Although the pause button has been pushed for now at least, the controversy around Florida pastor Terry Jones and his (former?) plan to burn the Koran warrants a DNA reflection.
How should Christians respond to worshippers of Allah?
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you …” (Matthew 5:43-44). Jesus upped the standard for his followers from reciprocity (hate your enemies) to pro-activity (love your enemy). Love, not fire, is the most powerful weapon of the follower of Jesus Christ.
The apostle Peter said our witness needs to be characterized by “gentleness and respect” (1Peter 3:15). Christians above all should be winsome. To our shame and his credit, a Muslim imam took the conciliatory action in this matter.
A much better picture of Christianity in action toward the small minority of militant Jihadists comes from the Philippines. A coalition of churches had been bearing witness on the Muslim-dominated island of Mindanao, known as a stronghold for radical Islam. Their overt evangelism had borne little fruit.
Then they read Bob Moffit’s book, If Jesus Were Mayor, and realized they had “failed to demonstrate Christ-like love.” They went back and built 250 homes, installed electricity to every home in one village, built a new highway and performed several other acts of kindness. Read this challenging and inspirational story here.
The fruit of love speaks for itself.
– Gary Brumbelow and Scott Allen
disciplenationsSeptember 10, 2010 - 8:32 am
On Buildings, Burnings, Rights or Right and Wrong
“The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr
“No man was ever endowed with a right without being at the same time saddled with a responsibility.” ~ Gerald W. Johnson
“No man has a right to do what he pleases, except when he pleases to do right.” ~ Charles Simmons
Opposition Rises to Ground Zero Mosque
Most Opposed to Ground Zero Mosque
Florida Pastor to Continue with Quran Burning
Pastor Cancels Quran Burning then Reconsiders
Such could read any of a myriad of headlines in the past days and weeks. Article after article hit the lists of top news stories and this person and that weighed in with their opinion. Most of the discussion centers on the rights we enjoy as a free society. The Right of freedom of expression (the Koran burner); the Right of freedom of worship (the builder and the burner); the Right of free use of property (the builder – though this one is seldom mentioned). Nearly all the arguments also try to balance this with the issue of sensitivity or propriety. However, there seems to be little discussion in the vein of the preceding quotes – exercising rights versus doing right.
Is exercising your right to do something the same as doing the right something? Is the Florida pastor any more right (or wrong) to burn the Korans than those who burn the American flag in protest of the evils they perceive it represents? Are not both with in their right of free speech or expression? Is the imam any more right (or wrong) to build his center/mosque on his property than a building owner who wishes to build a strip [‘exotic dance’] club in a residential retail center? Are they not both exercising their right to freely use their property (and ironically practice their respective religions of Islam and hedonism)? I have tried to pick absurd extremes in both cases to make the point that exercising a right and doing right are not necessarily the same thing.
Darrow Miller, at a seminar on the topic of his current writing project The Great Commission, made an interesting comment on freedom that fits here. He stated that license is the freedom to do what one wants, and liberty is the freedom to do right. In these two instances, the liberties and freedoms that are the foundations of our society are actually being applied as license. Exercising a right is not always doing right and being right is not the same as being righteous. How are we as Christians to think Biblically on these issues? These two issues are typical of the twin wars being waged against us (both that of radical Islam and of a/anti-theism expressed as tolerance, plurality and multiculturalism). As Christians what should be our stance, particularly with the burners (and also toward the ‘builder’).
“Always do right; this will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” ~ Mark Twain
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” ~ Jesus Christ
Mark Twain’s words capture the meat of Jesus’ words from this section of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus here is giving a very practical, daily life example of living out the essence of the Law – love your neighbor as yourself – often referred to as the Great Commandment. (If you think about it, and look deeper into the epistles, this rendering implies the first part of ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart …’ – for you cannot love the other if you are not actively loving God). If one believes (or knows) that the ideas of a religion or book are evil (as does the Florida pastor) one does not combat that evil by burning the book but rather by acts of loving kindness toward those oppressed by that evil. One combats an evil or false idea (and thus a movement) not by destroying the outward trappings (or even the spokesmen and teachers) of that idea but by living out a better, true idea.
A story I heard at a recent gathering (and referenced in the DNA blog post Bomb Me, I’ll Burn Your Book?) exemplifies this principle. A group of village churches on Mindanao, a heavily Muslim island in the Philippines recently reached out to the villages around them in two ways. They came in and rebuilt, for the families, the homes of radical leaders that had been destroyed during government military raids to arrest the radicals. No one else helped these families. In other cases they helped rebuild dilapidated stick & thatch huts used as mosques with small brick and tin buildings. These acts and others opened the way for interaction and peace. Also to mind comes the recently martyred medical team in Afghanistan, who reached out to bring health and healing to villages, women and children impoverished and imprisoned by the ideas in this book. Which acts, the planned burning, or the acts of love in the face of mistreatment and death, are more likely to result in the advance of the Kingdom? Which acts are more likely to repair walls and lead to a chance of understanding, interaction and exchange of ideas? How will you now look at these debates? What will your action be?
Bob Evans – DNA Board Member
Dennis WarrenSeptember 11, 2010 - 10:07 am
Overall, I very much like what has been written so far in the base post and the first comment. The general feeling I felt while first reading these posts for the most part touched me like a breath of fresh air (pneuma spiritus!).
Bob (and Darrow), I especially like these :
>> “… exercising a right and doing right are not necessarily the same thing. …”
>> “… Exercising a right is not always doing right and being right is not the same as being righteous. …”
The difficult thing as I see it, is how the same activity can be viewed so differently.
For instance: in reference to the same act :
View of Person 1:
“I’m using my freedom to do what I consider right”
View of Person 2:
“He’s using his freedom as a cover for his licentiousness”
Seems like the same person often plays both the role of Person 1 and Person 2 – it would not surprise me much if both of the following turn out to be true (e.g. in the last judgment when the intents of all our hearts will be clear).
-A. Does the “Pastor” think he is “right” in his plans to burn copies of the Qur’an? — and does he judge the Imam for ostensibly using the Bill of Rights in a misguided attempt to justify doing the wrong thing?
-B. Does the Imam think he is “right” in his plans for building a community center with another mosque close to ground zero – and does he judge the “Pastor” for ostensibly using the Bill of Rights in a misguided attempt to justify doing the wrong thing?
Does my observation underscore the importance of a person’s world view : is that how we determine “right” (verses wrong)?
Dennis WarrenSeptember 11, 2010 - 10:41 am
The common thing in the main post and the 1st comment in this thread which I think is principally why I felt the breath of fresh air is the quote of Jesus about how we are to love even our (perceived) enemies.
As I thought some more about my own use of the word “judge” in my previous comment … Another famous quote came to mind.
“… Judge not that ye be not judged. …”
I’m not sure if this is related, but I think in my own life I have spent more energy trying to determine what is the right thing for someone else to do verses consciously deciding to leave that decision up to God.