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Archive for December, 2015

Shalom, Salaam, Peace

The Bible says that man was made in the image of God (Gen 1:26), yet all men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). Sadly the second part of that feels a lot more real these days than the first. We live in a world where throughout the Middle East, Africa, and many other places extremists claiming to be Islamic terrorize the people around them – raping, torturing, and murdering anyone who gets in their way. That violence has spilled over to the Western world in attacks in Paris and San Bernadino. Here in America, an extremist claiming to be Christian committed a terrorist attack on an abortion clinic in Colorado Springs, a racist committed a terrorist attack on a black church in Charleston, and way too often civilians and police alike have been all too quick to make themselves judge, jury and executioner over another’s life – pulling the trigger first and asking questions later – leading to way too many unjust lives lost. It is easy and quite understandable to be scared and want to retreat from this broken world. To attempt to wall ourselves off from anything that is different and feels remotely threatening. To feel in our hearts and in our souls Longfellow’s poignant words:

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong, And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Yet if we open our eyes we can still see glimpses of God still at work through the wonderfully imperfect creature He made in His image. In February 2011 during the Egyptian revolution, Christians protected Muslims during their prayer times, and Muslims protected Christians during their Masses. In September 2013 Pakistani Muslims, Hindus, and atheists formed human chains around Christian churches after those churches were attacked by suicide bombers in those countries. In London, Jewish “Shomrim” (Hebrew for guards) protect their Muslim neighbors against hate crimes. In February of 2015 Muslims in Norway formed a human chain around a synagogue to protect their Jewish neighbors and chanting “No to anti-Semitism, no to Islamophobia.” In June 2015 thousands of all races and political backgrounds came out in Charleston to respond with unity to the attack meant to create division. In November 2015 after the Paris attacks a Muslim “blindfolded himself and stood with a placard which (roughly translated) asks: ‘I’m a Muslim and I’m told I’m a terrorist. I trust you, do you trust me? If yes, hug me?’”. In December 2015 Kenyan Muslims protected their Christian neighbors when their bus was attacked by extremists, telling the attackers to either kill all of them or leave them all alone. And also in December 2015 a 15 year old African-American young man in Tennessee died when he jumped on top of three girls to shield them from a spray of bullets and save their lives.

It is events like that still give me some tangible hope and remind me of a few great truths. First, each and every one of us has the capability to do horrible things due to our fallen state and sin nature, and each and every one of us has the capability for amazing acts of kindness, grace, and sacrificial love due to being made in the image of God, regardless of our nationality, our religion, our race, our cultural background, our political leanings, or any other categorization someone wishes to come up with. Second, that “our side” is not always right and the “other side” is not always wrong. Or said another way, “our side” is not always good and the “other side” is not always bad. And third, each and every one of us needs a little hope, a lot of peace, and immeasurable grace.

So, my hope and prayer this Christmas is for shalom, for salaam, for peace. And I hope my friends that are Jewish or Muslim can join me in praying to the God of our father Abraham that He can reach into this world, soften hearts and minds, and grant us peace for all peoples so that our children and our children’s children might come to live in a better world than the one we live in.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

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