My wife and I had the honor of breaking a daily fast during Ramadan with Muhammet and Zuleyha Ali Sezer.
He and his family graciously invited a small group to their home, and we gathered around their Iftar dinner table celebrating our shared humanity.
Ramadan is the most sacred month of the year for Muslims. They believe Ramadan is the time when Allah revealed the first verses of the Quran, Islam’s most sacred text.
We gathered on one of the last 10 nights of Ramadan, which traditionally symbolizes the Night of Power, even though the exact night is not clear.
As we gathered around Muhammet and Zuleyha’s table at sunset, we entered into sacred space, breaking a daily fast.
Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with a testimony of faith, prayer, almsgiving and making a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Muhammet explained how fasting serves both spiritual and physical purposes for Muslims, demonstrating frailty and dependence on Allah.
After Muhammet provided a thoughtful and informative lesson for the group, the conversation shifted to our common humanity.
We sat around the table swapping stories about our families, raising children, worries about the economy and the need for strengthening personal relationships.
As we talked and laughed, the uncomfortable barriers that emerged at the beginning of the evening started to fade away. While we all celebrated the diversity around the table, we began to cherish our common humanity.
We were sons and daughters, moms and dads, and laborers making our way through life one step at a time. While some walked in sneakers, sandals or boots, we realized we were all walking in the same direction toward peace and happiness.
Over the years, I have participated in several Iftar dinners with my Muslim colleagues and Seder meals with Jewish family members inside their homes. Each of these moments was special as we gathered to celebrate Ramadan and Passover, but a common theme ran through them.
I was struck by how these religious observances occurred around a meal with non-Muslim and non-Jewish guests invited.
As a Jesus follower, most of our religious observances occur in the church building. When meals are prepared for Christmas and Easter, they usually center around immediate and extended family. They also tend to emphasize “family” over the more spiritual purposes behind the gathering.
In fact, if we are being honest, holiday conversations very seldom revolve around sacred days and their meaning. Instead, chatter often centers around current events and sports, both potentially leading to hurt feelings and remorse.
Christians would do well to follow the model of our Muslim and Jewish friends. To break barriers, one of the best methods of familiarizing yourself with someone else would be to invite them into your home and share a sacred meal.
Believe me, as many questions as Christians have about Ramadan and Passover, Muslims and Jews have as many questions about Christmas and Easter. An evening together could possibly be a learning experience for everyone.
More importantly, as we learn about each other’s faiths and culture, we also discover our human bonds.
While the evening begins with Muslims, Jews and Christians around a table, it quickly evolves into human beings sharing commonalities and discovering new connections.
At our cores, we are very much the same. We get frustrated. We get angry. We have bad days. We have good days. We smile. We laugh. We hope. We love.
All of this and more connects us as human beings, forging us together as created beings sharing life together.
As I sat at Muhammet and Zuleyha’s Iftar dinner this week, I thought about my own Christian faith and how I need to follow in their footsteps.
At the Passover meal Jesus shared with his disciples before his crucifixion, the reality persisted that it was a diverse group of individuals.
While all were Jewish, all did not come from the same backgrounds. They were fishermen, tradesmen, tax collectors and local zealots.
As Christians seek to emulate the importance of shared meals with diverse groups of people, I want to suggest we begin to set aside Maundy Thursday during Holy Week for this purpose.
Maundy Thursday certainly has the historical and theological significance for Christians to gather around a table to answer questions about their faith and forge new friendships.
We can talk about the meaning behind Jesus’ sacrifice and the hope for Christians that by following his teachings we can learn to love God and neighbor.
The more people of good faith can find ways to share their faith and live together, the greater potential we will have to learn from each other with the hope of creating a better tomorrow for our children.
As the evening came to a close at Muhammet and Zuleyha’s, their children filled the room with smiles and giggles. It was a stark reminder that their future depends on how our generation can find a better pathway forward.
CEO of Good Faith Media.