A “Christian” Vote?


What’s been particularly dispiriting this year was how many people decided what they thought of an accusation of sexual misconduct based upon the partisan affiliation of the accused. When it’s a member of the other party, the message to the accuser is, “You have the right to be heard. You have the right to be believed. We’re with you.” When it’s a member of our own party, the talking heads confidently declare they’re just hunting their “fifteen minutes of fame.” Who could have guessed that guilt in sexual misconduct cases aligned so perfectly with party membership?

Jim Geraghty – http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/441324/character-candidates-and-wrong-lesson-2012


Now that we are beginning our final approach to the 2016 election, more earnest are the appeals and more urgent are the arguments from colleagues and acquaintances alike about which candidate and which party is more “Christian,” and therefore my only option as a voting “Christian” when I step into my polling booth on the morning of November the 8th.  My Republican friends insist that voting Republican is the only “Christian” option based largely on a law and order reading of Romans 13 and an emphasis on the personal morality strands of New Testament teaching.  Meanwhile, my Democrat friends insist that voting Democrat is the only “Christian” option based largely on a social activist interpretation of the ministry of Jesus Christ found in the Gospels, especially Luke’s, and an emphasis on the social justice strands of New Testament teaching.

My problem is that when I read my New Testament, I find both the strands of teaching that my Republican friends emphasize, and the strands of teaching that my Democrat friends emphasize. The way I read the New Testament, it’s not “either/or,” it’s “both/and.” And what troubles me so deeply about this is the way that partisan blinders seem to screen us from seeing and partisan rhetoric seems to deafen us from hearing the way that our Christian brothers and sisters on the other side of the partisan divide are reasoning from Scripture, making inferences and drawing conclusions just as we are. That quote from Jim Geraghty’s National Review article “Character, Candidates and the Wrong Lessons from 2012,” at the lead of my blog this week powerfully expresses the way that partisan affiliation hypocritically skews the way that we “hear” things, and then “use” what we’ve heard to dismiss and denigrate the other side.  This is bad enough when we do it with what we hear on the evening news and with what we read about in the morning paper, but when we do it with Scripture, well, that’s just spiritual malpractice if you ask me.

In seminary I was told that the very first task of being a truly “Biblical” Christian was to be able to identify your own deeply imbedded presuppositions, to recognize the way that those prejudices were slanting the way that you read the Biblical texts, and then to try to neutralize them as much as possible by the use of the critical tools of interpretation and by consciously choosing to be part of a community of interpretation where people from different backgrounds, with different life experiences, and with different presuppositions could respectfully and honestly talk with each other about what they found in the Biblical text, what it means for the way that they understood God, themselves and the world, and how it shapes the way that they were then making their way through life in light of what they understood the Bible to say and mean.  This is why I am a Disciple, when theologically I am probably better suited to be a Baptist of some variety (Remember, we Campbellites were Baptists once… “Christian Baptists” to be precise).  In fact, this was the exact struggle that I actually had when it was time to choose both the college that I would attend, and later on, the seminary.  I’d had Baptist experiences of faith and church, and Disciple experiences of faith and church.  And I had Baptist options open to me, and I had Disciple options, and I understood that whichever option I took would forever set the denominational dye of the color of my soul.

At both junctures, college and seminary, I consciously and conscientiously chose the Disciples, and I have truly loved being part of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) as a classically Orthodox Christian (Chalcedonian and Nicaean) because I knew that as a Disciple, at the Sunday school table each week there would be rigorous conversations about what I believed, and why, while at the Lord’s Table, as a Disciple, I knew that there would be the embrace of a community that was deeply rooted and grounded in God’s work of saving love in Jesus Christ.  Billy Graham used to say that “the ground at the foot of the cross is level,” and that’s what I found in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) 45 years ago. It’s why I became an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) 35 years ago.  And it’s how I have always tried to operate as a minister in the five Texas congregations of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) that I have had the honor of serving, including Northway for these past 20 years.

Our founders refused to “fence the Table” over doctrinal and polity disagreements, and today, I believe that our stewardship of that practice of settled conviction requires us to refuse to “fence the Table” over political and social disputes, formally by statement or informally by attitude.  The spiritual “Magna Carta” of the church was Paul’s passionate exclamation in Galatians 3:28 –

 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free,
there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

 And today, I think that sounds like –

There is no longer Republican or Democrat, there is no longer conservative or
progressive, there is no longer red or blue; for all of you are one in Christ.

And because I believe that this is true of the church in general, and of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in particular, especially right now on the eve of a deeply polarizing Presidential election, I think that it’s time for us to start acting like the Christians that our spiritual tradition says we are, and minimally, I believe that this demands some modesty of us.

And so instead of declaring our partisan conclusions as the obvious and only “Christian” choice announced with vitriol and absolutism, how about opting instead for the more difficult pathway of a faithful conversation that opens with all of us saying to each other, “This is the choice that I am making in this election as a Christian, and these are my reasons why. So, tell me about the choice that you are making in this election as a Christian, and what are your reasons why?”  Faithful, respectful conversation rather than conflict and political conceit seems to me to be so much more reflective who we are as sisters and brothers in Christ.

On November the 13th, the Sunday right after the election, we will gather at the Lord’s Table here at Northway just as we do every Sunday.  We will have a President-elect, and if the national statistics are correct, then just about half of us will have voted for that candidate and just about half of us will have not.  Some of us will have “won” politically, and the rest of us will have lost.  But as Americans, we will have our President for the next four years – the leader we are commanded to “honor” (Romans 13:7; I Peter 2:17), and for whom we commanded to pray regardless of how we voted (I Timothy 2:1-2).  And as Christians, our faith and trust will still be in Christ alone as our Lord and Savior, and everyone who has made this same commitment to Him will still be our sisters or brothers in Him, regardless of how they voted.  And because that will be true of us then and there, how about thinking, talking and acting like it’s true of us here and now in these two weeks before the election.  DBS +


Election Day Communion Service
Northway Christian Church – F-101 – Fellowship Hall
Tuesday, November 8, 2016 – 6 pm


Election Day Communion Services began with the concern that Christians in the United States were being shaped more by the tactics and ideologies of political parties than by their identity in and allegiance to Jesus. Northway is a diverse congregation in terms of political views, but spiritually we are still one in Jesus Christ, and so we participate in this Election Day Communion tradition gladly. By deliberately coming together at the Lord’s Table on the evening of the election before the results are announced, we are showing ourselves to be one people in Christ, and we are affirming that what unites us is far more powerful than anything that divides us. So, vote on Election Day morning and then on Election Day Evening come to church to affirm what matters most to us as Christians – the unity of the body of Christ. The most visceral way to express this unity is to share the cup and break bread with other Christian brothers and sisters.

