Monday, October 25, 2010

Who Is My Neighbor?

The Lord's Prayer in Arabic
How far we've come....

The American backlash against Muslims since 9-11-2001 has infected many Christians' attitudes toward the people of Islamic faith. There was a time when the Evangelical's opinion of Muslims was simply that they needed to be missionized and evangelized. We recognized the danger of some radical elements, but coercive and violent forms of persuasion were not commonly given respect in serious consideration of how to interact with Muslims.

Rather, we thought of sending missionaries and teams of evangelists, either covertly or overtly, to convey the unconditional love of Jesus. And we did so recognizing the dangers.

Lately, that love has not seemed so unconditional, at least if you gauge it by the eroding Evangelical-American attitudes that seem to becoming more hostile and widespread daily.

Thankfully, there are some Bible-believing Christians who still embrace the unconditional love of Jesus not only for themselves, but for everyone separated from the Savior. They understand that when Jesus walked among us he loved and blessed those who were the Muslim counterparts of his day.

Although Islam did not exist in the first century, many alternate religions did. All of the people who embraced those alternate religions were despised by Israel's official religious leaders. Some of those people, like the Samaritans, had alternate versions of the Bible's teaching that exceeded Islam's differing accounts in many ways.

Others, like the adherents and citizens of Rome's Emperor Cult, posed a religious, political, and violent threat to Jesus and his followers. The first century had its share of violent extremists inside and outside of Judaism. Some of them found alliances in factions within Second-Temple Judaism; some needed no such alliances to instigate persecutions and executions of Jesus' followers.

Yet neither Jesus nor any of his followers ever engaged in the kinds of venomous rhetoric against those religions that we now hear spewing from some so-called “Christian” commentators, leaders, and politicians today against Muslims.

For discussion:

What do you think has caused some Evangelicals to behave so unlovingly against Muslims?

How would Jesus want Americans to treat people of other faiths?

How would he want us to treat neighbors who actually do threaten us? How would he want us to treat people who really are out enemies?


The Koran (Penguin Classics)

The Qur'an (Oxford World's Classics)

Building Bridges: Christianity and Islam - Written by a Lebanese pastor who devoted his life to connecting with his Muslim neighbors, provides useful thoughts for dialogue and an introduction to the conversational approach.

Tea with Hezbollah: Sitting at the Enemies Table Our Journey Through the Middle East - Combines nail-biting narrative with the texture of rich historical background, to explore the question: Is it really possible to love one’s enemies?

With God On Our Side (dvd) - Articulates a perspective on the Middle East debate anchored in history and sound theology.

Whose Land? Whose Promise?: What Christians Are Not Being Told About Israel and the Palestinians - Wheaton professor Gary Burge looks at the real estate debate from a biblical and sociological perspective.

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