I wonder why it is that a season that is supposed to be focused on peace, peace-making, and the Peace Bringer (for those of us who are Christians) so often ends up being a time of distrust and exclusion? It makes me think of a saying attributed to Gandhi: “I like your Jesus; I do not like your Christians.”
What brought this up today?
Yesterday I heard on the news (and was given a link to a site) about a “Christian” organization that apparently doesn’t like to see members of any other religion–and in this case especially, Islam–presented in any light other than as dangers to their understanding of the American/Christian way of life. They have put pressure on the companies that have advertised on that show, and a number of those companies have pulled their ads in response.
I am deeply disappointed.
The Christ I worship is one who came to unite people, not drive us apart–even if we have different understandings of and names for the One who created all of us. When he was living here, he reached out to any who were willing to listen–those who were religious, the outcasts, the enemies of the state. Even as he was dying, he reached out in love.
As his follower, can I do any less?
That doesn’t mean that I’m going to necessarily agree with how others worship. But it does mean that I need to see to understand–not push away. It means that I need to listen–and in listening, face the possibility that my perceptions may be stretched. It means I need to give others the grace I want for myself.
Those who came to worship the babe whose birth we celebrate weren’t ones who were typically included in worship. They were shepherds–considered outlaws and thieves…individuals whose testimony was automatically discounted in a court of law. They were magi–members of another culture whose worship style we don’t know a lot about…but it was definitely different from that of the Jews!
And those who followed the grown Jesus were not those typically accepted. They were fishermen–who were considered continually unclean. There was a Zealot–a terrorist. There was a tax collector–a traitor to his people and a thief. And this Jesus reached out–to Samaritans, bitter religious enemies…to Romans, occupiers of his country…to lepers and others who were ill, often forced to leave their families and their homes to live wherever they could find shelter.
How the Peace Bringer must weep when we use the occasion of his birth to exclude and create distrust!
May the words of an ancient carol live in our hearts and be our vision for this Christmas and the years to come:
Jesus, good above all other,
gentle child of gentle mother,
in a stable born our brother,
give us grace to persevere.
Jesus, cradled in a manger,
for us facing every danger,
living as a homeless stranger,
make we thee our King most dear.
Jesus, for thy people dying,
Risen Master, death defying,
Lord, in heaven thy grace supplying,
keep us to thy presence near.
Lord, in all our doings guide us;
pride and hate shall ne’er divide us;
we’ll go on with thee beside us,
and with joy we’ll persevere!