We will be sharing communion together on November 8th in the Fellowship Hall at 6 pm.



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A “Movement for Wholeness”


You’ve no doubt seen the bumper sticker that says, “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could!”  Well, I wasn’t born into the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), but I got here as fast as I could.

I often tell people that I ordered the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) from the Sears Roebuck Catalogue (I just dated myself, didn’t I?)  Spiritually awakened and doing my own believing for the first time, I went looking for a spiritual home of my own.  I visited the Methodists and the Mormons, the Pentecostals and the Presbyterians, the Catholics and the Congregationalists, the Baptists and Adventists, and I found something in all of these faith traditions that I valued, which only made my search that much more complicated.  Spiritually, I began to understand that I was not going to be an “easy fit” anywhere.  I wanted the activism of the Methodists, the cohesiveness of the Mormons, the fervor of the Pentecostals, the thoughtfulness of the Presbyterians, the tradition of the Catholics,   the freedom of the Congregationalists, the focus of the Baptists and the hope of the Adventists.

I have a “both/and” rather than an “either/or” head and heart.  I never finish preaching a sermon, writing an article or teaching a class when at the end of my carefully considered presentation I don’t instinctively want to say, “But, on the other hand.”  This is not a lack of conviction on my part, but rather it is the recognition that there are intelligent people who are just as serious as I am about the matter at hand and who see things quite differently than I do.  I am just not wired in a “my way or the highway” sort of way. Instead I want to stay in communion and conversation with them.  I want to know why they think what they think and do what they do. I want to see what they see, how they see.

One of my life mottos since the first day I first accidently stumbled across it in a book in the stacks of the library at Northwest Christian College in Eugene, Oregon, in the early 10970’s is something that Balthasar Hubmaier (1480 – 1528), an Anabaptist Reformer, told his accusers when he was being tried for heresy –

saviourThese, brethren, are my opinions… which I have learned from the Holy Scriptures. But if there is any error in them, I pray and beseech you, by Jesus Christ our only Saviour, and the day of his last judgment, to condescend to set me right through the Holy Scriptures in a fraternal and Christian manner. I can err, for I am a man, but I cannot be a heretic, for I am willing to be taught better by anybody. And if anyone will teach me better, I acknowledge that I shall owe him great thanks; I will confess the error, and in accordance with the decision of the divine word I will gladly and willingly, with greatest obedience, submit myself to you and follow you most carefully, as followers of Christ. I have spoken. It is yours to judge me and set me right. I will pray Christ to give you his grace for this purpose.

And this perfectly expresses what’s in my head and heart. To be sure, I have my opinions which I have learned from the Holy Scriptures.  I believe them deeply, and I try to preach and teach them just as boldly and clearly as I possibly can.  But, I know that there are other ways of believing, and equally committed preachers who passionately proclaim what they’ve learned from their serious engagement with the Bible as well, conclusions which in some matters stand at wide variance with my own.  I experienced this during my search for a spiritual home when I was a young Christian.  As I sojourned among the Methodists and the Mormons, the Pentecostals and the Presbyterians, the Catholics and the Congregationalists, the Baptists and Adventists, I quickly came to two conclusions: (1) There were some defining issues and insights that were characteristic of each of the various churches I visited to which they were fully committed and about which they were very passionate, and (2) They don’t agree with each other about these things.


At the end of my quest I knew that I needed a church home that nurtured the passion of that first conclusion and the honesty of that second conclusion. Today they call what I went looking for 46 years ago “Generous Orthodoxy.”   Back then all I knew was that what I was going to need in order to spiritually thrive was a faith community that was absolutely clear and crazy about Jesus Christ, who He is and what He’s done “for us and our salvation,” and that also honored the rich variety of ways that people have experienced and understood Him.

religionOne of the most helpful resources I found in those days to help me navigate this journey “home” was Leo Rosten’s book Religions in America (Simon & Schuster – 1963).  This was a collection of the famous “Look” magazine articles on the faiths, churches and denominations in the United States that were published over more than a decade.  This book functioned as a spiritual Sears Roebuck catalogue for me.  I’d read through the essays one after the other like a shopper eagerly searching for the perfect product to meet their needs, and it was when I got to James Craig’s essay on “Who are the Disciples of Christ?” that I caught my first glimpse of “home.”

It was this one line from that essay that captured my heart’s imagination –

There is nothing to prevent literalists and liberals from sitting down together around the Table of the Lord’s Supper, each responsible for his own belief and each serving God according to the dictates of his own conscience. (59)

That’s the kind of church that I went looking for 46 years ago, and that’s the kind of church that I still want to be part of today. But here, after 37 years of ordained ministry in this church family and approaching the end of my active stewardship of it, I am beginning to see just how fragile an ideal it is that I have given my life to.

A few years ago some of our denomination’s best and brightest leaders got together and after much prayerful consideration and careful conversation, issued this new version of our church’s Identity Statement –

chaliceWe are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. As part of the one body of Christ, we welcome all to the Lord’s Table as God has welcomed us.

I loved this way of thinking and talking about who we are as a church from the first minute I saw it. It took me right back to that moment long ago when as a young Christian I heard about a church where “literalists and liberals” could sit down together “around the Table of the Lord’s Supper, each responsible for his own belief and each serving God according to the dictates of his own conscience.” That’s a powerful vision of our unity in Christ, but one that I sense is at real risk today.

Maybe it’s always been like this, maybe there have always been forces at work to weaken the center of gravity of the Lord’s Table in our church where we celebrate with thanksgiving the saving acts and presence of Christ.”  But right now – both pastorally and personally – I am acutely aware of just how powerfully those opposite forces pull at our unity.

Paul told the Corinthians that he wasn’t going to know anything among them “but Christ and Him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2), – Christ alone as the “wisdom” and the “power” of God (I Corinthians 1:24).  But today, increasingly, I find that the standard has become Christ “plus” – Christ “plus” who you are voting for in the Presidential election; Christ “plus” what you think of the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court Ruling; Christ “plus” a specific stand on any one of the many pressing social questions of the day.  Elton Trueblood – one of my most trusted spiritual teachers liked to say – “Hold to Christ, and for the rest be totally uncommitted.”  And despite my great affection for the one who said this, I find that I must respectfully disagree with what he said.

