A special consciousness is reached when we love one another as we love ourselves. It leads to acceptance through understanding.
When we follow the teachings of Jesus and do not judge others in relation to ourselves, we please God. Only God can know the hearts of men and women, and God has reserved judgment for Himself.
Last night I attended one of many lectures presented by a coalition of Jews, Christians, and Muslims in my country who seek peace among believers of different faiths through understanding and acceptance.
The Muslim speaker was introduced to a predominately Christian audience. He is an influential scholar in Islamic studies and co-hosts a radio program each week in Arabic, English, and Spanish. He is an advocate for peace, serving as a Sunnah Iman (prayer leader) of the Prophet Muhammad in an area masjid (mosque). Many Muslims also attended, intermingling with the Christians and Jews in the audience. It was the first time for many there to meet and talk about their faiths with their Jewish, Christian, and Muslim neighbors. As familiarity grew, people relaxed. They began smiling and several times everyone at the presentation laughed together.
The speaker began by reading from the Qur’an about Jesus — first in Arabic and then in English. As he spoke about Jesus, I felt a distinct shift in the Christian audience as Jesus’ teachings sounded familiar to them. Jesus’ teachings bridged many fears and began to heal many misconceptions.
Emotionally-laden topics were addressed respectfully. The speaker denounced ISIS and acts of violence in the name of Islam. He indicated his belief that when ISIS members claim they are doing something in the name of Islam, they either misunderstand Islam, have been misled about Islam, or they are lying. He explained how Muslims are also suffering under ISIS, and he expressed frustration that the media generally does not publicize it when Islam leaders denounce ISIS or acts of terrorism in the name of Islam. He asserted that the majority of Islamic leaders have denounced ISIS and violent acts; he stated that suicide bombers violate Islamic law. Clearly, there were some Jews and Christians in the audience who were skeptical of his assertions, but most appeared simply surprised. As he suggested, when I got home that evening and searched the Internet, I found thousands of condemnations from Muslim leaders and followers of Islam relating to ISIS, terrorism and acts of violence — just as he had said we would.
As I was walking home from the presentation, I thought about Jesus’ life. It must have been heartbreaking for him to experience first-hand all the fear, misunderstanding, and barriers that keep people apart. Barriers that breed isolation, conflict, injustice, and war. Barriers that would not exist if we followed Jesus’ teachings and loved each other: “Let the peace of heart that comes from Christ be always present in your hearts and lives, for this is your responsibility and privilege as members of his body. And always be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15)
Unfortunately, the understanding born of a peaceful heart is often absent in our world. The Prophet Isaiah spoke on behalf of God when he said (as related by the Apostle Paul): “…You will hear and see, but not understand, for your hearts are too fat and your ears don’t listen and you have closed your eyes against understanding, for you don’t want to see and hear and understand and turn to me to heal you.” (Acts 28:16-27)
Until we turn to God to heal, and until we genuinely want to understand, complete understanding will elude us.
And understanding without Jesus to lead us and God to heal us is no understanding at all.
Photo by Katarzyna Bialasiewicz