Mission field: Manhattan
Planting gospel seeds with a Bible-quoting Uber driver
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It’s 50 minutes by car from Madison Square Garden to Prospect Heights. Enough time to convert an Uber driver? God knows. Agrippa was dubious when Paul tried it: “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” (Acts 26:28). Paul: “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains” (verse 29).
My entrée into conversation came easy: “Help me locate your accent,” I asked. “Bangladesh,” he offered, and it paid me to know a little geography and modern history because there’s nothing like it for warming a stranger’s heart. That led to talk of food—because all roads lead to talk of food in encounters between foreigners. He boasted of his beef curry, and I learned that the best Bangladeshi restaurants in New York are in Jackson Heights.
It was he who provided the money quote. When I asked if he Ubers (Is that a verb?) all day long for a living, he said, “A man works so he can eat.” I lunged: “Did you know that what you said is straight from the Bible?” And I quoted: “All a man’s labor is for his mouth” (Ecclesiastes 6:7).
(There’s a place gained, I thought.)
“How do you know the Bible?” I inquired. “It’s an important book. After the Quran,” he said—and I was not surprised, having read Nabeel Qureshi’s Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. My Muslim driver was eager to preempt my proselytizing. He came at me with chapter and verse: “‘I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.’ Deuteronomy 18:18,” he said impressively. “Muhammad is that prophet.”
He knew I would claim Deuteronomy 18:18 for Jesus, and was ready with rebuttal: Jesus could not be the prophet “like you” that God promised Moses, he said, because Jesus was not like Moses. Moses had a mother and father, while Jesus had a mother but no father. Moses died a natural death, while Jesus was raised. “What!” I said. “Your proofs against Jesus are my proofs for Jesus! The reason Jesus didn’t have a father is because God is His father. He was born in a manger of a virgin overshadowed by the Holy Spirit.”
(The thought crossed my mind that if things got heated, I could find myself out on the curb in the inky Manhattan night.)
“I don’t want to hurt your feelings,” my driver said, “but when men start dressing like women, the end is near.” A point of agreement. But it was no time to sit on laurels. “What do you do about your sins?” I said, still pondering his comparison of Jesus and Muhammad. “Jesus died to take away our sins. Muhammad didn’t.” My driver had been well drilled: “So Christians think they can sin all they want because they are forgiven.” I pressed the matter and he said, rather unconvincingly, that Allah may forgive if a person repents sincerely.
I had literally minutes to clinch the deal. “And your guilt just vanishes into thin air! No. There’s only one way to be freed from the eternal punishment due your sin, and that’s if a perfect substitute takes your place and dies your death.”
We were approaching my stop, and I told him he could leave me at the end of the block and I would walk the rest of the way to my daughter’s apartment, but he insisted on dropping me at the door, saying it was cold out. He said he would pray for me and I said the same about him, and that night in bed I asked God for a seed-watering Christian to enter his car or life. Perhaps some dream or vision too. Of course, I’ll never know what happens to the guy. I guess Paul never knew what became of Agrippa either.
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