Beyond this being a sheer impossibility for anyone who is trying to live responsibly in a world of real issues demanding real decisions, I’m not sure that it’s even what we’re called to do as Christians. I find that it’s my holding to Christ that has forced a whole set of other commitments, in fact, I’m not sure how firm my hold on Christ would really be if it wasn’t decisively shaping who I vote for, and what I think about Obergefell v. Hodges, and where I stand on the pressing social questions of the day.  I consciously draw conclusions from my commitment to Christ, what have been called “necessary inferences” in our interpretive tradition.  But – and, if you ask me, this is the crucial issue for us as a church today – our inferences, while necessary, valid, inescapable, and passionate, must not be allowed to become terms of communion or made binding on the consciences of other Christians.  So, here’s how I would restate that earlier quote –

Hold firm to Christ, and then fight to stay in community and conversation with everyone else who holds firm to Christ, especially when they draw inferences from their commitment to Christ that vary widely from the inferences that you have drawn from your commitment to Christ.


It’s certainly not as quotable as that earlier statement is, but I think it more accurately reflects what I believe must be the position of a community of faith that says it’s “a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world” based singularly on the welcome that we all receive from God in Christ at the Lord’s Table.  It’s not Christ “plus.” Christ “plus” is fragmenting.  It’s just Christ – the way He loves and calls us all regardless of how we vote and what we think about this or that.  Our wholeness is found in His welcome – and it’s at that table of our unity in Him that the important conversations can then begin without anyone feeling like they are going to be kicked out for who they, what they think, how they vote, because we’re there, all of us, every last one of us, by grace.



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The “Strange Silence” of the Bible



So, here’s the quote that’s troubling me this week. It comes from Mark Galli’s article – “This is a ‘God Moment’ on Race” – in the September 2016 issue of Christianity Today

In 2012, only 13% of white evangelicals said they thought about race daily (41% of black evangelicals said that they did). Today, we’re thinking about race more than daily – due partly to the news cycle, and partly to our rediscovering biblical teaching. (32)

Partly to our rediscovering biblical teaching”? 

Oh, how I want to believe that this is so. I truly want to believe that we’re all committed to, and are even pretty adept as Christians at watching the evening news and reading the morning paper with an open Bible close at hand.  I hope that when current events pose their urgent questions of meaning and value to us, that we as Christians are instinctively turning to the Scriptures, wanting to know what it says about the matter at hand, and that we feel confident in our abilities to be faithful interpreters of that Word.  But here’s what I fear — it doesn’t even occur to us to do this.  It’s not just that we don’t know what the Bible says, it’s that we don’t seem to feel any obligation to find out what the Bible says.  We just don’t see the point of it.  As the title of a book I read in seminary put it, there is a “strange silence” of the Bible in the church, and among Christians.

cherryDallas Willard called this the “Great Omission.”  He said that we ignore that part of the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:18-20) where Jesus called us to “make disciples” by “teaching everything that He commanded.” It’s this teaching that’s missing from our experience as Christians.  Msgr. Charles Pope laments it in his own Roman Catholic spiritual tradition as the problem of being “sacramentalized” (baptized and routinely communed) without being “catechized” (taught), or even, in some cases – his words, not mine – “evangelized.” People have gotten “outwardly in” the church without getting “inwardly in” Christ.  They have attached themselves to a teacher whose teachings they haven’t really bothered to examine.  They have named Christ as their Lord without considering what it is that He is going to ask of them, and worse, they are even bothered by how little it seems to matter that the One they look to as their Savior has such little influence on their thinking and acting as Lord.  To use the language of theologian David Wells, God in seemingly “weightless” in our calculations on behavior and beliefs.

Harry Blamires in his book The Christian Mind (SPCK Books, 1963) measured this by asking his readers to “take some topic of current political importance,” and to try to “establish in your mind what is the right policy to recommend in relation to it, and to do so in total attachment from any political alignment or prejudice,” but by trying instead to “form your conclusion by ‘thinking Christianly’” alone.  He observed that most of us can think pragmatically, and most of us can think politically, but that very few of us seem to be able or committed to “thinking Christianly.”

But Mark Galli voices a different perspective. He suggests that Christians are currently being “conscientized” about race “partly” by “rediscovering the biblical teaching.” If so, this is the best news that I’ve heard in a very long time.  If it’s a just, generous, and more compassionate world that you want, then nothing advances that ball further down the field than Christians reading their Bibles with understanding and then taking what they read seriously.  And this is what Mark Galli suggests is currently happening on the question of race. So, let’s test the hypothesis.

Set aside an hour of uninterrupted time. Go get your Bible, a clean sheet of paper and a sharpened pencil.  Put your cell phone up, find a quiet corner where you won’t be interrupted, get comfortable and write a “theme” – at least that’s what they called them back when I was going to grade school.  Your assigned topic is: “What does the Bible say about racism?”  Go!

bibOh, did I tell you that you could use the concordance at the back of your Bible, but nothing else. No Googling allowed.   No checking your Bible’s study notes.  No looking up references to race in any of the Bible resources that you may have on a bookshelf somewhere at home  – you know, Commentaries, Bible Dictionaries and Handbooks, Topical Bibles, or books on Christian beliefs.  No calling your Sunday School teacher for help, or the preacher who lives across the street.  No, this is just about you, your Bible, your knowledge of what it says, and your ability to relate those teachings to one of the more urgent questions of the day.

anglePerhaps this assignment intimidates you a tad. You don’t even know where to start. Okay, I’ll spot you an outline.  It’s customary when “thinking Christianly” about some topic of interest and/or controversy to organize your thoughts according to the Trinitarian structure of God’s revealed actions reported and interpreted by the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.  This “pattern” is enshrined in the historic Creeds of the church and it has functioned as the backbone of many systematic theologies through the centuries. So, when tackling a question like – “What does the Bible say about racism?” – break it down into the three “dispensations” of God’s dealings with us according to the Scriptures – Creation (the work of God the “Father”), Redemption (the work of God the “Son”), and our, and the whole wide world’s, continuing Transformation (the work of God the Spirit).

