Ray Norman. Dangerous Love: A True Story of Tragedy, Faith and Forgiveness in the Muslim World. (Nelson: Nashville, 2015)
One of the most profoundly challenging and moving stories that Jesus told is of the man who was mugged and was givien life saving treatment by a man who would be more naturally thought of as his sworn enemy. If I were to retell the story today, it would be of a Christian at the point of death who was helped by a member of Daesh. I am talking about the parable recorded in Luke 10:25-37, which we commonly refer to as the parable of the Good Samaritan. For us who are overly familiar with the story, it is all too easy to forget that the first audience would have been profoundly shocked, challenged and upset by this radical teaching, of enemies loving each other, of the possibility of crossing fault lines of hate with acts of dangerous love. Every time I read that parable I am reminded that it is only by God’s grace that I am able to show anything like that love.
As a Christian minister whose job is all about engagement with those of other faiths, I am regularly challenged by that story to ensure I am displaying Christ-like love to all those who are different from me. I am not for a moment stating that the Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Bahai and people of other faiths or no faith with whom I regularly work are my enemies. They are my friends, and so I am called to love and care for them. But Jesus also instructs Christians to pray for our enemies and bless those who persecute us. And one group who count themselves as my enemies are the extremists of Daesh whose violent understanding of Islam threatens to divide us here in the UK and make neighbours into enemies when they can so easily be friends.
The powerful nature of that challenge to love my enemies was brought home to me as I read through Dangerous Love: A True Story of Tragedy, Faith and Forgiveness in the Muslim World, written by Ray Norman. It recounts his experience as Director of World Vision’s programmes in Mauritania and in particular the shattering and transformative events that began when he and his daughter were shot by a Mauritanian man in the months after 9/11 and culminated with his wife reading Scripture in prison with that same man.
Christian biography can at times be trite and neatly package a complex world in a sugar coated Christianity-light. This book is the very opposite. It is a rare book that moves me to tears. But I was so moved as I read the accounts of Ray’s personal struggles and even more so the accounts of how his wife and daughter strove to forgive the man who shattered their lives. Ray’s accounts of the healing, grace and hope spoken to his family by the Muslim Mauritanians who reached out to them reminded me of the wideness of God’s mercy and challenged me to look for who Jesus is using to speak to me in a complex and divided world. Although the form is of an autobiographical account, this book is one of the best expositions of Jesus’ command to love our enemies that I have ever read. In a world in danger of being paralysed by fear and division, this is a wake up call to dangerous love that every Christian needs to read.
This book review was originally produced for Anvil Journal. The Journal is currently transitioning to a new partnership with CMS. During this phase, book reviews are being published by Fulcrum.
Revd Dr Tom Wilson is vicar of two churches in the centre of Gloucester, a urban and diverse part of an otherwise largely rural county. He is also Diocesan inter-faith advisor and reviews editor for Anvil, an evangelical journal of theology and mission (www.anviljournal.org). He is married with one child and another on the way. In his spare time he likes to read, run or go for a walk in the mountains.