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?" http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/15/us/duke-call-to-prayer/index.html
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?