Love, Hate and 9/11

Nine years after 9/11 and it might as well have been yesterday considering all the emotional turmoil that has been blown into the atmosphere by the political-religious implications of both a mosque being built near the site of the attacks as well as a pastor from Florida wanting to burn the Quran today as some act of condemnation. The issue at stake for most of us is to figure out how we should feel, think and respond to these three events. That’s right. They are three events – and two haven’t even happened yet.

Most of the filtering that I have been exposed to has dealt with amendment rights. However, I am more concerned with Christian obligation. What should a Christian response be?

Let me start of with a story from Bob Sjogren from Unveiled at Last.

You remember a church service you attend back in the winter of 1980 during the Iranian hostage crisis, when 52 Americans were held hostage by terrorists in Teheran…Glancing at the order of service in the bulletin, you saw that Greg Livingstone was scheduled to give a “missions minute.”

“Right,” you thought. “This guy’s really going to be able to say something significant in 60 seconds. The one-minute missionary.”

The anthem ended and a square man who looked like a boxer stepped up to the podium. Without so much as an introduction, he asked, “How many of you are praying for the 52 American hostages held captive in Iran?”

You, of course, raised your hand. All present raised their hands. “Wow, that’s terrific,” he said. “There must be 4,000 people here.”

“Now, let’s be just as honest; Jesus is watching. How many of you, ” the boxer continued, “are praying for the 45 million Iranians held captive by Islam?”

One hand slowly went up. Two hands.

“What? Only two people?” he yelled. “What are you guys, Americans first and believers second?” (p.55-56)

I have to ask about our concerns over the mosque being built are we Americans first and believers second? Are we more concerned political and patriotic sensibilities that the demands of the gospel? What is the demand of the gospel in this situation? Do you see the Muslim as your neighbor? Or do you see him as your enemy? It really doesn’t matter how you see him does it because our heart, which should be full of grace to all without qualification should respond the same to both.

Let’s see if Jesus can give us some guidance.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48 ).

What, then, is at stake? Yes, on one level it is patriotic sensibilities. But on another level – the more important level, for the child of God, it is about God being glorified. Notice that love demonstrated toward just those who are part of your community, whatever that community is, is not much and it certainly does not reflect the redeeming, saving, life changing power of God’s love. If our reaction is first as an American then we might perchance want to first rise in protest against the mosque being built near 9/11. And if we were not of God’s Kingdom then we might be willing to ignore the outrageous-ness of a book burning – any book burning, much less a book burning of another religion. And to think that any other person on the face of the earth is dealt the hand of persecution from a Christian is an offense to the very nature of the cross which our Christ bore.

But God proclaims and teaches all the nations of the earth the power of his love because Christians have a love that overcomes the deathblow of an enemy with a kiss and prayer in return.  Like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who lived the gospel when he taught that a true understanding of the grace of God could lead to the loss of a Christian’s life as he loves his enemies – a reality that became real when he was hanged in a German prison camp a week before liberation. His life did not end with bitterness, but praise and thanksgiving that he could defend the helpless, bring light to the wicked actions of the oppressors and love them all indiscriminately. He told his executioner, “You think you are ending my life, but it is only beginning.” (a loose rendition as I can’t find the exact phrase this moment).

A Christian’s stance on the mosque in New York City then must be, first and foremost, concerned with loving Muslims in such a way that we do not create new barriers to the proclamation of the gospel. If some injustice is actually occurring with the building of the mosque near Ground Zero – and that is something each person must workout for him/herself – then the Christian response is to figure out how to love in such a way as to make it overly, abundantly obvious that an injustice is occurring without engaging in hateful rhetoric or actions. Jesus again gives us guidance if this is your conviction. Matthew 5:41  “And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” This response would require creativity with an overly abundant gracious response. Think that even Donald Trump has offered to pay over 125% value of the property to the owners in order to end the conflict. If Christians are so convinced it is wrong then we should be offering 500% or more as one possible alternative.

This stance should also inform those who want to give a pass to the pastor in Florida. His actions are not in alignment with Christ’s instructions to us. Burning books is not love. Proclaiming the errors of the Quran and dialogue and living a life of mercy ministry among Muslims is love. Creating additional boundaries of mistrust through the abuse of their values is not. No Christian would available for in-depth searching dialogue with a Muslim on-board on of the airplanes who crashed into the world towers if he (theoretically) could proselytize us after said event. Why would you expect a Muslim to respond any different? Do we value the Bible or the Trade Towers more? Now flip it over as a Muslim – no question that a holy book gets the nod.

Which really brings me back to what you need to figure out – are you first an American or a Christian? The answer to that question will dictate the attitude of your heart.

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