Christian Peace-Making

In the current conflict with Islamic fundamentalists we need to ask “What would Jesus tell us to do?” Firstly I think He would tell us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48), and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39), including those with whom we have irreconcilable religious differences like those between  the Jews and Samaritans. He would also say "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) Here is a short article I wrote called “Who Should We Love, Who Should We Hate?”:

Who Should We Love? Who Should We Hate?

(Urban Peace-Making, The Good Samaritan and Muslim-Christian Relationships) 

 The Four Questions

True Christians and true Muslims cannot and will never come to any real agreement. To Muslims, Christians, while people of the book, are perceived as still in the "realm of war", not yet submitted to Allah. To Christians, Muslims, though respected, are perceived as unbelievers and are yet to be converted to Christianity. The differences between the two faiths are enormous, vital and substantial. A bible-believing Christian cannot follow Mohammed or agree with many of the teachings of the Koran. A true Muslim cannot believe in the Trinity or the incarnation. These are impossibilities. Our two faiths are irreconcilably different. Our two faiths have been at war for centuries and our two faiths will always seek to convert each other. True believers in each camp  will always see the other as sinners, outside the faith, and on their way to Hell. Given that biblical Christianity and fundamentalist Islam will never agree, and will always see each other as sinners then:

  1. Should we kill someone because they are a sinner, outside our faith, and going to Hell? 
  2. Should we walk on by and let someone die, say in a car accident, because they are a sinner, outside our faith, and going to Hell?
  3. Should we refuse to spend money on someone to help them recover back to health if  they are a sinner, outside our faith, and going to Hell?
  4. Should we hate our neighbor because they are a sinner, outside our faith, and going to Hell?

In short what is the realm of people I should love? And what is the realm of people a holy and righteous person should hate and detest ? Are the boundaries of my love determined by the boundaries of my nation, ethnic group, customs, practices or my faith? Who should I show mercy to and who should I show no pity to at all?

The Story

These were also the urgent questions of Jesus' day when relationships between Jews, Romans and Samaritans were tense. Jews saw Romans as unclean Gentile dogs and despised the Samaritans as corrupted, idolatrous apostates. No good Jew would talk with a Samaritan. Romans saw Jews as stubborn troublemakers and Samaritans generally hated Jews and would not give anyone hospitality who was heading towards Jerusalem. In the midst of this irreconcilable religious tension Jesus told the following story:

(Luke 10:25-37 NKJV) And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" {26} He said to him, "What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?" {27} So he answered and said, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.'" {28} And He said to him, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live." {29} But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" {30} Then Jesus answered and said: "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. {31} "Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. {32} "Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. {33} "But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. {34} "So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. {35} "On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.' {36} "So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?" {37} And he said, "He who showed mercy on him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

  1. A certain lawyer asks Jesus what should he do to inherit eternal life.
  2. Jesus points the lawyer to the Jewish Law and asks him what it says.
  3. The lawyer replies that eternal life comes if we love God with all our heart mind and strength and our neighbor as ourselves.
  4. Jesus replies - Correct! Now go and do this and you will live.
  5. The lawyer hedges, it looks too hard a task, too big a job. So like a good lawyer he goes for the definition and asks "Who is my neighbor?". The real question being "who do I have to love?" or in the context of the original question about eternal life "Who do I have to love in order to inherit eternal life?" The hidden plea is "Tell me I can have eternal life by just loving a few people, give me a definition that lets me off the hook so I can justify myself."
  6. So Jesus tells a story about a well-known and hazardous bit of road between Jerusalem and Jericho, the highway probably just outside where they were talking. 
  7. A Jew is robbed and badly beaten and left for dead, the clergy that were supposed to look after him and show compassion (a priest and a Levite) just walk on by. Jesus clearly thinks this behavior is wrong.
  8. Then a Samaritan comes along and has compassion on the Jew (who to him is a sinner, outside the Samaritan faith and going to Hell)
  9. The Samaritan does not kill the man but instead heals the wounded Jew.
  10. The Samaritan does not leave the Jew to die but bandages him and puts him on his own donkey, so the wounded man rode while the Good Samaritan walked.
  11. The Samaritan pays money to the innkeeper to take care of this man who is outside of the Samaritan faith.
  12. The Good Samaritan promises to come back and check and see how he is going and to pay any additional expenses.
  13. The Samaritan does not convert the Jew and the Jew does not convert the Samaritan. Both remain very different in their religious beliefs.
  14. The Samaritan does not hate, but rather loves and shows practical mercy on, someone with whom he had an irreconcilable religious difference.

The Application

Jesus/Isa told that story to answer the lawyers implied question "Who do I have to love in order to inherit eternal life?" . 

If you are to have the sort of love that God/Allah will take note of on the Day of Judgment ; the sort of love that will cause Him to grant you eternal life, then the answer to all these questions is Yes. Yes, you must love sinners. Yes you must love those who believe wrongly. Yes you must love people of other races and cultures. Yes you must love those who despise and oppress you. According to Jesus only this sort of love will be great enough to make you fit for Paradise. In another place Jesus teaches about what our attitude to our enemies should be:

(Luke 6:27-38 NKJV) "But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, {28} "bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. {29} "To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. {30} "Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. {31} "And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. {32} "But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. {33} "And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. {34} "And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. {35} "But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. {36} "Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. {37} "Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. {38} "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you."