handStart by asking yourself, “What does our creation in the image of God say about the intrinsic worth of each and every human being?” Ponder the implications of the “shalom” that the Bible paints for us in its creation stories, and think about the damage that the “Fall” has done to this original picture of that God-intended harmony (all of the stories from Genesis 4 through Genesis 11 can be read as accounts of the spread of the damage to all of our relationships as human beings after the rebellion of Genesis 3 – Theological, Psychological, Social, and Ecological).   And don’t forget to factor in what texts like the Ten Commandments and the other moral demands that God makes on us say about the Creator’s original purpose for His creatures and all of Creation.  To know what the Bible says about racism, begin by thinking through what the Bible says about how creation is a picture of the way that things are supposed to be from God’s point of views.  We’ve got to come to terms with what it means that every person we meet bears the image of God.

circNext, ask yourself, “What does God’s saving work say about the intrinsic worth of each and every single human being?” Follow what’s been called the “scarlet cord” (Joshua 2:18) – the story of redemption that weaves throughout the full length of the biblical story.  Start with the call of Abram in Genesis 12:1-3.  Ask yourself: “Who is the object of God’s concern here?” and “Who is included within the scope of God’s saving purposes?” Think of examples of people who were outside the covenant boundary of Israel were taken in and included in the promises that God makes.  This is a familiar biblical pattern, there are lots and lots of examples. John 3:16 is as “core” as any biblical text is to most of us as Christians.  So, what does John 3:16 say about who it is that God loves?  Then, using John 3:16 as your compass, tiptoe through the book of Acts and take note of every time the Gospel of God’s love in Jesus Christ forced the church to jump a barrier that had previously existed to exclude some set category of people. Spend some time in Ephesians chapter 2 unpacking what just might be the most important text in the whole Bible when it comes to the sin of racism, and how God in Christ broke down the dividing wall.  And then don’t forget to poke around a little bit in the book of Revelation to see who it is that is included when God’s work of salvation is finally complete.  To know what the Bible says about racism, we’ve got to come to a better understanding of the scope of God’s saving actions in Jesus Christ.  We’ve got to come to terms with what Paul said about not despising anyone “for whom Christ died” (I Corinthians 8:11).

doveFinally, ask yourself, “What does the convicting, comforting, confirming, disturbing and transforming work of God’s Spirit say about the intrinsic work of each and every human being?” Just as the Spirit of God moved over the surface of the deep at Creation, so the Spirit of God continues to move over the hearts of people and the circumstances of life, ordering the chaos, giving life to change, and bending things in the direction of God’s future.  So, where do you sense the Spirit moving?  One of the critical Biblical moments is in Acts 10 when Peter was forced to welcome Cornelius and his household to the family of faith because Peter had witnessed the same experience of the empowering and indwelling Spirit in them as he himself had experienced in Himself on the day of Pentecost.  Their bond of unity was established by the workings of the Spirit of peace, and Paul’s familiar image of the church as Christ’s body made up of many members is premised on this same idea. Reconciliation depends on the unity that the Holy Spirit supplies (I Corinthians 12).  So, the critical question is – “In whom do you see the indwelling empowering presence of God’s Spirit, and what does that say about the racism that tries to pry people apart?”

It’s said that one of the defining characteristics of contemporary Christianity is its “bits and pieces” mentality.  Nothing touches.  Nothing connects.  Everything is just a “one off.” This week’s sermon, Sunday school lesson, Bible Study, morning devotional is completely unrelated to what has come before, and totally unrelated to what will follow.  We don’t see how ideas and experiences touch.  There’s no big picture, no unifying structure, no sense of one truth building upon the previous truth and preparing us for the next truth, no overarching vision of what it is that God is doing in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit.  And so, is it any wonder then that when culture poses a question like “racism,” that we who are Christians are hard pressed to think Christianly about it, or to speak Biblically to the moment.

jengaIt was while playing “Jenga” with some of the children at Family Gateway during our recent “Family Mission Weekend” that I was powerfully reminded of how everything that the Bible teaches touches everything else that the Bible teaches, and how what the Bible teaches touches every situation and circumstance of our lives.  I’m not sure that Mark Galli is right when he says that Christians are “thinking about race more… due partly to our rediscovering biblical teaching.” But I do know that if this was true, if Biblical teaching was taken more fully into consideration by those of us who are Christians, then what we thought, said and did about racism would be more informed by the Gospel, and would do more to effect the kind of change that this moment requires.




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But it really is a “Sin Problem”; “Thinking Christianly” about Race


wareLawrence Ware describes himself as “a philosopher of race and ordained minister dedicated to social justice.” In a recent article (8/16/16) for VSB he said that “If Your Pastor Says ‘Racism Isn’t a Skin Problem, it’s a Sin Problem’  Then You Need To Find Another Church” (http://verysmartbrothas.com).

What Lawrence was addressing in this article are the simplistic slogans and surface solutions that Christians have a real propensity for offering in the face of the stubborn systemic racism that tears at the fabric of American society. The violent and painful episodes of problems in our race relations as a nation in recent days is not a new outbreak of a social ill that we had solved with the Civil Right Bill of 1964, affirmative action and the election of our first African American President. No, racism is a chronic issue that is part of the human condition. The idea that “me and mine” are intrinsically superior to “you and yours” persists precisely because racism is just so stubborn and systemic in us as human beings. And so what’s demanded, Lawrence correctly argued in his article, is a “fundamental change to the structure of this country.” What he wrestles with in this article is the question of just exactly how this kind of “fundamental change” is going to actually be effected.

Now, what prompted Lawrence to write was his attendance of a church service in which the high profile multicultural pastor invoked one of those slogans about racism being a “sin problem” rather than a “skin problem.” Lawrence regarded this statement as evidence that that church and its pastor really didn’t get it. Lawrence wrote –

…Saying racism is a sin problem that we can solve by being kinder to each other serves the purposes of White supremacy because it does not force White folks to come to terms with the way they may contribute to institutional racism in the decisions they make at work and the way they vote at the polls…

These were words that were the speed bump in this article for me. In fact I have continued to live with them in the week ever since I first read the article.  Something about them troubled me, and I finally came to the conclusion that where they rankle me so is at the point of the false dichotomy that they seem to create, the “either this or that” choice that they seem to force.  Lawrence suggests that while some would say that the “sin problem” of racism can be easily and quickly remedied by the simple decision just to start being nice to each other, that what it really requires are public acts of “social protest.

