Scripture: Psalm 117; Matthew 2: 1-12; Luke 2: 25-32
Pointing to the Magi, the Egyptians and Simeon in these passages, McLaren points out the gifts they brought, the protection they offered, the praise he gave Jesus even while not leaving their own belief systems. Not certain of this entirely, for I think the Magi and Simeon certainly showed a faithful turn toward Jesus, but I appreciate McLaren’s desire that instead of viewing all other people and their religious beliefs as competitors with us, or as unworthy of kindness or love, that we note that there is truth every place. We can always look for truth. God’s truth is everywhere. Followers of Jesus only have the corner on truth to the degree they are actually relating to Jesus who is the Truth, personified.
We can always treat others with grace. Since Jesus clearly is reaching out to Muslims around the world, Himself, through dreams, and there are many, many Muslim Background Believers, we cannot say that every religious system is equal. What Jesus offered was something very different. God coming to people, instead of people striving for God. Unfortunately, many expressions of Christianity have created a very “person oriented” faith, as if we have to work hard to get God’s love, attention and mercy. That is the reverse of what Jesus came to achieve.
One of the questions McLaren asks is this: how do you respond to the idea that members of different religions can see one another as neighbors with whom to exchange gifts rather than as enemies or competitors?
Amen. Let’s not view others as enemies. Ever. Instead let’s reach out, offer love, give of our lives and our substance to reach into the lives of others around us in order that Jesus can show up through us in those relationships. McLaren says, “May we who follow Jesus discover the gifts of our tradition and share them generously, and may we joyfully receive the gifts that others bring us as well.” Yes.
I think that we tend to view others who have differing beliefs from us suspiciously. Often because we know little about the other beliefs, we can be fearful. There’s a great story of a pastor in Peoria, IL who befriended a local Iman and Jewish Rabbi in his community and the three became great friends. Their friendship made national news. They shared honestly, loved willingly, while honoring the differences of belief they shared, while loving one another well. It’s a story to embrace.
So often those who claim Christ do not model the love of Jesus in their relationships, so let’s do that, and do it well before we take up some argument. People need Jesus and they can only meet Him if you put Him on display. And it is worth taking up the challenge McLaren offers: “This week, look for someone of another faith to spend time with. Get to know them. Learn about their tradition. Ask them what they value in their heritage and answer any questions they have for you” (85).
Were we to do this-- what a difference it would make. For I can promise, those around us of other faiths view you and me as if we believe whatever is the worst case story of “Christian” behavior around us. They believe that all Christians hate others, picket military funerals, or burn Korans, etc. So, get curious about others and model something different for them to see.
And speaking of “sharing gifts” -- sign up for the Gifts and Talents Workshop and learn how God has gifted you to make a difference in this world and step into those gifts. It will be great. Check out our website under “News,” or register at: www.signups.wumc.me.