Jesus told us not to just love our friends, but love our enemies as well.
That's a tall order isn't it, especially if we're willing to admit that we really do have enemies. I'm increasingly frustrated by the vitriol that I am hearing on all sides of the political and religious spectrum. We find it difficult to listen to others. We're content with stereotypes, probably because we're not in relationship with the people we perceive as being on the wrong side of things. Now I understand that there are issues of justice involved in many of our debates. But that's not the point.
My concern is how we might get beyond our stereotypes so we can experience some kind of transformation -- may I even use the word salvation, if salvation is understood in its broader terms of healing, liberation, and reconciliation.
I have been reading Josh Grave's book How Not to Kill a Muslim: A Manifesto of Hope for Christianity and Islam in North America, (Cascade Books, 2015), which as you might expect addresses an issue of some importance in our culture. I'll be writing a review of the book when I'm finished, but Josh, who is a Church of Christ pastor in Metro Nashville (Otter Creek) with ties to Rochester College here in Michigan, is addressing Christians, inviting them to move beyond their stereotypes of Muslims and move toward true relationship.
So, with this introduction I wanted to share a paragraph from the book that I think speaks to my broader concerns, as well as my desire to set aside stereotypes that keep us from understanding and being in relationship with our Muslim neighbors. So, Josh writes of the need for the church, which is made in Jesus' image, to embrace our neighbors (who ever they are).
I hope you agree when I say that the time is now for liberal and evangelical Christians in America to let go of our need for enemies. It is time for us to release the love of hate and fear of the unknown. It is time to sop looking and start seeing. Why should we continue to define ourselves by our hatred of enemies instead of by our love of the one who came to end division among ethnic and religious groups? [How Not to Kill a Muslim, p. 56].
While Josh is addressing specifically the issue of Muslim-Christian relationships, I think that there is wisdom here that applies to other areas of concern. It is important, in my mind, that we as Christians remember that whatever our theologies and doctrines and practices, that we are united in Christ, in whose image we are to be remade.