The summer is coming to an end, my holidays are over, and so is my blogging break. I’m back, whether you like it or not, after a four week rest – and am glad to say that I have loads of things to write about – plenty to keep me going into the autumn as the nights draw in to shorter days.
One thing I couldn’t avoid during my time away was the fun and games over in Gainesville, Florida where Pastor Terry Jones and his 50-member congregation church threatening to spark global conflict between Islam and the West by his ‘Burn a Quran Day’ event, which, thankfully, didn’t take place as planned last Saturday. Instead, so it seems, Pastor Jones found a more peaceful and conciliatory way to respectfully commemorate the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre nine years ago.
But the whole ‘Quran burning’ debacle has raised some serious questions that need to be answered, one of which is why the World leaders who have been so quick to speak out in condemnation of the actions of Pastor Jones don’t condemn with equal force the continuous and unabated persecution of, and injustice shown towards, Christian believers across the Islamic world, frequently as a result of much less provocation than the burning of a copy of the Quran?
Don’t get me wrong on this – I, along with the large majority of Christian believers, do not, and would never, support the malicious burning of the Quran by Pastor Jones or anyone else. How such a blatantly controversial act can be squared up with the Christian message of love, grace, mercy, forgiveness and dignity is beyond me – and only seems to be fuelled by hatred and fear, which, as I understand it at least, are alien characteristics to a true understanding of the Kingdom of God.
Islamaphobia is alive and well, and to a large degree I understand why this is the case – but the fact that it is being preached and practiced by people who claim faith in God’s eternal saving grace in Jesus truly saddens me.
Why? Because in Jesus we have nothing to fear from anything this world can throw at us.
As Dallas Willard explains in his book The Divine Conspiracy:
….this is a God-bathed and God-permeated world. It is a world filled with a glorious reality, where every component is within the range of God’s direct knowledge and control – though he obviously permits some of it, for good reasons, to be for a while otherwise than as he wishes. It is a world that is inconceivably beautiful and good because of God and because God is always in it. It is a world in which God is continually at play and over which he constantly rejoices. Until our thoughts of God have found every visible thing and event glorious with his presence, the word of Jesus has not yet fully seized us.”
We have no reason to react to anything with hatred and fear, because, as Willard continues later in the book:
“With this magnificent God positioned among us, Jesus brings the assurance that our universe is a perfectly safe place for us to be”
A perfectly safe place for us to be.
Think about that for a while.
Whether our situation is good or bad, hard or easy, the world is still a perfectly safe place to be because it is God-bathed and God-permeated. We might not understand the purposes of God, but that doesn’t mean he is not in control!
So, as good Christians, does ‘turning the other cheek’ mean we have to ‘humbly’ stand aside and allow evil and injustice to reign unopposed? No, not at all! The exact opposite in fact. We stand against evil and injustice because our experience of the love and justice of God constrains us to do so, but with grace and mercy rather than hate and fear.
Am I a pacifist – no. Do I believe there is such a thing as a just war – yes.
The responsibilities of government before God are many – but as I understand it from the Bible, my individual response to the love and forgiveness I have received in Jesus is to love the Lord my God with all my heart, with all my soul and with all my strength and with all my mind, and to love my neighbour as myself.
No mention of Quran burning anywhere…..