Total Pageviews

Thursday, January 15, 2015

What do you think about Duke...?

Today at Bible study things really went off the tracks. Our daily readings this week have been the Ephesians 1-3 and Isaiah 40-43. I prepared, but always allow them to ask a question to begin. Two questions later I was explaining Isaiah 6.... Then at class's end I was asked, "What do you think about Duke providing a call to worship for Muslims?"

It is a hard question on many levels. I spoke about my concerns with Islam (radical and regular) and my awareness and insights into my own prejudices. I tried to look at it from several angles. What I hear about Islamic nations trouble me. It is hard to know what to do about the growing influx of a religious culture which has a large segment of hostile agents active in it. On the other hand I support religious freedom. I know the vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists. There is much to consider here, and so much that I do not know...

What I do know, however, is whatever "solution" we come up with will have repercussions which we do not intend. In an imperfect world, I am certain, things will continue to be imperfect. I know that I pray for the conversion of Muslims to faith in Jesus Christ, but I also pray that Christians will be converted!

As we were by then thirty minutes late I told them that we needed to start eucharist, and I was going to pray for world mission. (which we did) I had not read the assigned readings for eucharist. Generally I do not prepare a homily, I just tie them into our class discussion. Sometimes the connections are astounding. Today was one of those days! I share what we read this morning at eucharist after our discussion about Duke and Islam.

Genesis 37:17b-20 (summary: Joseph is looking for his brothers, while he is a way off his brothers see him and plot to kill him.) The story from Genesis is a reminder that while we 'project' so much on the outsider, it is those closest to us who frequently do us the most harm. It seemed a reminder that Muslim terrorists did not kill anyone in Memphis this year, but many lost their lives at the hands of those closest to them...

Luke 6:27-36. In the context of our discussion of Islam, well, it was breathtakingly challenging. Imagine if someone asked Jesus, "Lord, what do you think of Islam?"

"But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same....But love your enemies, do good, and lend expecting nothing in return...and you will be children of the Most High; for He is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." 

A dozen "what abouts?" pop up in my head in reaction to Jesus here. Such advice seems politically naive, impractical and perhaps even immoral. It seems to advocate for a submission to evil. It seems illogical and simplistic...

Yet Jesus, living under a brutal occupational army (Rome), was quite familiar with the evil done by foreign empires. He is no naive innocent in isolation from the real world. More importantly, Jesus is the Son of God, the Word of God (enfleshed) the annointed one. His words are the truth that will set us free. How do I ignore His words?

So I ask you, did God speak to us today in the Gospel? 
and if He did, what then shall we do? 


  1. Thank you, Jeff, for your comments. Yes, it's easy for me to love the lovable. But, may I take the challenge of loving those less lovable. By God's grace!

  2. While the media focused on the three-day rampage in which terrorists killed 17 people both at the Charlie Hebdo offices and at a Jewish kosher supermarket in France, over 2000 people were slaughtered over a 3 day period in Northern Nigeria where the majority is Muslim. The massacre was so bad, local officials gave up counting the bodies in the street. Yet most people didn't know it was occurring. Most Americans know the names of the two white reporters, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, because of their beheading by Muslims last year but they don't know that more than half the reporters killed that same year were Muslim. Based on media coverage and social media postings, Westerners do not care about Muslims killing Muslims, that's just business as usual. Global deaths due to terrorism have spiked over the last decade. They were concentrated in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria: all non-Western countries with large Muslim populations. The outrage only comes when it happens to us.

    I truly hope Duke, a private institution founded by Christians and in relationship with the Methodist Church to this day, cancelled the event because of plausible security threats. I have prayed on this for several days and everything in me screams this is wrong. The way Christians are speaking about Muslims because of these extremists goes against 1 Corinthians 5:12-13, "What business is it of mine to judge those outside the Church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. 'Expel the wicked person from among you.'"

    We are told to “love our enemies.” “Love one another as I have loved you.” “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of the Lord.” In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 we are told we can possess all the gifts, sacrifice all we have to the poor, and yet we are still nothing without love. Love that is to be a reflection of God’s love for us. A merciful God. At the cross we discover He is a God who would rather die than kill his enemies. We see the lengths a loving God will go to forgive.

    Christ walked with sinners, ate with tax collectors, loved and forgave and then said “Truly, Truly I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works I do; and greater works than these he will do.” Are we not being told we are to strive to not only be as loving and forgiving as Christ, we are to strive to love and forgive even more than he will? Does our judgment and sharp tongue as we fail to distinguish against terrorist and the vast majority of Muslims who are not radical, alienate them from Christ? These are people who are suffering at the hands of radical Islamists. They are suffering and they do not know the love of the Lord, are they not the very people we were called to share the Gospel with?

    Will we one day stand before the Lord to be told souls were lost because we were unwilling to extend the same love and forgiveness that was given to us?
    We were given one responsibility with our time here on earth, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” How will the Lord react when we tell him he was wrong, not all of his sheep were valuable by our standards? That the Muslims were wicked, nonbelieving sinners, not worthy of saving. To say this, when he sacrificed His Son because we were not worthy of saving ourselves. We are not only failing to increase his flock, we are closing hearts to Christ with this behavior. What will the punishment be for our sin?

    “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” I Corinthians 13:2.