Less Talk : More Peace

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.

muslim prayWe 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.

Why Did Jesus Choose a Samaritan?

Luke 10 contains Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan. The basic message is that we are to love each person that crosses our path.

The parable Jesus told contains an additional message that we might easily rush by.

In the previous chapter (Luke 9) a Samaritan village refused to provide food and shelter for Jesus because he was traveling to Jerusalem. That sounds like prejudice at its finest. Jesus’ disciples then sought to return the favour as they asked if they could call down fire from heaven upon the village. Jesus rebuked them and walked on to another village.

good samaritan 01A little later when asked to answer the question “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus tells a story that contrasts the religious leaders of the day and a foreigner. If Jesus simply wanted to create a contrast for his story, he could have told the parable of the Good Undertaker, or the Good Tax Collector. He could have used any number of unclean or unwelcome characters from Jewish society. Instead, Jesus made his hero a Samaritan.

In choosing a Samaritan as his hero Jesus provided a subversive commentary on Jewish societal attitudes of the day. So if you think Jesus wouldn’t have anything to say about race relations in the US (or any other country) today, you’re wrong.

A significant message from this parable is that we are to love our neighbours that have black or white skin. We are to love those who speak English poorly, or not at all. Of course, none of us are racists. But there are some groups of people we don’t like very much.

  • The (white) suburbs don’t like when the (black) city starts spreading outward.
  • We complain aobut all the Indians in the call centers who we can’t understand.
  • We don’t like the (sometimes illegal) immigrants taking “our jobs”.
  • We don’t like the Asians we see driving around town in their nice cars. (Because they all drive Mercedes, right?)
  • We’re uncomfortable driving through neighbourhoods where the store signs are all in another language.

Maybe we don’t want to call down heavenly fire onto these people, but it would be a stretch to say that we love them.

Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr Day. As a figurehead within the civil rights movement he played a pivotal role in bringing great transformation to this country. In his “I Have A Dream” speech he made the statement,

I have a dream, that one day, my four little children will live in a country where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.

That’s a dream Jesus had for the world. Jesus dreamed of a kingdom defined not by ethnicity, but by character. It’s certainly a sentiment found in this parable. In verse 37 we find that the true neighbour is not identified by race, but as “The one who had mercy upon him.

We need to respect the colour of skin, and the riches of languages and cultures of other people. We also need to look beyond these traits to their heart needs and their character.

In The Parable of The Good Samaritan Jesus makes a subversive statement about race relations. “Samaritans are God’s people too.” It’s a message that retains its relevance in 2014.