Be not afraid

In several recent conversations with people I love and respect I have heard that the Islamic faith encourages the devout Muslim to kill non-believers, that Islam is completely intolerant, that it seeks to rule the world, that the Muslim faithful will not rest until the whole world is converted to Islam or dead. Fear, fear, fear. Fear mongering seems to be a growth industry in the current economic recession.

And yet, I know that these folks speaking to me know and believe that love, not fear is the way of Jesus.

I believe that the majority of devout Muslims living up to the teachings of Islam are about as likely to desire the death of their neighbor as is the majority of devout Christians living up to the teachings of Christianity. To let either of these great world religions be defined by a minority of violent disciples is not helpful in our divided and distrustful world.

I am sad to say that we needn’t look too far to discover that the most fundamentalist Christians come across as completely intolerant, seeking to establish God’s rule in the world (that is, seeking to rule the world in God’s name), and clearly not willing to rest until the whole world is converted.At their best they stop short of actually killing others to promote the Kingdom, but in the Information Age there are many ways to inflict death; spreading lies, wielding innuendo skillfully, promoting fear to the highest level of consciousness and commitment, are among the ways a “good Christian” can become less than a “good neighbor” as presented by Jesus in his words and works. The rhetoric and the justification for the rhetoric used by fundamentalists (NOT THE MAJORITY) in both Christianity and Islam is quite similar, equally passionate and simply not representative of the majority of believers.

As a believer and a follower of Christ and doing my best to continue the ministry of healing and reconciliation begun in the words and ministry of Jesus, I turn to the words often used by Jesus and even more often used by those angelic messengers sent by God to believers: “Be not afraid.” Do not begin in fear, do not act from fear, be not afraid, begin and act in the knowledge and love of God who is with us and who desires health, wholeness, and peace within the world created and nurtured in love.

The essay by Skye Jethani entitled An Evangelical Response to the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ develops this theme in a very pastoral way. I find inspiration in his words to continue to do my part in furthering the ministry of reconciliation begun in Jesus Christ. I pray that more and more followers of Christ will find comfort in Jesus’ words ‘Be not afraid” and find direction for their actions in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5-7).

For further reading and reflection:

  • Evangelicals and Muslims: Both Love Jesus – a blog entry by John Shore who shares the insights of his Lutheran friend who is a pastor and student of Islamic-Christian relationships
  • Patheos.com – an interfaith website. “Founded in 2008, Patheos.com is the premier online destination to engage in the global dialogue about religion and spirituality and to explore and experience the world’s beliefs. Patheos is the website of choice for the millions of people looking for credible and balanced information or resources about religion.” Read more
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