A Christian Response to San Bernardino

A friend of mine runs a program on the West Coast which is helping Christians, Jews, and Muslims to know, respect, and enjoy one another.His work can be seen as an extension of Bonhoeffer’s call to understand Jesus Christ as the Lord not just of Christians but of all people. When we stop judging people by their labels, we become more inclusive in our attitudes and values.

My friend has just sent out a post in response to the vicious attacks in San Bernadino. He seeks to articulate a biblical foundation for our way treating those who seem drastically different from us. Let me condense his observations.

My friend has spoken well. Christians are followers of Jesus Christ and are called to emulate his example and fulfill his command, which is centered in love, grace, forgiveness, faith. So when we hear of those today who call for retaliation against Islam, we say No. And when they call for fearful withdrawal from all Muslims, we say No. We are followers of Jesus Christ, not of petty politicians, not of ranting racists, not frightened fellows who say security matters more than love.

  1. Jesus had told his disciples that there would come a time when people would kill them and think that by doing so they were “offering a service to God.” His words were soon fulfilled: Paul was a violent radical, trying to stand for what was right and protecting his own religion. He persecuted Christians and turned them over to authorities to be killed. The first word we have of him is that he happily watched the Christian Stephen being stoned to death.  We wonder what Paul thought of Stephen, who did not cry out for judgment against his killers but for forgiveness for them. There came a time when Paul was confronted by the crucified and resurrected Jesus, who did not condemn him but instead called him to become a follower.
  2. Jesus stopped his disciples from protecting him with their swords and refused to ask his Father to send legions of angels to guard him. Instead, he was loving and patient with his enemies and, even as they were killing him, prayed that they would be forgiven. And he expected the same of his followers: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27–28).
  3. Not only is revenge ruled out for followers of Jesus, so is fear. “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt. 10:28)  “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. … he who fears is not perfected in love” (1 John 4:18).

My friend has spoken well. Christians are followers of Jesus Christ and are called to emulate his example and fulfill his command, which is centered in love, grace, forgiveness, faith.

So when we hear of those today who call for retaliation against Islam, we say No. And when they call for fearful withdrawal from all Muslims, we say No. We are followers of Jesus Christ, not of petty politicians, not of ranting racists, not frightened fellows who say security matters more than love.

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About mthayes42

I am a retired pastor, interested in the Bible, cross-cultural ministries, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the current and past history of western civilization.
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