Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The High Calling of Love

I said previously that my primary aim on this blog was do deal with the question: How should followers of Jesus view Muslims? Well, I cannot start a discussion of that topic without a discussion of love. If you really want to obey the words of Jesus, you have to work really hard to make a theology or an interpretation of scripture that excuses you from the weighty demand of loving Muslims. Whether you consider them your enemy (which I don't, and wouldn't recommend) or you consider them your neighbor (which is true for me in the most literal sense) the new testament is clear- God has demanded that you love them. He created no loopholes or exceptions; all humanity, all lifestyles and religions and ethnicities and cultures and classes, are the object of his very tangible love, and thus we who would dare call ourselves his followers are asked to be conformed to that fundamental divine affection.
The problem that arises when you talk about love, though, is that love tends to mean whatever you want it to mean. Love can be something emotional and sappy and devoid of real action, or it can be something sterile and lifeless and philosophical- a tough love that is simply a commitment to the greater good. We can fight for peace or start wars, execute criminals or initiate protest marches, and claim we are working, at the end of the day, in the name of love.
And so if love is to be anything (and is MUST be everything) then we have to have a definition- a definition that has application and meaning and boundaries.
Thank God that Jesus did not leave us to follow a rhetorical, flowery love. No, on the contrary Jesus gave love meaning, he tied it to a very real standard by which we can hold our own hearts accountable. As I read the gospels, I see two pictures Jesus gives us from which we can draw our understanding of love. The first, that we treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated. The second, that we love in the way he loved us.
Thus, for us who follow Jesus, those two standards are not, and must never be, merely inspirational slogans used to sell Christian decorations and bumper stickers. They comprise the call of heaven itself. And so, with these two mirrors placed carefully in front of our hearts, we may turn our discussion back to the original question.
Do we treat Muslims as we would want to be treated? Do we think about them, talk about them, interact with them, pray for them, the way we would want others dealing with us? Think about the last conversation you had about a Muslim. What emotions were stirred within you? What assumptions did you make?
If we are honest with ourselves, we all would prefer others assuming the best about our motives and intentions. We would prefer others thinking about us with respect. As a Christian, I want people to know about the great saints of Christian history and their contributions to humanity, not to take our worst examples and use them to smear our heritage through the mud. And if I prefer that type of treatment, am I allowed to show others anything different?
I believe that at the foundation of a Christ-like approach to Muslims is the laying aside of our right to harden our hearts toward others because they are different then us. Rather than take information from the media or other sources and use it to construct a negative portrayal, I believe the words of Jesus challenge us to assume the best about people and keep our hearts soft towards them before we declare our verdicts and assign our labels. Jesus, after all, saw the treasure of authentic faith in prostitutes and beggars, in the theologically misled Samaritans and the Pagan Roman soldiers who occupied his homeland. Had his message consisted of criticism of those different than him, would any of these figures have gotten as close to him as they did in the gospels? Would he have had the chance to demonstrate the heart of the father the way he did?


Blogger Nathan said...

Loving this, Drewby... no pun intended (except maybe a little) on the "love" front. Keep it coming.

I vote next post re: "Ground Zero Mosque."

6:55 AM  

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