Over the past few weeks in the Adult class of Sunday School we have been talking about Christianity and Islam, and I am sure I am sounding a bit like a broken record in that I do not want to lose Jesus in the conversation. Often in trying to find common ground with those who believe differently, we think the kind or tolerant thing to do is to avoid bringing up that which is particular to us and thereby creating controversy. But for me Jesus is no mere idea. To relegate him as an optional idea in conversations with those of other faiths is to distort what it means for us to be followers and disciples of Jesus Christ. I believe Jesus Christ to be Lord; he is the God of Abraham who became human to reconcile humanity to the Godhead and to one another. Without such a foundation, I believe we have nothing much to offer in a conversation with other faiths.
Perhaps something Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners, stated in an article we are considering in our Sunday morning Adult class dialogue next week, Fundamentalism and the Modern World, speaks to our need for us to be more expressive and articulate of our convictions, rather than less so – yet this does not mean we need to become more arrogant or listen less when we are in conversation. Though, in the article he is talking about fundamentalism, it need not be limited to fundamentalism, but can include the expressing of our faith convictions.
“Conventional wisdom suggests that the antidote to religious fundamentalism is more secularism. That's a very big mistake. The best response to bad religion is better religion, not secularism. The traditions we are looking at are religions of the book, and the key question is, how do we interpret the book? In Christian faith, we have the interpretation of Martin Luther King Jr. and also that of the Ku Klux Klan. Better interpretation of the book, in my view, is a better response to fundamentalism than throwing the book away (Wallis, “Fundamentalism and the Modern World,” Sojourners).”
Further, he states, “Fundamentalism, it is often said, is taking religion too seriously. The answer, in this view, is to take it less seriously. That conventional wisdom is wrong. The best response to fundamentalism is to take faith more seriously than fundamentalism sometimes does.”
I believe, in engaging others in conversation, we are being called to know much more deeply what we believe and why we believe – not to win arguments, but to understand more deeply the God who has come among us in order to restore all creation. The challenge to us is not whether we speak about Jesus or not, or how we can soften our commitment to Jesus, but rather, how we express Jesus with the same love that God has for all the world. It was out of love for the world that God came into the world as a Palestinian Jew to demonstrate his love for all humanity. As the body of Christ, as Christ’s disciples, we as well need to speak of the living presence of Christ in a posture of love. To talk about Jesus and to offer Jesus to the world – is not hate speech, nor is it to diminish others – rather it is to act in ways which God has already acted towards all humanity.