Now, beyond the fact that these two things are not mutually exclusive options in mind, or even the only options that we have available to us when it comes to confronting the sin of racism in ourselves, each other and society at large, there is the even more fundamental theological problem for me of the understanding of sin that they reflect, a view of sin that sees it as something that we can “fix” by our own efforts.

Both “being kinder to each other” and “engaging in social protests” as responses to the “sin of racism” betray a view of sin that reduces it to bad behavior that can be modified by learning how to make better choices.  If people just knew better, or if we just had more effective laws to regulate our behavior, or if we were just better motivated as human beings, then all of our social problems like racism would slowly go away and we could live happily ever after.  Utopia is within our reach if only we would all just stretch a little bit!  But, is sin really just the result of people having bad information, or laws being poorly written and selectively enforced, or people not being motivated quite enough?  I think that the evidence, both Biblical and personal, points to the fact that sin is so much more insidious and intrinsic to us as human beings than this.

Lawrence warned his readers that if your pastor has called for prayer in regard to (racial) unity but has not pushed the congregation to engage in (public acts) of social protest to address the systemic nature of racial justice,” then you might need to change churches. And I appreciate what he says. Swaying and singing “Kum Ba Yah” together, well-intentioned though it may be, is just not going to be enough to dismantle the stubborn and systemic racism that infects the human condition. My problem with what Lawrence wrote is that I don’t think that marching through the streets chanting slogans and hoisting placards is going to be enough to dismantle the sin of racism either.


Clearly prayer for racial unity and public acts of social protest against racial injustice are expressions of a very deep and commendable desire for social change, and as such, neither is devoid of value. I remember hearing a story about a company of Union troops marching past a Plantation field filled with slaves in the Deep South during the Civil War. Seeing the troops, one of those slaves ran just as fast as he could to get into line with the soldiers with his hoe slung over his shoulder like a rifle. His fellow slaves back in the field all laughed at the sight. They made fun of him. They asked if he thought that pretending to be a soldier for a while was going to make any difference in the struggle for their freedom. And he answered them, saying, “I don’t know if it helps or not, I just don’t want there to be any question about which side I am one.” Praying for racial unity, and engaging in acts of public protest can certainly make it clear about which side we are on, but I don’t believe that prayer or protest has the power to “fix” the sin of racism. No, to “fix” the sin of racism something more fundamental must occur within us as human beings.

To use the language of Paul in Romans 6, the old self with all of its passions and prejudices must be crucified with Christ and buried, and a new self must be raised with Christ to walk in newness of life.   To use the language of Peter in his first letter, we need to be “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1:3). To use the language of Jesus Christ Himself in His Sermon on the Mount, we need to become good trees bearing good fruit rather than being bad trees bearing bad fruit (Matthew 7:16-18). Jesus, Peter and Paul were all talking about regeneration, about being “born again — born from above” (John 3:3).   As John Piper writes –

heartForgiveness and cleansing are not enough.  I need to be new.  I need to be transformed.  I need life.  I need a new way of seeing and thinking and valuing.  That’s why Ezekiel speaks of a new heart a new spirit:  “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.   And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances” (36:26-27).

…I think Ezekiel means that in the new birth, God puts a living, supernatural, spiritual life in our heart, and that new life – that new spirit – is the working of the Holy Spirit himself giving shape and character to our new heart…. By being himself within us, our heart and mind take on his character – his spirit (Ephesians 4:23).

I completely agree with Lawrence when he says that what the sin of racism requires is a fundamental change in us and our world. But the only source for the kind of change that the sin of racism requires that I know anything about is the Gospel.  And so, taking Lawrence’s lead, I’d say that if your pastor has called for prayer in regard to racial unity, and has pushed for social protest to address the systemic nature of racial injustice, but has not systematically addressed the Gospel foundations of the Creator’s original vision of Shalom, the tragic abnormality of fallen people living in a fallen world that the rebellion of our sin has created, and the personally and socially transformative power of the Gospel, then you might need to think about changing churches.

It was Carl F.H. Henry who wrote –

Supernatural regeneration is the peculiar mainspring for the social metamorphosis latent in the Christian Movement. Man’s spiritual renewal vitalizes his awareness of God and neighbor, vivifies his senses of morality and duty, fuses the law of love to sanctified compassion, and so registers the ethical impact of biblical religion upon society…. Evangelism and revival remain the original wellsprings of evangelical humanitarianism and social awakening.

I believe that “fixing” the sin of racism requires nothing less than a change of heart, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only power to change hearts that I have ever come across. And so to ignore this Gospel, to obscure this Gospel, to discount this Gospel, or even just to assume this Gospel in the urgent conversation about the kind of fundamental change that the whole wide world and every last one of us as individuals desperately needs, strikes me as the height of unfaithfulness on our part as Christians. If it’s Christ that has the power to make us new creations so that old things pass away and so that new things come, as the Gospel says He is, then to fail to mention Him “at such a time as this” can only be regarded as the worst possible kind of spiritual malpractice.  DBS +


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“For Such a Time as This”

Thinking Christianly” about Race, Money and Politics


dudeFrancis Schaeffer (1912 – 1984) wrote 23 books. He viewed the last book he wrote – The Great Evangelical Disaster (Crossway 1984) – published just months before his death, as a kind of theological last will and testament to those of us who had come under the sway of his teaching.  This book has the feel of the last chapters of Deuteronomy (31-34) in the Old Testament to it, Moses’s farewell speech to the people of Israel, or the Farewell Discourse of Jesus in the Upper Room with His Disciples in the Gospel of John (13-17), or 2 Timothy, the New Testament letter that presents itself to us as Paul’s swan song.  The totality of a teacher’s teachings gathered up and reduced down to their essence, a reminder of why the things that have been said mattered, and an argument for why they will continue to matter after the teacher is long gone.  That’s what The Great Evangelical Disaster was to Francis Schaeffer, and it explains why he called it the most important thing that he wrote, and I don’t disagree.  Speaking as someone who has been reading Francis Schaeffer with both real benefit and genuine appreciation since 1970 (that’s 46 years!) I think The Great Evangelical Disaster is the best “front door” into his body of work.

I mention all of this because it was in The Great Evangelical Disaster that Francis Schaeffer prophetically named the “three great weaknesses” that he observed have chronically plagued North American Christians and North American Christianity for generations – the matter of race, the use of wealth and the confusion of God with country.

