Exodus 14:19-31 or 15:1b-11, 20-21 and Psalm 114
Genesis 50:15-21 and Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13
Peace be with you!
Ever since the 9/11 attacks on American soil, Muslin and Christian relationships have been strangled and hassle. Whenever a new Islamic center announces plans to build in American cities, individuals have demonstrated their distrust and discomfort with their new Muslin neighbors. In Murfreesboro, Tennessee, “not welcome” was spray-painted on the new walls, and a backhoe and other equipment was set on fire. The locals felt Islam was not a religion, and the “mosque” was a disguised terrorist compound. New York City locals in Manhattan felt the new purposed mosque would symbolize a victory for Muslins (Smietana 2011).
Sure, we, as Christians and Americans, have our valid fears of Muslins because Muslins from across the world attacked and damaged us when they hit the Twin Towers. It is only human nature to protect (physically, psychosocially, and spiritually) against the individuals who attack our way of living. Our physical, psychosocial, and spiritual ways of life define us as individuals, as a nature, and as a culture.
Any American old enough to retain memories when the Twin Towers fell can probably tell you where and what he/she was doing when he/she heard the news.
I remember waking up to Amy Grant’s song “From a distance” and thinking it would be a good day as I mentally went through my schedule for the day and set goals for the day.
I was a senior in high school in my creative writing class working (or I should say struggling) to write a poem on fall as the leaves were falling. Like any other day in that class, I was in my own little world with my fingers busy typing my train of thought while my classmates were chatting away. For whatever reason, another teacher stepped in and asked my teacher to come to his room, probably to check the stock market. I continued typing about red, orange, and yellow leaves, not thinking much about my surroundings. I heard my teacher come back in and hush whispers of the Twin Towers falling.
Not knowing what the Twin Towers meant, I continued working until the bell rang and I rushed off to gym. It was in gym where I realized what was happening, though we still were not sure why or how the two airplanes flew into the Twin Towers.
The day dragged on from there as we were all glued to the images on the television, even with the principal’s plea for teachers to carry out the daily lessons. Each teacher had his/her own different but common reason to keep their television on.
I remember going to church that night and everyone sitting in their usual pews. The only difference was the missing smile on our pastor’s face. The next few days fire departments and other public service departments rushed to New York City to help with the clean up, physical and psychosocial. The death toll and the effects on our way of life were un-imaginable. By the weekend, we, as a nation, would declare war on Afghanistan and later Iraq, a war we are still fighting.
It was a day in history. A day no one of us who live with the horrid images in our minds will ever forget. A day redefined our habits and fears as a nation. We have our human reasons for fearing the Muslins. But Jesus calls us to love our neighbor.
~ Erin M Diericx, September 3, 2011
Yet does God want us to damage our neighbors’ property? Does God want us to seek revenge? Does God want us to not welcome our neighbors?
Paul reminds us in Romans 14:1-12 that Jesus calls to love our neighbors, even those individuals who are weak in their faith. The individuals who still hang on the Israelite’s way of life (not eating meat, observing holy days and festivals, and keeping the laws) are those individuals who Paul defines as weak in their faith, because they cannot get their minds around the new way of life, which Jesus introduces.
Yet Paul calls us to care and love one another as Jesus does. We are not to hassle those individuals who are weaker in their faith than us. Instead we are to defend the weak because these individuals honor God the Father in their own way. The individuals keep the laws and observe the holy days as a way to worship God. Paul calls us to understand the different ways to worship the Triune God, and we need to respect each other’s ways of worship. It is not our job to judge or condemn each other because that is God’s job to judge and condemn those who do not repent. We are called to love and respect each other (Hultgren 2011).
The weak and strong have a common confession, regards of their personal habits, in God the Father. God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We believe in the same the Triune God who loves us unconditionally.
God wants us to love our neighbors – those individuals we come into contact with but Paul never imaged our neighbors would be across the world. The Muslins are our neighbors – those living in United States as Americans and those living across the world.
In Cordova, Tennessee, the Heartsong Church welcomed the Memphis Islamic Center into the neighbor when they were breaking ground. When the center was not built in time for the Ramadan, Steve Stone, Heartsong’s minister, opened the church to the Muslins for their month long Ramadan for their evening prayers (Smietana 2011).
Individuals are working to build bridges between theological differences of Christians and Muslins. However, the work is making connections between the Bible and Quran, whether than glossing over or compromising over theological differences. For instance, the Bible and the Quran both refer to Jesus as the one born of a virgin, sinless, and a spirit of God. Jesus is found all over the Quran as well as the New Testament in the Bible (Taylor 2011).
Too often, we get caught up with the differences between us (or ourselves) and them (pick whatever them you want), and we forget to find the common ground. Christians and Muslins both have a great deal of respect for Jesus, the Son of God. Once we fine the common ground, we can start to understand we worship the same God, just in different ways. Just like Paul calls his readers to defend the weak, we should defend our Muslin neighbors who were not involved on 9/11 because we both seek to serve the same Lord. When we grow in our understanding of each other, we begin and continue the healing process.
Our neighbors are here for us to love (like God the Father loves us) and to grow to have mutual respect for each other.
Thanks to be God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for loving us unconditionally. Teach us to have mutual care, respect, and love for one another. Help us to forgive and love our neighbors, just as you forgive and love us. Thank you for your healing touch. Amen.
Hultgren, Arland J. Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Commentary. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2011.
Smietana, Bob. “Peace be upon Them: A Tennessee Church Welcomes its Muslin Neighbors.” SoJourns 40, no. 9 (September-October 2011): 16-18, 20.
Taylor, Aaron D. “Across the Great Divide: Christians and Muslins in the Post-9/11 World.” Sojourners 40, no. 9 (September-October 2011): 22-24, 26.
Please feel free to answer the reflective questions through comments. Please agree to disagree and be respectable to each other. Please take a moment, if you have not already, to sign the covenant. You can answer all or just one of the questions.
1. How do you work with your neighbors?
2. Who are your neighbors?