Here Jesus is quite specific. There is no reward from God for behaving just like ordinary sinners. The righteous must live by a higher and holier standard and have a deeper and greater love. If sinners can show a little mercy then the righteous should show much mercy, if the sinners can lend, then the righteous can give, if the sinners can love their friends, the righteous could love their enemies.

If we are to demonstrate a greater love than that of the sinners, and bring ourselves eternal life on the Day of Judgment, then we must love our enemies. So Christians and Muslims must love each other, if they are to listen to the teaching of Jesus and inherit eternal life. Like the Good Samaritan we must show practical love, care, mercy and hospitality to people with whom we have an irreconcilable religious difference.

You do not have to convert to their beliefs in order to love them and help them. You can bandage their wounds without having to believe their religion. You need not follow their behavior or their lifestyle. You can still disapprove of their sins while you take them to hospital. You do not have to agree with their actions or whitewash their past atrocities. But you must not kill them for it either.

Muslims and Christians must not kill each other because of their religious differences. Murderers do not inherit eternal life. Only people who love their enemies can inherit eternal life. If your heart is cold, if you are filed with rage and anger, then you are filled with darkness and you will stumble and fall. John, one of the disciples of Jesus, wrote these wise words:

(1 John 2:9-11 NKJV) He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. {10} He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. {11} But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

There are some religious people, both Christians and Muslim, who go around saying "I have the light, follow me" and a few of them are full of hate and anger. Of these John says they are "still in darkness until now". People of great light are people of great love, they are not people of hatred and anger. Anger and hatred is darkness and blinds us. Our anger keeps us from seeing what is good in other people and so we do not see life correctly. Soon we add to our list of people to hate. Eventually we hate many people and love only a few and our soul is in deep darkness.

To sum up God is love and love leads to eternal life. God is merciful and we should also be merciful. Our righteousness should surpass that of the sinners and our love should be much greater than theirs. If sinners can love those who love them, then the righteous must be able to love those who do not love them. The righteous must love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them. The realm of those we are to love includes those we disagree with, and sinners, and those of other cultures and faiths; in fact it includes the whole world. The realm of those we must hate in order to be considered righteous is nobody, it is empty. 

In the modern city Muslims and Christians live side by side, travel on the same roads. go to the same schools, work in the same offices. If a Muslim is injured by the side of the road I as a Christian will stop and help. If I am in a rush at work I would hope a Muslim colleague would show compassion. This world is to small a place and the modern city too close and complex for us to fight and hate and kill over religious differences. We may not agree with one another, but we can and must love one another.

< end of article>

Do you agree with this? Do you think it is wrong to kill a Muslim - just because they are a Muslim? Loyalty to Christ does not mean hating those who disagree with Christianity. If we are to be loyal to Christ we must love our enemies, even though we may always disagree with them.

To put the Golden (“do unto others”) Rule in context of this book “If you and I were educated 30 year old moderate Muslims in Karachi in Pakistan and we were looking out at our country what would we want the developed nations to do for it?” Firstly I don’t think we would want handouts that would keep us dependent. I think we would want our pride and dignity, we would want our culture respected, we would want development and we would want it on fair terms. We would want opportunity and we would want a place where our children would have a bright future. We would want justice and we would want respect and we would want the genuine power to make wealth and to prosper. That’s what I would want done for me if I was in that situation and I think it’s a good rough guide as to what we should consider as fundamentals of foreign policy. However what can we do at a local church level towards this end? Here are some suggestions:

  1. ·         Individuals and churches can at least pray for peace based on justice. Do not just pray that the terrorists will leave us alone. Rather pray that the underlying injustices may be corrected. The peace must work for both sides, good must flow in both directions.
  2. Have a dinner between your church and the local mosque and serve food that is acceptable to them. You don’t have to pray with them or agree with their doctrines, just befriend them.
  3. Learn a bit about Islam, pray for Islamic countries during Ramadan, have a missionary to Muslims as a speaker.
  4. Get involved with the Jubilee 2000 Debt Relief Coalition, the Post-Washington Consensus, and other worthy initiatives in developing countries.
  5. Learn to buy products that are “just” where possible. Try to avoid exploitative firms.
  6. Correct those injustices that we may be overtly or covertly involved in.
  7. Individuals or perhaps the church as a whole could decide to make their legislators aware of how these nations are being destroyed by economic injustice and how it is in all our interests to have those injustices corrected.
  8. The church could support missionaries and others working in these nations to bring both economic relief and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  9. Wealthier church members could invest in these nations and help them to gain ‘the power to make wealth’ referred to earlier in this book. Five thousand dollars US can go a long way towards setting up a small to medium sized business in most less developed nations. Many people in these countries do not earn $5000 in a lifetime. (Hundreds of millions live on less than $100 a year, the average income in Mozambique is less that $80 per year)
  10. Perhaps the local church could link up with organizations working in these countries and become partners in prayer and fund-raising.
  11. Some church members could visit the poorest of the poor Muslim nations on a “fact-finding” mission / missions exposure trip and come back and inform the church about conditions there.
  12. Those with business skills could do some study in development issues and become part-time Christian development consultants using the Internet sharing their expertise for free to those in the Two-Thirds World who can access an Internet café or terminal at a University.

As you can see there are as many possibilities as the sanctified imagination can come up with and little real reason for total non-involvement.

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