First there is the matter of race, where there were two kinds of abuse. There was slavery based on race, and also racial prejudice as such.   Both practices are wrong, and often were present when Christians had a stronger influence on the consensus than they have now.  And yet the church, as the church, did not speak out sufficiently against them. (382)

Second, there is the question of the compassionate use of wealth… this means two things: first, making it with justice; and then using it with real compassion. (383)

Third, there is the danger of confusing Christianity with the country… we must not wrap Christianity in our country’s flag, and second we must protest the notion of “manifest destiny” that would permit our nation to do anything it chooses. (383)


Race is in the news these days because of the recent shootings of Black men by police officers in Tulsa and Charlotte, just the latest in a long string of troubling stories about race, power and violence. Money is on my mind because we’ve just entered the stewardship season in the life of the church I serve. This is the time each year when the dots between what we say we believe and value and how we spend our money get consciously connected.  Politics dominates our national consciousness right now because in less than six weeks we will be voting for a new President.  And Francis Schaeffer, right before he died, warned us that these are three things that we who are Americans and Christians have never done very faithfully.  So, in my blog over the next few weeks I intend to do what Francis Schaeffer said we who are American Christians don’t do particularly well, and that’s to do some “believing thinking” on race, money and politics.

Mark Galli, the editor of Christianity Today, in his September 2016 editorial calls it “a God moment.” He explains that many Christians are spiritually “sensitive” to the way that “circumstances fall together in a way that suggests that God is at work in our lives in fresh way,” and he says that he believes that that “we are currently experiencing a new ‘God moment’” on race.

God is shining his burning light on how our nation and our churches are fractured by racial division and injustice. In the past two years, we’ve seen image after image of injustice perpetrated against black Americans.  We’ve studied this ate statistics.  And more important, we’ve heard the anguished cry of a suffering community that is understandably hurting, angry, and demanding progress.  We see more clearly than ever how racism is embedded in many aspects of our society…  (And we have to admit that) we have been slow to hear what the black church has been telling us for a while. And in all of this, we hear God calling his church to seek justice and reconciliation in concrete ways.


What he’s talking about here are what I was taught were “Kairos” moments.

“Kairos” is an ancient Greek word meaning the “right or opportune moment.” It refers to a special period of time that opens up within the regular routine of one’s life, during what’s known as “Chronos” time. A “Kairos” moment is when something divinely crucial is happening in one’s life, or in the life of the whole world.

The core conviction at work in the notion of “Kairos” is that God actively and persistently builds special moments into our lives when we are brought to the brink of faith decisions through experiences of special insight and invitation.  In the Evangelical tradition this is what is meant when somebody says that they have been brought “under the conviction of the Holy Spirit” about something.  In the Quaker tradition there is a strong teaching about “days of visitation” when they say that God shows up in people’s lives with an unmistakable intensity, making available to the visitant an opportunity to take the next decisive step in their journey of faith, taking them deeper in and further along in their experience of life with God.  Kennon Callahan said that it’s God who is at work in what we are thinking about when we’re stuck in traffic, or stopped at a red light, or when we’re up in the middle of a sleepless night.  God uses these interruptions and inconveniences to clear the space in our heads and hearts where He can then pose His invitations and challenge our presuppositions.  Personally, I experience my own strongest sense of “Kairos” when something I am reading and pondering scores a direct hit on something that’s actually happening in my life and/or world.  I sit up and pay closer attention when the questions that my experiences and observations of life are posing get answered immediately with the things that are being formed in me spiritually through what I am currently reading and considering.

And so, with the questions of race, money and politics being asked with such intensity and urgency these days, and with the earnest warning of the Evangelical “St. Francis” (Schaeffer) that these are each areas on the journey of faith where Christians like us have previously tripped and consistently fallen, I am sensing that these are topics demanding some of our very best “believing thinking.” So, in my next posting, we’ll start with race.

                                                                                                                                 DBS +

Next “Soundings” ~ “Race, Christ and the Christian”


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The Dock and the Boat; Being “Biblical” in a Changing World


boatHave you ever stepped from a dock into a rocking boat? Spiritually, the precariousness of this situation is where we live our lives as Christians.  Our mandate is to go into all the world to preach the Gospel (Mark 16:15).  The dock is the New Testament, the firm and fixed platform from which we operate.  It is our first source and primary authority for faith and practice as Christians. The world is the constantly shifting boat, rising and falling with the waves, rocking and rolling in the wind.  And we who have experienced and been entrusted with the Gospel message of God’s steadfast love in Jesus Christ are constantly being asked to step from the sure dock of the New Testament into the shifting boat of the world. The expectation is that we will carry the Gospel message that is rooted and grounded in the New Testament to the worlds where we live and move and have our being.   The trick in this is being able to “translate” the Gospel message into the language, thought-forms and felt needs of our changing world without “transforming” the Gospel message into something else in the process.

When I started ministry back in the 1970’s the pressing question of the day was women in the spiritual and pastoral leadership of the church. Back then I pastored churches that elected their first women elders and congregational chairs, and that called their first women ministers, and believe me when I tell you that there were some tense and terse meetings in those congregations as those decisions were being made, and some casualties. Some church members strongly and sincerely believed that the New Testament prohibited women in spiritual leadership, and they cited I Corinthians 14:34 and I Timothy 2:11-14 as their proof.  They had their feet firmly planted on the dock of Scripture and they weren’t budging.  Other church members knew that the world around them had changed, that the cultural movement towards equal rights between the sexes was right, and that the church needed to “catch-up” and adjust to this new reality.  They had their foot in the moving boat and they were faithfully committed to keeping it firmly planted there.  Needless to say, this created some uncomfortable tension.  Passion was met by passion, and the trick from my perspective as their pastor was keeping the necessary conversation civil and sustained.  The temptation was always for somebody to pick up their ball and go home.  Rather than trusting that the Holy Spirit was the source of the whitecaps of controversy in the pond of their church, some were always looking for a quick exit, a premature resolution.  Either stay on the dock or get into the boat.   Enough of this straddling business!   But the Great Commission – going into all the world to preach the Gospel – by definition always has and always will position us with one foot on the dock and with our other foot in the boat.

