Love Excludes Prejudice

4 10 2015

mosque protest

 

There are anti-Islam protests—some armed—planned across America this Sunday, October 10th. Please take a moment to read about it here: http://imagine2050.newcomm.org/2015/09/29/anti-muslim-protests-some-armed-planned-for-at-least-20-sites-across-the-country/

How does that article make you feel? Is it possible to be a patriot and yet love your neighbor too?

This Sunday my wife and I enjoyed a wonderful church service in Indonesia, specifically for the poor, the prostitutes, and the mentally insane. About 60 people, or half the congregation, came from this last group. These were women who used to wander the streets naked, or were rejected by their families because they had become unable to function in the world. Some of them still don’t speak at all. But they were welcome at this special church service for them.

I noticed the worship band was made up of good-looking, smartly dressed young people who were there to serve others. As they sang, everyone was invited to dance to the music, which many of the crazy people seemed to really enjoy. Those able to speak were invited to take the stage and share how God had answered their prayers. It was a beautiful, joyful moment in the week when everyone’s individual problems could be put aside to belong to God’s family together.

The next morning I was reading the Passion translation of the Bible, and came across this heading to James chapter 2: The Royal Law of Love Excludes Prejudice. Verses 8-9 instruct us: Your calling is to fulfill the royal law of love as given to us in this Scripture: “You must love and value your neighbor as you love and value yourself!” For keeping this law is the noble way to live. But when you show prejudice you commit sin and you violate this royal law of love!

Here James is quoting both Moses and Jesus. He reminds us that following Jesus doesn’t mean there is no law—the Law of Love has become our “noble way to live.”

This love excludes all forms of prejudice. Whether it’s telling a black person to sit in the back of the bus, or giving a woman lower wages than a man for the same job, or refusing to sell your wedding cakes to a homosexual, or protesting the building of a mosque/church/any other house of worship in your community, or talking about any group of people with negative stereotypes—there is no room in the Royal Law of Love for any kind of prejudice.

The offering this church took from the poor and crazy I doubt would cover the cost of electricity for their sound system or their bread and juice for communion. Did they really need a full worship band with five vocalists and two dancers? After all, half the congregation might go home and immediately forget everything that happened. This church gave their best for the poor just as they probably had given in an earlier service that morning for the rich.

So I ask the American Christians reading this blog—is protesting at Islamic Centers across the nation the best we can give our Muslim neighbors? If not, what could we give them that shows our love? I’m talking about showing the same kind of love if those were our church members being victimized by hate? If that protest was outside our church, instead of our neighbor’s house of worship, what would we do?

One of the great challenges of being a peacemaker is loving all sides of an issue—loving the victimized Muslim neighbor, and loving the protesters shouting their hate at the same time. For those of you living in one of the targeted cities, I encourage you to ask God for your own creative way to fight prejudice with the Royal Law of Love.

“For keeping this law is the noble way to live.”





Web Interview with Jim on Loving God and Others

2 02 2015

bc12e5bb[1]   This week on the always uplifting blog 7 Christians (http://7christians.blogspot.com/), Victoria Buck has posted Part 1 of an interview with me. Part 2 will be posted next Monday. She asks some really insightful questions. If you’re interested in what other American Christians are concerned about regarding Islam, check out this interview!

I was excited to see the interview was picked up by the First Manuscript Daily News:  http://paper.li/DaxMacGregor/1308327425

Victoria is also an author of the futuristic Christian thriller, Wake the Dead, available at Amazon.com, and a Christian who publicly takes a stand for the Great Commandment—to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves—even if that neighbor is from a different religion that scares us.

My wife arrived home yesterday from a trip to London, and one thing that stood out to her was how many Muslims she saw at the airport, at the grocery store, just about everywhere. She said it felt like going to parts of our home town of Los Angeles where entire neighborhoods are Asian or Latino and a Caucasian or African-American really stands out. Many of the perspectives from this interview address an American audience for whom opportunities to love Muslims may be fewer than our British counterparts today, but looking at population growth and immigration trends, we know this will be an increasing opportunity in America for us and our children.

I hope you see it like that—as an opportunity. I recently heard of yet another Christian leader who wants to move to the mountains of Montana to escape all the troubles coming to America. To me, this is the exact opposite of what Jesus taught and lived.

