Friday, July 02, 2004

Who is My Neighbor?

Candace Chellew-Hodge has written a piece that more or less smacked me alongside the head today; Osama is My Neighbor. Here's a few excerpts;

...We've so domesticated Jesus and his message that we truly don't understand how subversive it was then and still is today. We've made Jesus our buddy, our sort of cheerleader. We ask "What Would Jesus Do?" knowing full well that we'll beg off from acting that way because of course, we're not Jesus. We sing about what a friend we have in Jesus forgetting that our truest friends are the ones who challenge us to be better than we are, not to simply wink and nod at every idea we come up with or condone every action we deem appropriate. But, this is what we have done to Jesus. We've neutered him. Instead of a subversive, dangerous Messiah, he's a puppy dog - loyal and friendly, always ready to be with us when we want him around, but very easy to tie out in the back yard when we don't want to be bothered...
Are you beginning to squirm a bit? I sure am. But there's more;

...Let us not confuse loving our neighbor with liking our neighbor. We are not commanded to like anyone. We do not have to like men like Osama, but we must love them. We must seek to understand them - to discover what makes their hatred so deep and abiding. We must understand that what we have in common with Osama is the very real human condition of suffering. Osama's suffering is just like ours. Out of his suffering he has come to believe that killing others is the solution - that through acts of terror his suffering will somehow be alleviated. He is misguided - he believes that violence leads to peace - just as our government believes the same thing. But as Martin Luther King Jr. understood, "Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. [. . .] The chain reaction of evil - hate begetting hate - must be broken."

As King told his followers, those who perpetuate hate are not evil people, but misguided people, blinded by their own fear. Many of them are good, decent, spiritual people who cannot see past their own prejudices. They simply do not understand - and it is our task to educate them - to show them the grace they refuse to show others. In the words of Jesus, we must love our enemies, do good to them, show them mercy and grace, even as they do evil to us and show us no mercy and no grace. The love we must have is not warm and fuzzy love, but agape love - that "understanding and creative, redemptive goodwill" for all people.

When we look around our world, at all the wars and murders and hungry, desperate people, we may believe that this kind of agape love is impossible and will never, ever happen, but it has! There are many examples of how people have overcome their violent tendencies and have found it within their heart to show mercy instead of demanding sacrifice - to love their neighbor as they love themselves...
Candace concludes with examples of agape in action. I've left out quite a bit. Go read the whole thing.

Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that...

Pow! Right alongside my head.

Thanks Candace. Personally, I think some time set aside for confession is in order.

Does this mean I have to return my Osama fireworks? (thanks to Gutless Pacifist for the link).


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