Resolution finally came in those churches not by dismissing the Biblical concerns nor by ignoring the present cultural developments, but by remembering that the books of the Bible themselves were all written in a shifting cultural context too, and that by figuring out what was cultural in them and thereby negotiable, and what was Gospel in them and thereby nonnegotiable, was going to hold the key for us as Christians today trying to “translate” the eternal Gospel into our specific cultural context without “transforming” the content of the Gospel into something else.

pecansAppreciating the difference between the husk and the kernel of a pecan was the crucial distinction. Every Texan has had the unfortunate experience of putting a pig piece of pecan pie into your mouth and biting into a piece of shell when what you were expecting was the taste and texture of the soft sweet nut.  Well, the Biblical context is the shell and the Biblical content is the nut.   The shell in inedible and disposable.  The nut is edible and valuable.  The trick is figuring out which is which when you are looking at a Biblical text.

Sometimes it’s obvious. I’ll bet you a dollar or two that you didn’t see any women in church last Sunday morning with their heads covered even though the New Testament explicitly commands it (I Corinthians 11:1-16).  You don’t need a seminary degree to know there’s a kernel and a husk at work in this text, and the fact that there were no women in church last Sunday with their heads covered shows that we know what the husk of it is.  The real question is what is the kernel of this text?  The interpretive tools of scholarship were developed to help us figure this “kernel” question out more faithfully.

Historically, the church has always believed in a Bible that is both authoritative and that needs to be interpreted. It needs to be interpreted because as C. Leonard Allen put it –

The Bible is a collection of writings rooted deeply in a world that is remote to us. It reflects languages, cultures and world views as strange to us as those of rural Kenya or Kurdistan. Only as we realize that we are outsiders can we enter that strange world and to some degree become insiders.

To be able to do this requires us to undertake an interpretive journey across the barriers of time, culture, language, knowledge and worldviews. J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays in their book Grasping God’s Word (Zondervan 2005) says that this journey involves asking and answering five question with every Biblical text –

bridgeStep 1: What did the text mean to the original audience?
Step 2: 
What are the differences between the biblical audience and us?
Step 3: 
What is the theological principle in this text?
Step 4: How does this theological principle fit with the rest of the Bible?
Step 5: 
How should individual Christians today live out the theological principles?

This is what’s involved in stepping from the dock of a Biblical text into the rocking and rolling boat of a culture in the world today with the message of the Gospel in your arms that you are trying to deliver from its original ancient setting to your present contemporary setting. It’s tricky, and it can’t be rushed.  Today, for most of us, the question of women in ministry has been settled by discovering what’s the kernel and what’s the husk of texts like I Corinthians 14:34 and I Timothy 2:11-14, and we did that by following some version or variation of the 5 steps of the interpretive journey.

Today, the pressing question for us is the full inclusion of Gay and Lesbian Christians in the life and ministry of the church, and just like the question of women in ministry 40 years ago, the LBGTQ question today has some church members with their feet firmly planted on the dock of Biblical texts like Genesis 19:1-11, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, I Corinthians 6:9-10, I Timothy 1:10 and Romans 1:26-27, and other church members with their feet firmly planted in the boat of a culture in which the understanding of same sex identity and relationships have undergone a dramatic shift, a culture into which they know they have been sent with the message of God’s love in Jesus Christ.  And just like 40 years ago and the question of women in ministry, there is some uncomfortable tension in the church today about what it means to be Gospel inclusive?  Passion is meeting passion once again, and the trick for me as a pastor, once again, is to try to keep the conversation civil and going.

When people on the dock, and people in the boat, each threaten to take their ball and leave, we need to trust that the Holy Spirit is in fact the source of the whitecaps of controversy in the pond of the church, and to see it through to God’s resolution rather than seeking our own quick exit from the process. 40 years ago it was the question of women in ministry.  Today it is the question of the full inclusion of LBGTQ Christians in the life of the church. 40 years from now it will be another question. So long as Christ sends His church into the world with the message of the Gospel of God’s saving love, we who are Christians are going to feel the very real tension of having one foot on the dock of Scripture and the other one in the boat of culture. So, don’t fight it.  God is in it.  Trust the Holy Spirit’s work.  See it through.  DBS +



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Finding Common Ground


A Little “Believing Thinking” on the Fifteenth Anniversary of 9/11 ___________________________________________________________________________

The world changed 15 years ago, or was it that we just noticed 15 years ago how much the world had changed?   On that morning when airliners began flying into buildings, we couldn’t imagine what was happening.  And here, 15 years later, many of us still can’t believe what has happened.  Nearly 3,000 people died on the morning of September 11, 2001, and since 9/11 the best estimate is that 1.3 million people have died in the ensuing “War on Terror.”

Because the 19 terrorists who perpetrated the 9/11 attack were all Muslim extremists, and because the Muslim community in the United States has become increasingly visible, vocal and vulnerable over these past 15 years, we who are American Christians have had to think through our response to and our relationship with our Muslim neighbors. This hasn’t been easy because we’ve got history.  “Emotions burn hot, and fears run high” for both Christians and Muslims.  From the moment that Islam was born, Muslims and Christians have been in competition with each other.  Each of us convinced of our own truth, each of us committed to our own mission, we’ve spent the last 1400 years trying to convert each other, sometimes by persuasion, at other times by force, even as we have contended with each other for the hearts and minds of the rest of the worlds’ people.  For these reasons, and so many more, Christians and Muslims have not always “shaken hands in friendship.”  In fact, more often than not we have behaved as bitter rivals looking on each other with suspicion and contempt.


