situation!

The apostle Paul spends a lot of time in his letter to the Romans telling them the bad news. “No one is righteous, no, not one; no one understands,” he tells his readers (Romans 3:10-11). But they can have peace with God ‘through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

With God’s help and Christ’s example, we can strive to do good year-round. Good works do not save us but are a fruitful demonstration of the truth that lies within. In Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonica, he writes,

“Admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thessalonians 5:14-18).

Paul uses the word “always” twice in this brief passage. As Muslims try extra hard during Ramadan to atone for themselves and reserve a place in heaven, let us pray that many will recognize this inefficacy.

Adapted from an article originally published by Arab World Ministries.

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