“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness, no one will see the Lord.” — Hebrews 12:14, NIV.
RESPECT is the key word when we look at the intricate balance of cultural and religious diversity in this globalized world. And as Christians, I think this is also how we should go about our daily lives as well. We live at peace with the world with love and respect towards one another without conforming to the patterns of the world (Romans 12:2). It is through our good deeds that will lead others to God.
Through my previous posts, we have discussed at length about how God permitted a vast number of religions to come into existence on the planet. We recognize that God’s sovereignty is at play in these religions and their existence are for the good of those who truly love and desire God. I have also written about how we should treat people of different faiths with utmost love and respect. And on the grounds of evangelism, we have discussed that it should be done based on reasoning and logic, guiding others gently with love to the Truth that they seek within their respective faiths.
I think we can all agree that God-fearing people will be able to recognize the Truth of the Resurrection through the revelation of the Holy Spirit. After all, Jesus’ sheep hear and recognizes His voice (John 10:27). It is this revelation that will help them recognize the Shepherd and ignite their inner passion for the Lord. This revelation will open their eyes to their past ignorance and towards genuine repentance. I think that’s what most Christians who are “not of this sheep pen” (John 10:16, NIV) are seeking. They know the loving voice of God. But they do not know the sudden awkward conversations that begin with, “believe in Christ or you’ll go to hell.”
“The focus of Christian evangelism is about treating others with utmost respect and sensitivity that they see the love of God within our good deeds and our love towards one another.”
I think we need to get the focus right here. The focus of Christian evangelism is not about converting an entire community or to drag people to church even if they do not want to. Rather, it is about treating others with the utmost respect and cultural sensitivity that they will be able to see the love of God within our good deeds and our love towards one another (John 13:35).
With this, we can identify a trend in the Christian doctrine. It is really about peace, harmony, respect, and love.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” — James 1:27, NIV.
This is where religious tolerance comes in. Nowhere is it written in the Scriptures that we are to wage war against a differing culture or religion. On the contrary, we are to care for them and to provide for their every need. This includes getting to know them, welcoming them, eating with them, and opening our houses to them. We do not force them into the faith, but we are supposed to care lovingly for them with the knowledge that the Holy Spirit will reveal the Truth to them. If they were to ask, we lovingly teach. We do not force. We only place our hope in the Lord knowing that He will fulfill what He has set out to do.
Now, this is the ideal situation. But as fallen as the world is, we know that the peace and harmony required for such religious tolerance does not come easy.
This is when we need to fight — when peace is compromised.
“Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” — Jeremiah 29:7, NIV.
As Christians, we recognize that we are sojourners on this world that the Lord has placed us in (1 Chronicles 29:15). In it, we are called to seek the peace and prosperity of the world; praying unceasingly that it will prosper for us to prosper. And we know that with peace, we will be able to live a harmonious life and live out a religion that is pure before the eyes of the Lord.
Without such peace, our freedom to love and to worship will be affected. We all know that religious exclusivism will force entire communities into faith without personal conviction and knowledge. Such a spontaneous act of conversion deprives an individual of the opportunity to get to know the stakes required of him before making the decision to join the faith. Likewise, the lack of knowledge will cause widespread apathy to the articles of faith among people who claim to be believers. How then, will the sheep who are “not in this pen” get to know the voice of Love that they were so passionate to hear about? Religious exclusivism gives religious communities a great following but it disregards the relational aspect of faith that it should portray.
On the other extreme end, religious persecution blacklists and bans religion to the extent where people will not be able to fully share or express their faith. In some instances, people are detained for something as simple as sharing holiday greetings on social media . Such oppression may cause a religious blackout in some communities and in some cases, it may even cause unnecessary social upheavals that may lead to extremism. I believe that this is not what Christians want. Unfortunately, we see history repeating itself in different places of the world.
“Christians ought to be warriors for peace. Feeding our enemies when they are hungry and offering drinks when they are thirsty.”
I think we can all agree that Christians ought to be warriors for peace. We are called to fight for love; feeding our enemies when they are hungry and offering drinks when they are thirsty. (Romans 12:20). And as a Church, we are all called to uphold religious tolerance and to seek for peace.
Remember, only when we have peace will we be able to open the doors to allow others to choose, rationally, a faith that is appropriate for them. It is only with peace that we can have the comfort and the freedom to discern whatever that is True. It is only with peace that we can have the freedom to exercise, without obstruction, whatever that we are passionate about.
This is the peace that we will get when we give the local authorities and rulers their deserved respect.
This is the peace that we will get when we treat people from different cultural and religious groups with the utmost respect.
This is the peace that will allow us to exercise, without any form of obstruction, a religion that is pure in the sight of the Lord.
This is the peace that the Lord has called us to seek.