So often these days, the news is full of dark and terrible reports. Bombs explode in in mosques, killing dozens of Muslims. Christian worshipers at Coptic churches in Egypt are shot, and many die. Refugees are in detention, while other people at risk are put onto airplanes heading back to the places of violence and fear. National leaders stare each other down with suspicion and naked aggression.
As a person of faith, I lament that so much of this brokenness is varnished with religious words. As a Christian, I am perplexed that so many take the Gospel that promises to restore relationships, the good news that says that our Lord is the Prince of Peace, and wield it as a weapon to hurt others and advance their own selfish interests.
We members of the Christian community must explain that the bigotry of some does not define us all. Let us remember what the Bible really teaches and what the church actually believes.
A very nice summary of what many Christian churches feel about this issue is found in the “Belhar Confession,” a statement of faith written by a church in South Africa that experienced discrimination because of the Apartheid policy of the time. The Belhar Confession says at one point:
“We believe that God’s life-giving Word and Spirit has conquered the powers of sin and death, and therefore also of irreconciliation and hatred, bitterness and enmity, that God’s life-giving Word and Spirit will enable the church to live in a new obedience which can open new possibilities of life for society and the world.”
Being committed to the vision contained in those beautiful words, it is my prayer that our community welcomes the stranger, the marginalized, the persecuted and those looking for a home and a secure future. I pray that our nation and our region is a place of hope and blessing for all. It’s my prayer that people of all faith perspectives respect each other, wish each other well, and when necessary, protect each other against discrimination and attack.
I believe others are praying those same prayers. And I believe the Lord will answer them. Thanks be to God.