Last week my church hosted three representatives from the local Turkish Muslim community at what is usually our Wednesday evening Bible class.
This was a big step for my church. We’re part of a christian movement (and there are many others like us) that has historically invested a great deal of energy in telling others why they’re wrong.
We would use examples such as, “If you see a man about to fall down a hole it’s your responsibility to yell and warn him.” So we yelled… a lot. We yelled at Baptists. We yelled at Methodists. We yelled at Catholics. In more recent years we yelled at Community Churches (who are really Baptists in disguise). We yelled at the New Age Movement. And in more recent years we’ve joined the rest of the country in yelling at Muslims.
Christianity is inherently a missionary religion. I participate and support my movement’s evangelistic / proselytising efforts. I believe that God still wants all people everywhere to repent and that salvation is found in Christ and him crucified.
But that’s not all…
Christianity is inherently a peaceful religion.
Christianity is inherently a loving religion.
Christianity is inherently a religion that makes the world a better place.
Except when it’s not.
I have come to realise that yelling doesn’t accomplish these purposes. Yelling creates barriers. Yelling, regardless of the words, immediately communicates that I’m right and you’re wrong. The person that’s yelling isn’t listening.
If peacemaking is as essential to the practice of my faith as proselytising, I have some thinking to do. There is an onus upon me to share my faith in ways that communicate peace on my part.
When I recognise that a person or group of people don’t want to hear of my faith convictions because they already have their own, I have a responsibility to live peacefully, and lovingly with them.
I am convinced that in order to live peacefully with my Muslim / Black / Catholic / Other nieghbours I must first demonstrate my respect for them by listening to them. Who am I to demand they listen to me unless I’m willing to listen to them?
Three Muslims walked into our church… and our church listened.
We ran out of time. I had more questions. They had to run afterwards to a funeral so there was no informal visiting. But a conversation was started. A relationship began. And now when we see Muslims on TV I hope we see Mamut, Fazir, and Mufasa. I hope we see people we know we can live with peacefully. I hope we see people we can love.
Living peacefully with people different from ourselves doesn’t mean that we endorse everything they think and do. It doesn’t mean that we understand and value equally all their customs and cultural heritage. It doesn’t mean that we feel totally comfortable when they speak in a language we don’t understand.
Living peacefully means that we respect others as sharing a common humanity. It means respecting their right to different beliefs as we hope they respect ours. It means acknowledging that our culture isn’t the best in everything. Living as peacemakers means loving our neighbours as Jesus loved us.