|Daily News Journal photo|
“He [Jesus] answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” --Luke 10:27, NIV
Once again, a minority have displayed their hatred and ignorance by vandalizing the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, my hometown. Community response was swift as people of all faiths and none stepped forward to affirm the rights of all people to worship as they wish and to contribute to the common good in our city.
At a vigil of support, Noel Schoonmaker, my pastor, said:
"As a pastor and as a Christian, I believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and savior and I look to him and obey him in everything, and he taught me to love my neighbor as myself. So I am here to love my neighbor. We also have friends who worship here at the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro and we want to support them."
Schoonmaker models the attitude that Christians should take in our conflicted society. Any other approach displays only fear and a failure to understand the Gospel. Here are some things we should remember in our relationship with those who practice other beliefs.
First, you don’t give up who you are by loving your neighbor. As Schoonmaker affirms, if you are confident in your own beliefs, you are not afraid to encounter those who are believe differently. In the process, you become more complete because you are exhibiting love rather than fear and becoming more Christlike.
Second, when we love our neighbor, we recognize what we have in common, the basis for meaningful dialogue and cooperation. Adherents of all faiths want a safe community for their families, good education for their children, and a healthy environment. We can work together to accomplish these goals.
Third, when we love our neighbor, we seek to understand rather than to be understood. Once we have built a bridge of trust, we can legitimately share who we are and what we value. Otherwise, there can be no meaningful dialogue.
As Christians, we must take the initiative to show love, grace, and understanding to those that God has brought into our lives and establish genuine and supportive relationships. Only then are we displaying true love for our neighbor.