These last couple of days have seen some terrible events in Libya, as well as ongoing tensions directed against the US around the Muslim world. As I reflected on this turn of events this morning, I was reminded of Jesus’ statement that the greatest commandment is fulfilled in loving God with all of who we are and loving our neighbor as ourselves. It is difficult to love our neighbor when terrible things happen, yet the call of Christ is the same.
There is a profound word for our day about this within The Cape Town Commitment of the Lausanne Movement. At the beginning of section IIC in the “Call to Action” for the world, we read the words included below. In light of these past few days, and the anger directed at our country, what does it look like to live these things out?
1. ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ includes persons of other faiths
In view of the affirmations made in The Cape Town Confession of Faith section 7 (d), we respond to our high calling as disciples of Jesus Christ to see people of other faiths as our neighbours in the biblical sense. They are human beings created in God’s image, whom God loves and for whose sins Christ died. We strive not only to see them as neighbours, but to obey Christ’s teaching by being neighbours to them. We are called to be gentle, but not naïve; to be discerning and not gullible; to be alert to whatever threats we may face, but not ruled by fear.
We are called to share good news in evangelism, but not to engage in unworthy proselytizing.Evangelism, which includes persuasive rational argument following the example of the Apostle Paul, is ‘to make an honest and open statement of the gospel which leaves the hearers entirely free to make up their own minds about it. We wish to be sensitive to those of other faiths, and we reject any approach that seeks to force conversion on them.’ Proselytizing, by contrast, is the attempt to compel others to become ‘one of us’, to ‘accept our religion’, or indeed to ‘join our denomination’.
A) We commit ourselves to be scrupulously ethical in all our evangelism. Our witness is to be marked by ‘gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.’ We therefore reject any form of witness that is coercive, unethical, deceptive, or disrespectful.
B) In the name of the God of love, we repent of our failure to seek friendships with people of Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and other religious backgrounds. In the spirit of Jesus, we will take initiatives to show love, goodwill and hospitality to them.
C) In the name of the God of truth, we (i) refuse to promote lies and caricatures about other faiths, and (ii) denounce and resist the racist prejudice, hatred and fear incited in popular media and political rhetoric.
D) In the name of the God of peace, we reject the path of violence and revenge in all our dealings with people of other faiths, even when violently attacked.
E) We affirm the proper place for dialogue with people of other faiths, just as Paul engaged in debate with Jews and Gentiles in the synagogue and public arenas. As a legitimate part of our Christian mission, such dialogue combines confidence in the uniqueness of Christ and in the truth of the gospel with respectful listening to others.