Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Intolerance: Lessons from 9/11

On 11 September 2001 I was in El Dorado, Arkansas, asleep at my cousin Marilyn's home when my cell phone rang. My friend Dianne in Michigan was calling regarding the attack on the first tower; I turned on the TV just in time to see the plane strike the second tower. Many people have, over the years, decried the fact that these Muslim extremists attacked America. Christians have mobilized to prevent the building of mosques in various places; to prevent other religions the right to practice their religion. We somehow feel we have the right to force everyone to be Christian or have no right to worship the way they choose; or not worship if they choose.

Atheists claim in their fight to prevent any mention of God in any public forum that they are exercising their right to not believe. They say any mention of God is violating their right, so therefore no one should be able to use the name of God in any public way. In so doing, they infringe on the right of the believer to enjoy the same freedom the atheist claims to be trying to protect.

Christians claim all Muslims are on a mission to kill anyone who is not Muslim, therefore all believers in Islam should be prevented from being able to practice their religion. Some even are stating the Constitution only preserves the freedom of religion FOR Christians, not other religions or atheists. In their fight, they are infringing on the rights of non-Christians as they fight to hold on to the very right they're trying to take from others.

Today, as Christians, we look back at the Crusades and we shudder to think that Christians slaughtered millions who refused to convert to Christianity. The Crusades weren't the only time when this practice was rampant, however. The Maya and the Aztec nations were completed exterminated by Christians who slaughtered those peoples for not converting to Christianity. Of course, they were also searching for the gold these peoples had, and took their lands.

Try as I may, I can find no place in scripture where these tactics are given blessing from God or the first century church. Jesus, Himself, actually told us that if we witnessed to someone who refused to believe, we were to walk away from them, and leave them be. He didn't give us permission to take away their rights, much less kill them. It's heartbreaking to think Christians lament the tactics of others as we employ those exact same tactics, ourselves. We decry the atheists from trying to take away our right to worship, believe and proclaim God while we work to take the rights of those who believe differently than we do.

As I reflect on how this breaks my heart, I have to wonder how God's heart breaks when He sees people using His name to perpetrate these atrocities on others. We condemn others for doing exactly what we're doing; how is that reflecting the spirit and teachings of Christ? I want someone to show me examples where Jesus worked to prevent non-believers from living their lives the way they chose or to enjoy the same rights we enjoy. The only thing scripture tells us about how to treat those people is to leave them be. To not associate with them. And though the Bible tells us let all things be established in the mouth of 2 or 3 witnesses (2 or 3 locations in the scripture), I can't find a single passage in the Word that instructs us to behave the way we're behaving. In fact, I find where we are to behave in a way that portrays love and brings glory to God; our actions are doing the opposite; we're turning people away from God by the things we're doing.

We must look at our tactics and compare them to the tactics of those who are working against us. If those tactics are the same, then we should be able to see that we must change our tactics. We must model our lives, and our actions, after those of Christ. If they don't line up with His, then we know we're out of His will and out of step with His teachings.

Counting My Blessings

As I sit at my desk this morning, I happened to glance over at the wall and really looked at some of the things hanging there. I began to wonder at the things we collect in our lives to decorate our homes, to decorate ourselves and our lives. God has been so good to me, I have more than I ever imagined I could ever accumulate. Just over 13 years ago, I had nothing but a suit of clothes, a blanket, a single wine glass and a ring that had been recovered from the fire. Today my possessions fill up my 1313 sq ft house, most of the attic above the house and a 250 sq ft barn. All of this has been accumulated while I've been on Social Security Disability.

And I've given away quite a bit of stuff, over the past 10 years, as well. But, it's just stuff. When I lost everything, I got back up, brushed myself off and said, "I can move on and I will have more stuff." But, what do we really decorate our lives with? The stuff hanging on our walls? The clothes we wear? Or the friends and family that we hold close? How about decorating our lives with the love and message of Christ? Do we decorate our lives with His love, His grace and mercy?

There are two things I long to hear when I stand before Him on that day I leave this planet: "Well done" and I want to hear those who knew me say, "He shone with the light and love of God."

I count my wealth in the number of friends I have, today. Most of my life I limited myself to just a couple friends, although I had many acquaintances; due to the manner in which I grew up, I just didn't trust opening myself up to many people and I had such abandonment issues, I refused to allow myself to be open to the hurt and heartache that I was certain would come from allowing many people into my life. With Christ, I have learned that even the risk of being hurt is worth the love and companionship you receive from friends and family. Jesus loved the entire planet: every man and woman who has ever been, or will ever be born, and He was left utterly and completely alone at Calvary. Talk about rejection and abandonment! Yet, He continues to love and open Himself up to every single one of us, knowing we have the option to reject Him even after He paid the ultimate price for us. If He can do that, I can open myself up to not only the love, but the possibility of pain.

I'm very grateful for my life, today. I have the love and support of so many wonderful people, even though they know I have not the means to bestow any material gifts on them, they love me for WHO I am, not what I can give. Just the way I love God. Not for all the blessings He has, will and can give. But because He is God. He sent His Son to die to redeem my soul. Now that's love!