When the Samaritans built a cultural and religious wall to keep the Jews out, what did Jesus do? John 4:4 says that “he had to go through Samaria.” No Jew ever went through Samaria—from Galilee in the north they would cross the Jordan River, walk south along it and then recross the river to visit Jerusalem rather than take the direct route through Samaria. Why does the Bible say Jesus had to go through Samaria?

I believe it’s because the kind of love emanating from the Messiah’s heart had to go touch everyone, regardless of the human walls built by either side. Jesus never walked down the opposite side of the street to avoid the demonized, the prostitutes, the Roman soldiers, the lepers, or even the hypocritical religious Jewish leaders who were out to kill him. He even told his disciples that he was going to Jerusalem to die. He went to the cross, not away from it.

So the next time you are in a rush and have to go through the part of town that’s different from your culture, or have to go to the drugstore or gas station attended by someone who doesn’t look like you, try to look at it through Jesus’ eyes. Maybe you have to go there because there’s a wall that needs to be broken by Jesus’ love in you.

Check out the interview at: http://bit.ly/165ZSGk . And maybe post a comment thanking Victoria for being a Christian doing her part to make a difference. Enjoy!





Jihad and Jesus

21 01 2015

Beheading   We are all troubled by the images of terrorist acts in France, or ISIS beheadings in the Middle East. It’s shocking and offensive to us that civilians are often the target. The term jihad may be the most hated word in the world today.

But before we join all the political pundits pointing fingers, let’s remember that the concept of jihad, or “holy war,” didn’t start with Islam. The Bible has several examples of God sending His people to kill others. Joshua and Saul were commanded to lead genocide of whole people groups, including the children. Samson initiated a suicide attack that murdered 3,000 men and women. This week I was reading in II Kings 9-10 about Jehu—this story has a military coup, the beheading of 70 relatives of the king, the mass slaughter of religious leaders of a rival religion in their own house of worship—doesn’t this story sound like something we might read about in the Middle East today? Yet God was behind it: His prophet commanded Jehu to do it. At one point in the story, Jehu says, “Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord” as he goes on a killing spree. And when he’s done, God commends him!

Today we see the same stories played out on the nightly news, of beheadings and massacres by those “zealous” for the One they worship, believing that He will award their deeds. Many people have compared modern-day Islam to life in the Bible’s Old Testament. Their understanding of God as Creator, sender of the prophets and holy books, and man’s responsibility to follow His law, including giving alms, keeping prescribed fasts, and going on pilgrimage, has extensive parallels. One more similarity is an acceptance of violence done in the name of God.

The coming of Jesus changed everything. The Bible says Jesus is God’s eternal Word that took on flesh (John 1:14). God met man in the person of a Messiah. The Bible also says that looking at Jesus is the best way to understand what God is like, since he’s “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).

Jesus had enemies—the Jewish religious leaders jealous of his favor with the masses; King Herod, fearful of any political rival; Pilate and the Romans, their occupied territory threatened by popular uprisings. Some of Jesus’ disciples wanted to fight with swords, see Jesus overthrow the Romans and become their new king. But Jesus was bringing a different kind of Kingdom, launched by love and pursuing peace. Even through Jesus’ death on the cross he treated his enemies with compassion, one of his last, dying utterances being this prayer: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). All of Jesus’ teachings about “love your enemies,” and “turn the other cheek” he lived consistently to the end.

If looking at Jesus is the best way to understand God, the implications of this are profound. Because of Jesus, if we say we love God, we have to love man. Because of Jesus, when we accept Jesus’ divinity and follow him, even if we thought it was justified to kill in the name of God, we can never kill in the name of Jesus, for it’s the opposite of all Jesus stood for.

The cross started as a symbol of death. During the crusades of the Middle Ages it unfortunately became a symbol of Christian warfare and atrocities. But for those who accept this mystery of God’s Word becoming man, it is the most perfect symbol of love. One beam points up to heaven, representing the love between God and man; the other beam stretches left to right, representing the love between man and man, both of these based on Jesus at the center.

