Lately, I’ve been wondering where the Christian message of “love” has been in our world…especially in the good old U.S.A.
When I turn on the news and hear reporters talking about groups gathering together to protest the building of a mosque due to its proximity to “Ground Zero”, my stomach turns. I’m pretty sure I learned something about “religious freedom” being some kind of “first liberty” in these United States? But, I suppose that’s only a liberty for Christians.
When I turn on the news and hear reporters talking about a pastor leading a Quran burning, my stomach turns even more. In fact, I even feel anger welling up so deep that I find myself on the verge of cursing (of course, no foul language would ever come from my mouth…right?) Yes, the pastor has now called off the burning, but the damage has already been done.
You see, I wonder what folks are trying to accomplish through these protests and book burnings. I know there are all kinds of reasons behind it all. I know that September 11th was a horrible tragedy in our nation. But, are protests and burn parties the appropriate response? What are these groups trying to communicate?
Are they trying to communicate God’s overwhelming love? Are they trying to show God’s grace, mercy, compassion, patience, and kindness?
What all of this communicates to me is a lack of love for one’s neighbor.
And, to those outside of the Christian faith, it most likely communicates that all Christians want to burn the Quran and keep people of other faiths from building places of worship.
In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Generally, we like to think of our neighbors as those who are most like us. We reduce the idea of our neighbors to the people who talk like us, look like us, dress like us, worship like us, and live like we do.
However, Jesus challenges these ideas early on in the book of Matthew. In chapter 5:43-48 he says, “You have heard that it was said love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Instead of protesting and burning stuff that we don’t necessarily agree with, how can we demonstrate our love for our neighbors…and our enemies?