Archives for posts with tag: christianity

I aspire to love others the way Jesus did – fearlessly, tenderly, and at great personal cost.  But I rarely do.  Probably never.

Just occasionally, I have a thought so out of the ordinary that I sense a touch of heaven in it.  A different logic, beautifully right.  Even more occasionally, I might act on one of these thoughts.

Like, what if I buy this drunken, tobacco-stained homeless person a KFC, instead of walking past?

That’s a small one really.

So, what if I help him get his coat back on?

Slightly better.  Now here’s the thing: what if I don’t force a conversation about how God loves him, don’t patronise him in any way, but just sit with him in the gutter?  Give him some attention and respect, because he deserves it as much as anyone else.

He deserves it more: ‘The price must be paid by those who are blessed and fortunate, for those who are lost and in despair.’ (Dr. James Chinkyung Kim.) This is living the gospel, rather than talking about it.

Religious hypocrites want the poor and needy to be sanitised objects of our selfish piety.  In reality they are difficult or dirty – because that’s what despair and poverty does to you.  And we are all as vulnerable as they are, though we easily forget.  Jesus loves us all just as we are.  (Except, perhaps, the hypocrites.)

Related but slightly different to the above thoughts, the thing I really want to say is below.  Bear with me if it seems like a change of theme.

After feeling powerless against the prejudice, violence and death being inflicted on Christians in so many corners of the earth, I decided to train for a sponsored run this September, to support them.  I need to set up a sponsorship page soon.

‘We’ are now the most persecuted people group on earth.  Apparently, eighty percent of all acts of religious discrimination across the globe are against Christians.  And apart from the North Korean regime and other country-specific issues, there appears to be a strongly Islamic nature to the problem.   For some groups, like ISIS, the hatred of Christians (and others) is theological.  I wrestle with all this, trying to see the common humanity in all people without giving in to hatred or fear.   (In one of my darker periods I wrote this poem).

One day, on a Muslim friend’s Facebook page, I saw an article about Buddhist extremists oppressing, killing, and burning Muslims.  And immediately I felt the injustice and pain that I knew he felt.  I thought of the injustices held close to heart by many Muslims about so many things – Gaza, Bosnia, drone attacks.

And another thing gave me pause for thought.  I recently rang up a different Muslim friend (a gentle man of peace who I respect), to suggest getting together for a coffee to get to know each others’ beliefs better.  To build bridges where so many are retreating from each other.  Somehow I got talking about the violence in the world and I think I drove him away.   I became too intense (oops, I sometimes do that!).  He didn’t want to meet.  He couldn’t be sure of my motives.  He said he doesn’t listen to the news anymore, but focuses on thinking about good things and creating a good home for his precious children.

How many of us, as we look around, are wondering will there be a place of safety for me anywhere in this world?  Perhaps this is the issue for some who distort their humanity into acts of terror – a longing for a place of safety, to get rid of those who threaten them; to create a state where everyone is like them.

Shamefully, I feel a resistance to empathising with oppressed people groups or religious groups who are wholly foreign to me, or especially who threaten me.  A part of me wants the clarity of ‘us’ and ‘them’.  A part of me needs my ‘own’ injustices to be the most important.  I want to forget our common humanity in case I seem (or actually become) naive, in case I start to justify the evil acts of a minority of people who come out of those groups.

The web of injustices is too tangled to really give anyone the moral high ground (though some clearly occupy the low ground).  Over and again the oppressed become the oppressor, and all are victims.

Am I wishing for the oppressed to be devoid of vengeance or hatred before they are worthy of my compassion?  Am I wishing for them to come only from people I can identify with, before I am willing to help them?  Am I wishing for them to be sanitised, before they are worthy of my selfish acts of piety?

Would it honour Jesus Christ more to dedicate my sponsored run only to the people who bear his name, or to share my sponsorship with those who are oppressed under a different name?  Even to support those who it’s tempting to call our enemies?  This was the thought I had today that might just have the touch of heaven in it.

