“Religion is any specific system of belief about deity, often involving rituals, a code of ethics, and a philosophy of life.” – ReligiousTolerance.org
Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic said:
“The truth was a mirror in the hands of God.
It fell, and broke into pieces.
Everybody took a piece of it, and they looked at it and thought they had the truth.”
Senator Cory Booker (D), a Baptist, the former Mayor of Newark, NJ, and now a US Senator said:
“Don’t speak to me about your religion; first show it to me in how you treat other people.
Don’t tell me how much you love your God; show me in how much you love all God’s children.
Don’t preach to me your passion for your faith; teach me through your compassion for your neighbors.
In the end, I’m not as interested in what you have to tell or sell as I am in how you choose to live and give.”
Proposal – my Proposition is for you to consider what it means to be a follower, a disciple of Jesus Christ – in the face of, and in harmony with those who do not believe Jesus was the divine only begotten son of God, the final word of truth, grace and love.
First, to be a follower or disciple of Jesus Christ. This in itself will take a life-time to learn, and the more we learn and practice, the more we will learn we need to rely on Grace and the Cross. More than just a follower, a disciple studies and patterns her/his life after another – calling someone a lord and master. Giving up our own ideals for Jesus’ ideals. A costly goal. A Christian is one who says there is a revelation given to God-seekers – that God is actually seeking after us in the person of Jesus Christ. A revelation, a revealing of who God really is – that we can know God in a personal way, a transformative way. We believe that we can taste and see all of God’s goodness and that we are called and invited to live this to our neighbor.
We are called to that work, but it gets really complex when we have serve Jesus who said I am the way the truth and the life, no person can come to God except thru me.
Jesus’ claims are very exclusive, if you choose to look at it that way.
What are we all doing here if we believe any path would take us to God, and worshipping according to any religion is equally valid? Why do we worship the way we do, do we believe it’s the one right way?
Even among Christians we worship so differently?
Now, we could focus on if it’s right or wrong; but what may be more helpful is to think of this in terms of growing closer or farther apart.
Example: Start with this proposition:
I believe all people are loved by God and all people are made in God’s image.
Everyone, from Isis Terrorists, to people who have had abortions, to people who don’t vote like me, to people who don’t vote, to bus drivers, to school shooters, to school principals, to the pope, to news anchors, etc.
All people have something to teach me.
All belief systems have something to teach me. All belief systems can help me better define how I see/ worship/ experience God and God’s love. All religions can help me grow closer or father from Jesus – and all expressions of faith (or those who claim no faith) can help me be a better disciple of Jesus. So that I can in turn help message God’s love all over the place.
Now if that’s true – let’s just go with that…
I want to be a person who embraces difference because I want to see God as big as possible. And I choose to examine all of it in light of who Jesus is. In other words, I personally can’t have a view that God is everything and that God is fully known through any one religion exclusively, but it also can’t be true that all religions are equally valid, because they are highly contradictory, correct?
Some religions uphold the value of a woman as equal to a man and some don’t.
Some religions uphold the value of a child as equal to an adult and some don’t.
Some religions believe that God is beauty and love and truth and some believe that God is bent on vengeance, war, and settling the score.
Some religions believe it is thru force and violence that they can claim land territory, and others may believe that our kingdom isn’t on this land/earth.
Some religions believe death has the last word, some believe we come back again, and some believe in a resurrection after death into new bodies.
What we need to do as we develop our faith, and this is one of the reasons why we have confirmation into 10th grade here, is that we need to give serious thought to where our discipleship journey is taking us. If I am a disciple of Jesus, as a representative for him, how do I live and interact with others? How can I be friends with people who don’t believe as I do? Is it my job to convert them to my line of thinking? How can my faith inspire those of other religions to live more faithfully as a child of God? How do I build common ground yet still hold to my belief in Jesus?
Is there any value to the human family if people of many faiths can work together? For example, affordable housing – you don’t have to be a Christian to advocate for fair and affordable housing. Or health care, or jobs, or public health or child safety, etc. There are many points of connection we can work together with others to do good.
Look to broaden your perspective both on your own beliefs and how you live your faith, and then also seek out a few friends who wouldn’t agree with your religious perspective.
Respect – everyone can have an equally valid opinion
No trying to convince or convert the other but seeking to understand and to be understood
Ask clarifying questions such as “how” or “why” – not in a debate style but to learn
Then bring it all back to Jesus. Does how this person lives or what this person thinks benefit your own faith? What challenges can you issue? How can your friendship with this person bring you closer to Jesus?
The story presented in the New Testament was that Christ came with a message of love and forgiveness accompanied by miracles – signs and wonders. It was a message of goodness and healing to the poor and weak – and it was a message of law and terror to those in power – especially the ultra-religious and wealthy. The message was so compelling and so terrifying that those in opposition to Jesus Christ had to execute him publically. And the story goes – even death could not be the end of the message. In fact, through Christ’s death, the message of truth – that God loves and welcomes all – for the sake of Jesus – went out to the whole earth and that’s why we’re here today. Because the message compels us, it changes us. It makes us seekers on the way.
In Acts 17 – there is a good picture of how this story played out with all these different crowds. This is after Jesus was off the earth-scene. His followers are telling the good news to anyone who will listen. And there’s definitely mixed reviews. People hate this message, and many women and men thru the centuries have been executed because it is so controversial. We give God a human name and face. We give God a specific location in time and space –where we can feel touch and see God. This makes people mad. This makes people accountable. This sets people free. We do not need to be ashamed of this story. Have you really examined it? Has it changed you?
This year as you learn about other religions – stack them up against who Lutherans say God is. Listen for a message of unconditional grace. See how God is speaking to and thru others and thru you too.