With so much attention being directed toward the building of a potential New York City mosque near Ground Zero and now the incendiary issue of a charlatan pastor leading a potential Koran burning in Florida, it is worthwhile to examine how Jesus might approach such issues and then ask if we as his followers are responding appropriately. Being that there are so many who wear his name as a badge of identification, yet who behave so radically different from one another, it is important for us to contrast those who clearly attempt to follow his way from those who have created their own self-serving religion.
I believe it is worth mentioning at the outset that I am only viewing these issues through the lens of how Christ might view them and I am only writing to those who claim to follow Christ. I fully admit and expect that this perspective will not jive with many, including nationalists, but I am not writing to you. I am writing directly to the hell bent fundamentalists who would like to summon the flames of hell to burn their enemies and to those who say they follow the way of Christ but who live under the values of good ol’ Uncle Sam instead of the values of Jesus.
It is true that the tendency of mankind is to retaliate, fight, punish, and even destroy the offender. That is the way of the world and that is the way it has operated for thousands of years- civilization after civilization, kingdom after kingdom, and empire after empire. It is a mind-set, attitude, and way of life that is so deeply embedded in our wayward human psyche that any suggestion to the contrary is not understood and many times ridiculed, mocked, or even attacked itself.
But while I have no expectation of the average person to stand against the cyclical patterns of aggression and follow the words and life of Jesus by loving our enemies, blessing those who curse us, and forgiving those who trespass against us, there is a very real expectation for those who do profess to follow Jesus to actually follow this way. If the Christian has made the way of Jesus our own personal pursuit then love, peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation of our friends and enemies ought to be our norm, our mandate, and our call. Our life work ought to center on healing and restoration in the lives of people and relationships.
People who claim to be “Christians” yet who incite hatred, antagonism, vitriol, fighting, retaliation, or judgment are not of Christ. Those are not his ways and they are not the ways to which we have been called. Whether it is standing in front of a strip club holding signs in protest, yelling and screaming about the New York City mosque, or burning the text of another religion- they all completely miss the way, life, and teachings of Jesus in the way he loved those who were enemies of him and the way he served those who had been pushed to the edge of society.
The Samaritans were clear religious enemies of the Jews. One day when Jesus walked by one of their villages the Samaritans began to hurl insults against him. Two of Jesus’ disciples, James and John, asked if they should call fire down from the sky to burn the accusers to a crisp. How did Jesus respond? He chastised his disciples for monumentally missing the point. Did you get that? He did not agree with the retaliatory notion of his followers.
I believe Jesus would have the same reaction today to any of his “followers” who feel the need to retaliate, marginalize, or burn anyone (or anything) to a crisp in hostility. Jesus did not play the tit-for-tat retaliation game. He chose to bless those who cursed him…and he was trying to teach those who follow him the same thing!
In the most disregarded passage in the Bible Paul asks his church, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside?”
Christians would serve themselves (and God) better if we would learn to worry about our own waywardness rather than everyone else’s waywardness. We should be more concerned with how we are demonstrating the loving and self-sacrificial way of Christ to the world rather than how wildly offended we get by what others do. We have not been asked to sit in the judgment seat with God; we have only been asked to love.
So what business is it of the Christian if a mosque is built in New York City? It is not our concern and it does not change anything for us. We are still called to be like Jesus no matter the situation or circumstance. Our time would be better spent discussing how to demonstrate a greater love to the Muslims or how we can better serve them with our actions. Granted this may push you to the edge of what you are comfortable with but the way of Christ pushes us beyond that which is humanly possible. Burning sacred texts and spewing hateful venom is too easy, too predictable, and too much like the fallen world. If you call yourself a Christian…then start acting like it. Otherwise quit doing your evil bidding in the name of Jesus.