All the news for the last week has been about a church that says it’s going to burn the Koran in retaliation for the proposed Mosque near Ground Zero. And as the weekend draws closer, a handful of other churches are saying that they will do the same.
I hate writing about things like this. I really do. The whole purpose of R3 is to help people understand what it means to live out a life of faith. The purpose of R3 is not to tell you who to vote for or what social policies you need to implement.
Jesus was very clear about church / state issues. Render unto Caesar what is his, and render unto God what is His.
But there are times when I feel the need to talk about current events. Like this church down in Florida. We can disagree about whether a mosque should be built in NYC. We can even disagree if it’s okay to burn books (the Koran or otherwise.) But what we can’t disagree about is how Jesus called us to live – and that’s sacrificially.
He’s called us to live a life of sacrifice in service and in love of our neighbors. And I can’t see any way that burning the Koran lives out those principles.
Jesus was always patient, loving, kind, generous, and merciful to people who were the furthest away from God. In fact, the further away from God you were, the more Jesus had patience for you. It was the religious elites – the self proclaimed keepers of religious law – that Jesus came down on.
If we take that model and apply it to the mosque / Koran burning group, who are those furthest from God? And who are those that are proclaiming to be the keepers of religious law?
If this church was serious about making a difference, it would set up mission trips to the Ground Zero mosque. It would bring people in by the truckloads to build relationships with the Muslim men and women going into that mosque. They wouldn’t inflame the religious beliefs of another group.
Paul, who was one of the most gifted missionaries of the Early (or otherwise) Christian church, never attacked the Greeks for their beliefs. Instead he used their own culture, their own logic, their own religion as a way to highlight the differences between his God, and their gods. He told stories not about distant, angry gods, but about a merciful, loving, fatherly God.
Stephen, one of the first Christian martyrs, prayed for the forgiveness of the very people who were throwing large rocks at him. As those stones slowly beat him to death.
Do any of those examples look like burning a Koran?
Because they don’t to me.
When I see Jesus, I see a God who sacrificed everything to reach out to those who despised him most. If you aren’t doing that, then you don’t know God nearly as well as you think you do. And if you think burning a book is a good way to show God’s love, then maybe you don’t know God’s love nearly as well as you think you do.
As Americans we may have the right to act like idiots and offend people in unnecessary ways. But as Citizens of the Kingdom of God, we don’t have that luxury. We’re called to love people, at a cost to ourselves. That’s what shows God’s character to the world. That’s what separates us from other religions. That’s what shows His glory.
This guy in Florida, and others like him, couldn’t be further from God’s truth, and for that reason, I pray for them.