This makes all the more remarkable the letter that was issued in October of 2007 from 138 international Muslim scholars and religious leaders to Christians calling for honest dialogue and mutual respect. This Common Word said –

Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population… If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace. With the terrible weaponry of the modern world; with Muslims and Christians intertwined everywhere as never before, no side can unilaterally win a conflict between more than half of the world’s inhabitants. Thus our common future is at stake. The very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake… So let our differences not cause hatred and strife between us. Let us vie with each other only in righteousness and good works. Let us respect each other, be fair, just and kind to one another and live in sincere peace, harmony and mutual goodwill.

blckWho could possibly argue with this? The only real question is how?  How do we prevent our differences from becoming the cause hatred and strife between us?  I find the beginnings of an answer in Genesis chapter 25 – the story of the death and burial of Abraham.  This is a brief and direct narrative.  In verse 9 of Genesis 25 we’re told that after Abraham died, that Isaac and Ishmael came together to bury him.  It’s so understated that it’s really easy to miss. Isaac and Ishmael, half-brothers, came together to bury their common father Abraham.  Now, the last time that Ishmael was mentioned in the story that the book of Genesis tells, Abraham was sending him and his mother, Hagar, away into the wilderness (Genesis 21).  It’s an ugly story, a “text of terror.”   All that the Biblical text tells us in the set-up to this story is that Ishmael, Abraham’s son by Hagar, the handmaid of Sarah his wife, was “mocking” Isaac her son.   The word translated “mocked” in this verse can also be translated as “played with,” and it’s this fuzziness of translation that led to the emergence of a Jewish tradition that says that what Ishmael did was to shoot arrows at his little half-brother Isaac!  This made Ishmael the object of Sarah’s rage, which was only layered on top of her shame for not having trusted the promise that God had made to her and Abraham that together they would have a son. The mere sight of Ishmael in their family must have been a painful reminder of their unfaithfulness, and so whatever happened in Genesis 21 between Ishmael and Isaac that day, Sarah immediately insisted that Abraham send Ishmael and his mother Hagar away. This was not a strategy designed to engender warm feelings between Abraham’s two sons, in fact, it’s customary in some circles to think and talk about the morass that is the Middle East today in terms of this ancient Isaac/Ishmael divide, the family feud between the children of Abraham.

But when Abraham died, these long separated and bitterly divided brothers came together again in their common grief for a moment of uncommon grace, and I think that therein lies the promise for us on the 15th anniversary of 9/11.  You see, for all of the hostility and suspicion that surely must have existed between Isaac and Ishmael, when Abraham died, they found a way past their very real and quite substantial differences to stand together again, side by side.  And it seems to me that we who are Christians and Muslims, Abraham’s spiritual children, have got to find a way to do be able to do this same thing today.  Just like Ishmael and Isaac, there are things that bring Christians and Muslims together, and there are things that drive us apart.  When and where our beliefs and values are complimentary I believe that we need to gratefully embrace that commonality, and when and where our beliefs and values vary, we need to graciously own those important differences.

crossFor example, both Islam and Christianity agree that God is merciful. That’s a commonality that I believe we can claim and celebrate together as Muslims and Christians.  It’s the first and perhaps the most important plank in a bridge of mutual understanding.  But as a Christian I believe that I must go even further.  I must be very clear with myself and with my Muslim friends and neighbors that the way that I know that God is merciful is through the “suffering, redemptive love revealed in the life, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus who is the Christ” (Shenck 206).   You see, Jesus Christ is decisive for Christianity.

Now, I know that Jesus matters to Muslims too.   I know that Muslims believe that He was one of the six greatest prophets who ever lived, and that’s really saying something because Muslims believe that God has sent 124,000 prophets throughout history to speak His word to humankind (Elass).  I know that Jesus is accorded the same honor and dignity in Islam that is accorded to Mohammed.  In fact, I know that Muslims believe that Jesus was literally born of a virgin, preached the truth of God’s love, worked miracles during His lifetime and that He will come again before the end of the world.



Servant of God (Prophet `Isa/Jesus Quote Calligraphy from Quran 19:30) ______________________________________________________________________________

These are all commonalities between us that I believe we can claim and use as even more planks in that bridge of mutual understanding that we must build. But, after celebrating and exploring these convictions about Jesus that we share as Muslims and Christians, as a Christian I believe that I’ve then got to go on to name those convictions that we don’t share, those core beliefs that the church has “culled from the Scriptures and believed for the last two thousand years” (Elass 54), what Peter Kreeft calls “the three crucial Christian doctrines that Islam denies – the Trinity, the Incarnation and the Resurrection” (87). What’s missing from Islam’s affirmation of Jesus, are the very things that I find to be so essential to historic Christianity’s classic affirmation of Christ, and what this means is that while I think that I can and must walk side by side with my Muslim brothers and sisters for just as long and for just as far as I possibly can, there nevertheless comes that moment when we must part company and go our separate ways because, for all of the things that we do hold in common, there are some other things, some pretty fundamental things, about which we couldn’t be further apart, and almost all of those things have to do with Jesus.

I really do believe that what the New Testament tells us about who Jesus Christ is and what He has done for us is true and that it needs to be believed. This is what makes us Christians, and what that means is that when and where Islam deviates from what the New Testament teaches about Jesus Christ, that’s when and where I must respectfully but conscientiously part company with them. And by the way, every Muslim conversation partner that I’ve ever had has told me the same exact thing.  It’s what we believe about Jesus Christ as the Son of the Living God, our Lord and Savior as Christians, that compels Muslims to part company with us as well.

So, is that it? Is this how the story ends — each of us, Christians and Muslims, with our backs turned to each other walking away from each other in opposite directions?  Is 9/11 the natural and inevitable outcome to this clash of convictions and civilizations?  I doesn’t have to be.  You see, my affirmation of what Christianity teaches doesn’t require me to hate my Muslim neighbors and friends, or to think that I must destroy them because they don’t agree with what I believe and teach about Jesus Christ.  Sure, they think I’m wrong, and I think I’m right.  This is an impasse to be sure.  But if Jesus Christ is who Christianity says that He is, and who I believe that He is, then it follows, doesn’t it, that in addition to trusting Him as my Savior, that I’ve got to pay attention to the things that He taught and to follow the example that He set as my Lord?  And right at the top of that list is loving my neighbor, and then when my neighbors becomes frighteningly un-neighborly, to love them as my enemy.  And as that Common Word that the world’s Muslim leaders addressed to the Christian community back in 2007 pointed out, the Koran teaches them to do the very same exact thing.  And so, without either of us surrendering our heartfelt and carefully thought-through convictions, just like Ishmael and Isaac in our Scripture lesson this morning, in the experience of commanded and committed love, Muslims and Christians can find a meeting place, some common ground.

church“The basis for peace and understanding (between Christians and Muslims) already exists,” the Common Word observed.  “It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths… The necessity of love for… the One God… and the necessity of love of neighbor is the common ground between Islam and Christianity.”  The only question is, will we, like Ishmael and Isaac in Genesis 25, find the courage to make the long journey of the heart to stand together there on that common ground of love, side by side as Christians and Muslims.  The 15th anniversary of 9/11 last Sunday makes this one of the most urgent questions of our time.  DBS +



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