I have many wonderful Muslim friends who absolutely condemn the barbaric acts of ISIS and other jihadists today. They are good people with a sincere faith. I also happen to believe that the Messiah came not just for the Jews, but like the Prophet John said, Jesus is “the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29), while another prophet ascribed to Jesus the title, “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). For those who are zealous for God in any religion, I say to you, that following Jesus changes everything.





Dreaming of Peace

23 12 2014

???????????????????????????????????????Happy New Year 2015! Dare we imagine that this year could bring peace breakthroughs in relationships we previously gave up on? Which relationships would you most like to see restored this year? Perhaps with your spouse, your parent, your child, your sibling, a previously close friend…?

How does such a seemingly impossible reconciliation start?

I read an amazing article recently entitled: Daring to Dream: An Israeli and Palestinian Vision of a Better Future. When Israelis and Palestinians start dreaming together, you know we’re talking reconciliation on a miraculous scale! If they can believe it for their situation, why not us for ours?

I want to quote a few lines from their article. It’s thrillingly hopeful for me to read such a beautiful perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But I encourage you to read it, even declare it by faith, thinking of whatever broken relationship you want God to restore in this new year. Ready?

We cannot achieve what we cannot imagine; we cannot do what we cannot dream.

We would like to give you a glimpse into our imagination, our vision, our dream. We invite you into our understanding of a better future, which we wish to draw into the present with our prayers, with our minds, with our hearts and with our hands.

We refuse all the previous excuses, even if well-intentioned. We refuse to be oppressors. We refuse to be victims. We refuse to be ignorant. We refuse to give up hope. We refuse the easy way. We refuse to think we are beyond redemption because of the complications. We refuse to remain an intractable conflict. We refuse to defer our peace to other generations and centuries because we are too lazy or too unimaginative to dream a better future. We refuse many things.

And we affirm and accept many others. We affirm and maintain the ability to dream. We accept the challenge of peacemaking. We willingly take on the burden of truth-telling, even when it hurts our self-conception and our understanding of history. We accept that we are limited in what we see and in what we know, and we endeavor to learn more and challenge ourselves to think critically. We take responsibility for our actions, and our shortcomings in this conflict. We embrace compassion, for ourselves, for others, and particularly for those who have no compassion for us. We affirm and maintain space for each other, as we desire to co-exist, thrive, cooperate, collaborate, and be better versions of ourselves as a result of each other’s input.

It takes incredible courage to declare these commitments, even more to live them out. Are you ready to refuse to live any longer with your past “coping mechanisms,” and instead, to “accept the challenge of peacemaking”?

In every relationship, whether in our own home or between the nations we care about, may we become those who cannot stop dreaming of peace.

(For more about this outstanding ministry that our family supports financially, check out https://www.musalaha.org)





A Way Out of Hell

18 01 2012
Deutsch: Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948), polit...

Many sources have relayed this story of Gandhi’s extraordinary wisdom in peacemaking.

On one of Gandhi’s prayer and fasting to the death attempts to bring Muslim and Hindu radicals to lay down their arms and reconcile, a group of Hindu radicals enter the Muslim home where Gandhi has chosen to fast to lay down their weapons. One of the wildest of the group tells Gandhi to stop his fast and eat: “Here! Eat! I am going to hell; but I do not wish to have your death on my soul!”

In a whisper, Gandhi responds, “Only God decides who goes to hell. Tell me, why do you say you are going to hell?”

The man answers, “I killed a small [Muslim] child! I dashed his head against the wall because they killed my little one.”

“I will tell you a way out of hell,” Gandhi shares. “You find a Muslim child whose parents have been killed. Then you and your wife bring him up as your own.”

The Hindu radical is too stunned to speak, but bows touching his forehead to Gandhi’s feet.

Hell is all about separation—separation from God, and from meaningful relationships with men. The cycle of vengeance starts the process of a living hell on earth.

In heaven, on the other hand, we’ll experience holy intimacy with God and men. Earthly differences will have been completely overcome by perfect love. When we choose here on earth to love those who are different than us—as Jesus taught us, to even “love our enemies”—we join with God’s heart to bring heaven to earth.

Jesus instructed us to pray it: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” There is a way out of the living hell mankind has created here on earth—by our prayers and our deeds of love, believe it, we will see heaven begin to invade earth!