Peace Starts with the Youth

12 12 2017

 

This year I’ve had the privilege of teaching a World Religions class for high school seniors and juniors. We’re looking at all the major religions of the world, atheism, agnosticism, even the occult. My goal is that my students understand enough about each of these belief systems to start intelligent conversations with anyone in a way that is loving, honoring, friendly and bridge-building. I want them to learn how to share their faith in Jesus well, listen well, and love everybody well no matter how they feel about Jesus.

It’s so important that we start the process of peace with the young.

Here are some comments from my students—do you think they’re getting the point of the class?

 

To be honest, Mr. Baton’s World Religions class is one of my favorite classes. I learned a lot of things in his class. I learned so many facts about different religions that I had never ever heard or thought about, and that makes me want to know more about our almighty God. In World Religions class I also learned about how we can start a conversation with our other religion friends, and how to choose the right words to say to them to introduce them to Jesus.

After joining World Religions class, I began to understand how to respect other religions and to know how to treat them well. Also, I feel like I really want to know more about God, and to discover signposts to Jesus and God in all different religions. –Chris

Throughout the semester, I have learned various things from our World Religions class. One thing that was emphasized was how to effectively interact with people of different faiths. I learned that we Christians have to make connection points first before explaining our opinions or our belief systems. It is essential for us to make connections and build up a relationship before describing our beliefs. If we fail to make relationships, which will automatically lead us to a deeper level of conversation and spiritual talks, people of different faiths will not even open their ears to listen to what we say. Thus, it is very important that we make relationships first when approaching others with different religions. Torres

This year was my first time taking a World Religions class and it has greatly opened up my eyes to the world around me. I’ve realized that people of other religions are simply just that, people. They aren’t evil, they aren’t bad people just because they do not believe in the God I believe in. Some have not had the opportunity to know about God while others are a specific religion because that’s all they know. For example, many Muslims are brought up in their Muslim family and community with Muslim friends. Everyone they know is a Muslim. When people respond to our sharing about Jesus, I’ve learned that we cannot expect them to immediately change their whole life for their new beliefs. In fact, it is all right for them to bring Jesus into their culture and traditions and see what beautiful things result. –Clarissa

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The Jihad of Jesus

11 04 2016

The Jihad of Jesus book cover   I remember well the Q&A session in one of the many interfaith events we’ve organized over the years. An angry Christian stood up and declared, “As long as the word jihad exists, there will never be peace between our two religions!” The room was deathly silent, demanding the right response given in the right spirit.

From the platform, one of the speakers, the Orthodox Christian Bambang Noorsena, looked at his dear Muslim friend and presenter next to him, and said, “Let me answer this question.

“The term jihad is a perfectly wonderful term found not only in the Al Qur’an, but also in the Bible.” The audience was shocked. Bambang then quoted a verse from his Arabic New Testament about our “struggle” in the faith. I can’t recall which verse he quoted, since there are more than 10 mentions of jihad in the New Testament, but it might have been one of these:

“I’m passing this work on to you, my son Timothy. The prophetic word that was directed to you prepared us for this. All those prayers are coming together now so you will do this well, fearless in your struggle, keeping a firm grip on your faith and on yourself. After all, this is a fight [jihad] we’re in.” I Timothy 1:18, The Message

“This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish [jihad] against the Devil and all his angels.” Ephesians 6:12 The Message

“I have fought the good fight [jihad], I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7 NIV

There is a “holy struggle” we all engage in—not against people who are different than we are—but against worldly values, temptations to our flesh and the devil. In Indonesia, we’ve actually published a book called True Jihad which shows from the Al Qur’an that jihad today should only be fought against the world, the flesh and the devil! There are many Muslims who believe and practice this positive understanding of jihad.

But the best book I’ve ever read on the topic is Dave Andrew’s The Jihad of Jesus. His book allows us to look in the mirror as both Christians and Muslims at how our “holy wars” have gotten away from God’s desire for us to struggle with faith, hope and love. Then he shares the struggle we should all be on.

>>For Muslims, it’s struggling to live out the Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim (“In the name of God, the most Merciful, Most Compassionate”). This declaration of who God is begins every chapter but one in the Al Qur’an, and is recited countless times a day by the faithful. One Muslim told Dave he strives to interpret every passage of the Al Qur’an “consistent with the grace and compassion of God.” What if in every relationship, Muslims reflected God’s character of mercy and love?

>>For Christians, it’s struggling to follow Jesus—to love God, neighbor and enemy as Jesus first loved us. What if Christians put all other religious activities second to that? Dave presents a beautiful quote from Khalid Muhammad Khalid’s work Ma’an ‘ala-l-Tariq: Muhammad wa–i-Masih (p.52): “Christ was himself the message. He was the supreme example he left. He was the love which knows no hatred, the peace which knows no restlessness, the salvation which knows no perishing. And when we (Christians and Muslims—together) realize all these things on this earth, we shall then comprehend the return of the Christ.”

My early candidate for Book of the Year—you can find it at Amazon or even hear Dave share his amazing stories of peacemaking at www.jihadofjesus.com,

Buy at Amazon: The Jihad of Jesus: The Sacred Nonviolent Struggle for Justice





Peacemaking that Produces Intimacy

6 02 2012
English: Four hands holding.

I was listening to Danny Silk teach on communication in marriage today, and it struck me the implications for the peacemaking process.

Danny teaches that many of us have a wrong goal of intimacy, believing that it comes from getting the other person to agree with me.  We don’t value what we don’t believe or don’t understand.  So we try to convince the other person to join our values, so we can feel “one.”

The problem is that every person thinks and feels different things, and longs to be accepted and understood.  In a marriage, trying to convince our spouse to always agree with us makes them feel dehumanized.  They will probably rebel (creating outer conflict), or give in against their heart desire (creating inner conflict).  Both responses move away from intimacy.

So I thought about peacemaking….  How often do we approach the other with the goal of convincing them to agree with us?  If they have the same goal, neither of us learns to understand or accept the other and we move farther away from intimacy, strengthening the walls between us.

In marriage, Danny teaches that we need to be committed to understanding, valuing and expressing our own needs, thoughts and feelings, and understanding and valuing our spouse’s expressed needs, thoughts and feelings, creating a safe place to be real, accepting the other, and providing for the other’s needs.

What if we applied this to our relationships across religions?  What if our goals included sharing our needs and seeking how to provide for the others’ needs?

The difference is like going to a department store—have you ever gone shopping and met a salesman who tried aggressively to sell you something you weren’t looking for?  Did you look for the quickest exit, and avoid him the next time shopping there?  Much Christian “evangelism” comes across like this, with about the same result!  Compare that to the salesman who takes the time to understand what you’re looking for and gives you helpful input that may add something new to your original thoughts, but helps you get exactly what you wanted or something better.  What if interfaith dialogue worked like this?

Both my Christian and my Muslim friends want to be closer to God.  Most of them want to know Him more, feel His presence, receive answers to prayer about daily life issues, receive more revelation or wisdom, get their hurting bodies and hearts healed, have more victory over sin, bondages and addictions, and some even want to see God do miracles.  Many of them want to see God change the world and be a part of that change.

So I don’t meet Muslims at a theological debate table; I ask them if they would like to pray together with me for those issues we both understand and value.  In the process, we can feel with each other the longing for what we’re both missing in our pursuit of God; we can share with each other new ways for seeing those needs met; and we can find a place of intimacy where we treat each other as brothers.  The greater the intimacy, the greater the trust; the greater the trust, the more open we are to God using the other to change us.