In one of Jesus key phrases, where he reveals what he’s really all about, he says:

‘Love your enemies and bless the one who curses you, and do what is beautiful to the one who hates you, and pray over those who take you by force and persecute you.’ Matthew 5:44

A friend of my wife’s, a lovely lady, told us how she went door to door fundraising, in her hijab, for Gaza, when kids were being killed in the latest Israeli incursion.  Instead of just feeling powerless she picked up a bucket and did what she could, she’s that kind of person.  But she faced consistent disinterest from the older white members of the community.

Perhaps they were afraid of the unknown.  Surely they cared about dying kids and suffering people, but maybe they feared giving money to someone they didn’t know, someone they were ever so slightly fearful of.  What if they were accidentally supporting a cause they might not fully agree with; the promotion of an ideology they weren’t comfortable with?

I have imagined myself going door to door in this community to raise money for the persecuted church.  I have imagined myself being rebuffed by some Muslims, but striving to ‘open their eyes’ to the huge injustices against Christians in their country of origin.  I have imagined myself compelling them towards compassion.

But have my own eyes been fully opened to the injustices they too feel so keenly?  Am I seeking only to be understood rather than to understand?

Am I willing to stop the ‘us and them’ mentality, and to raise money for the oppressed on ‘both sides’ because really it should never have been about taking sides in the first place?  What else will stop the madness?

To love our enemies is risky.  it is a different logic, and beautifully right.

Please give me feedback.  Please share examples of the different logic.  And while I already have a charity in mind to support the persecuted church, please suggest charities who might be a trustworthy channel of funds to persecuted people of other faiths.

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G.K. Chesterton — ‘The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.’

I thought I was a good neighbour-lover until things got difficult next door.  But real love only shines the way it was meant to when it’s hard to give.  I mean otherwise it’s just self serving, loving those who are loveable, keeping the status quo.  It’s like obedience to authority – it’s only obedience when you don’t really want to do it.  Otherwise it’s just a happy coincidence when you’re asked to do something you wanted to do anyway.  And if I’ve decided to be obedient to Christ then what does he ask of me, above all?  “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

So, faced with unreasonableness, unwillingness to compromise, and stone-walling, now is the time that I discover what is really in my heart.  And it’s not good.  I’m only human, and I have every right to do what I want with my trees, to feel aggrieved, to lash out, etc, etc.  But love, the sort of love that can rock the world the way Jesus did, means laying down my rights.  Because, relationship is more important than some trees and a boundary fence.  Like all true wisdom found in religion, it’s about seeing reality as it really is, seeing what’s actually important.

So I’m not pushing it, not chasing anyone, leaving it be, with an open door and occasional offers of help, avoiding mentioning the sticking points.  But when the resentment comes up, and when I look with regret at the ungracious things I have already done, I remind myself of 2 things that put it in perspective:

5 Broken Cameras.  Watch the whole film.  We found it on Netflix.  What a powerful testimony to gracious and non violent resistance in the face of deep injustice.

Dr. James Chinkyung Kim.  Faced with death on the battlefield in the Korean war he pledged to God “If you spare my life this time, I will spend the rest of my life spreading your Love to those who are shooting at me right now.  Instead of aiming the guns at them, I will aim the bullets of your words and Love”.  Decades later he has done the impossible and founded a University in Pyongyang with Christian love at it’s heart, and the cooperation of the regime.  With an interlude of torture in a North Korean prison.  Unbelievable but true.

He says “political and economic efforts alone cannot bring about peace; such efforts, in fact, are the very causes of unethical competition, division, and war.  Understanding, respect, sacrifice, reconciliation, apology and gratitude are the educational values to be pursued for world peace.”

He also says “Peace comes with a price.  Without paying the price there is no peace.  And that price must be paid by those who are blessed and fortunate for those who are lost and in despair”.

Why am I even mentioning my own petty boundary issues in the same place as these giants of men facing death and national injustices with far greater grace?  Because they give me something to aspire to, and where else can I start than in my on back garden, with my own neighbours?