Time to Stand Up
The time has come for people of faith to assert themselves, in no small way, to save the world.
What does that mean?
It’s as simple and complex as this – the world needs love now more than ever. And all that seems to get any attention is hate and division. The same people who (loudly) proclaim their faith in Jesus Christ espouse philosophies that clearly ignore or conflict with his teachings.
Jesus commands that we LOVE ONE ANOTHER. (yes, that is a PERIOD) He did not follow with a fine-print list of legalese, exceptions and caveats. Even the most legalistic reader has to confess that he did not want us to withhold love from another person FOR ANY REASON WHATSOEVER.
And yet, that is just what we do when we, the richest country in the world, tell desperately poor and endangered people that they’re not welcome here. They don’t look like us, they don’t talk like us. Did Jesus say, ‘Love one another as long as they look and talk like you do’? He did not.
We do this to people from other countries, but we’re just as likely to do it based on regions of the country, neighborhoods or even schools. And we have always discriminated against a wide range of factors, including race, religion (or lack thereof), disability, gender, sexual orientation and many more. Remember when Jesus said, ‘Love one another, except those who are black, Muslim, blind, female lesbians.’? Me neither. Because he didn’t say that. Not ever. Not once.
Jews and Christians differ about Jesus, that is, who he was (Messiah or prophet), but there is so much more on which they do agree. Christians and Jews can certainly agree on the concept of unconditional love, respect and acceptance whether they attribute this to the teachings of Jesus or to something else. I am pretty sure Jesus is fine not getting the byline for this story, as long as the story gets told.
What about Muslims? There are more of them than of any other religion in the world. Christians and Jews can do what they like, but Muslims have the numbers. Well, my opinion is that Muslims get an exceedingly bad and unfair rap. There are certainly different beliefs, customs and expectations, just as there are differences between Christians and Jews. These 3 major world faiths are different for good reasons.
But again, the common threads are many. Peace, decency, respect, charity, love. These things are all part of all 3 of these faiths. Those are outstanding building blocks on which to build a foundation for saving the world and combating evil, which thrives on our separateness and our bickering about small matters. Some would argue with what constitutes ‘small’ but suffice to say anything that is not about loving one another unconditionally is small by comparison.
Okay, what do we mean by ‘love?’ People get hung up on the word, which has powerful connotations of romantic relationships and even sex. It’s much broader and more inclusive than that. Love may mean treating cashiers as friends. Or letting someone go ahead of you in traffic. Or helping someone pick up something they’ve dropped. Or simply giving a smile to someone who may be having a hard day. Or telling your wife you love her. Or telling your mom you miss her. Or sending a get well or birthday card or text or email or graffiti. Or thanking someone for doing something they think is no big deal. Or holding the door from someone.
The point is there are a million ways to love one another. Many, in fact most, cost little or nothing. None of the above require us to say ‘In Jesus name, have a nice day’ or ‘Shalom, thanks for holding the door’ or ‘Allah Akbar, let me help you with that.’ Kindness, decency, selflessness, service – none of these is religiously restricted. It simply requires a mindset. A mindset that says, ‘Another human is in front of me, I can be hostile, I can be indifferent or I can be kind. I choose to be kind.’
Recently there was a mass shooting, where many elderly worshipers were slaughtered inside a synagogue. In the days following, one of the responses was from the local Muslim community, who raised a bunch of money very quickly to support their Jewish brothers and sisters. Was it because they suddenly agree on deep matters of religious doctrine? No, of course not. They did it because of their shared humanity, their decency and their recognition that those things give them much more in common than other things do to separate them.
So, people of faith, it’s time to stand up. The world is a mess, and we can stand by no longer. We have to stop justifying hatred for any reason, as it is against what we believe as faith-filled people. We cannot turn a blind eye to the kind of evil that has again found its voice in a broken world.
There will always be people who need help. Some of them will never be able to repay. Some may not even appreciate it. But we’re still obligated to do what we can, however little or much.
The fate of the world is in our hands. We don’t need to take over. We just need to make sure that love for and kindness to our fellow human beings does.
God bless you.