Friday, December 14, 2012

Islam and Friendship

One of my friends stopped by yesterday.  He is the Imam of the largest mosque in our town.  We've known each other for years.  Sometimes we talk about theology, but this visit we just talked about everyday stuff: our families, the recent rains, the difficulties and blessings of working with people, and I promised to bring him a couple of boards I had lying around.  Did any mountains move? No.  But we continued to cultivate some common ground in friendship.

Lately I have been reading Brian McLaren's book, Why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World.  So far, I am enjoying what he has to say.  Near the beginning of the book he talks about the different approaches Christians have taken in relation to other religions.

He describes the first group as those who "have a strong religious identity that responds negatively toward other religions.  The stronger our Christian commitment, the stronger our aversion or opposition to other religions."

The second group are those of us who "have a more positive accepting response to other religions.  We never proselytize.  We always show respect for other religions and their adherents. We always minimize differences and maximize commonalities.  But we typically achieve coexistence by weakening our Christian identity."

Then he explores "a third option, a Christian identity that is both strong and kind. By strong I mean vigorous, vital, durable, motivating, faithful, attractive and defining - an authentic Christian identity that matters.  By kind I mean something far more robust than mere tolerance, or political correctness, or coexistence: I mean benevolent, hospitable, accepting, interested and loving, so that the stronger our Christian faith, the more goodwill we will feel and show toward those of other faiths, seeking to understand and appreciate their religion from their point of view."

That description gives me goose bumps!

Jesus sure seemed to relate to people in this way.  That's the way I want to engage people of other faiths.  That kind engagement built on honesty and love can be real friendship.  And friendship may clear some soil, eventually planting seeds (even some as small as a mustard seed!) that sooner or later may move mountains.

I wrote some more thoughts about a "strong and kind" approach to Islam in an editorial recently for the Christian Chronicle.  You can check it out here:

Christ and Islam: A View from Africa

Any thoughts?

Grace and Peace,

1 comment:

  1. This is good stuff. Food for thought and a challenge to look for opportunities to practice it and pray I do it well. Kelly