I've never been much for autobiographies but I was extremely interested in reading through this one as it seemed to be very pertinent to our current cultural issues. Immigrants and refugees have been in our daily news headlines and continue to receive a plethora of perspectives and opinions.
Although I have never heard of Joshua Sherif, his story is one that all believers should hear. He structures the book with three parts and nine total chapters:
- Part 1 | Living in Hard Times: My Story
- Part 2 | Breaking Hard Hearts: Three Problems
- Part 3 | Taking Hard Steps: Three Solutions
In part one, he recounts his personal life story of being born in Egypt, being raised a Muslim, and the subsequent conversation of faith and journey to the USA. He tells his story with clarity, honesty, and raw emotion. It's a powerful recollection that provides a deep understanding of his path to Christianity in America.
Part two discusses three of the most intense ways believers harden their hearts based on his experience: inadequacy, ignorance, and indignation. These were tough chapters as they were gently convicting. Every single person, believer or non-believer, after reading these chapters, would be forced to admit that they have hardened their hearts in these ways at one time or another. We live in a fallen world full of sinful people so it's not surprising. Unfortunately, it's hard for us to acknowledge or address those areas unless we ask and accept the grace of God and move towards reconciliation. Sherif does a great job of bringing these problems to light by sharing how they have effected his path to Christianity as an immigrant/refugee.
Part three is the most important section of the book. Sherif provides three very simple, yet powerful, ways for believers and the Church to combat these problems. He doesn't shy away from the fact that these solutions will be hard to implement - they will take sacrifice and reliance on God's strength. And almost always solutions are easier said than done. But without believers' and the Church's willingness to try, then we fail to uphold God's command for hospitality (literally translated as "love for the stranger").
I did have one slight disappointment or unmet expectation throughout the book: the aspect of immigration that cannot be ignored is the crime that comes along with it. There is no doubt that crime and safety of our homeland has been risked on behalf of immigration. This is, of course, not a blanket statement that covers any and all immigration but rather a specific risk that is involved in the overall concept. For example, everyone who flies on a plane takes a very calculated risk that the plane could reach its destination safely or it could crash. Thus, crime associated with immigration is a risk associated with the overall decision to love the stranger. I don't believe Sharif addressed this in a way that was satisfying. Where is the balance between following God's command to love the stranger and protecting your family? I wish he would have discussed this more in depth for me to ponder through.
All in all, the book is a great story for all people to hear and learn from.
I received a copy of this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review