I was sadden by a case where a Christian pastor was called up by local authority after receiving complaints about online video clips claiming insensitive comments made by him about a certain major religion; a front page news no less. The videos were recorded during services in his church, interviewing present Christians who were ex-followers of that religion on its doctrines and practises; interjecting comments, teachings and viewpoints from that pastor. It was, in my humble opinion – extremely unwise, to broadcast the videos online on their church website. Consequently, followers of that religion were ignited in anger, and a tsunami both online and offline soon followed. Complaints were lodged, and last night, the said pastor posted an apology on the church’s website, promising to respect other faiths and ‘not ridicule them in any way, shape or fashion’.

I have watched the videos before the backlash had happened, and although I understood where the pastor was coming from, I recoiled at the potential aftermath which eventually birthed. While I will not link the videos as not to further propagate the commotion but I want to explore where the Christians’ stand should be; between the truth and religious harmony, sensitivity or even tolerance.

Truth and Religious Harmony, For 2009 in the Year of the OX and To All My Friends on Flickr: Peace and Harmony

My believe is that unless it is a mandate impressed by the Lord or the Holy Spirit, nothing very much will stand against the opposing tide.     Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.  Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. Psalms 127:1     In this unfortunate incident, instead of people being saved or believers being empowered, the opposite happened; people got grossly repelled and believers have to fire fight negative sentiments that are demolishing relationships and trust within the community.

The truth is our Christian faith is not all inclusive, that is, eternal life only by knowing the Father through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, nothing more-nothing less and unapologetically so.     And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.   John 17:3     While we must not be muted of this exclusiveness of our faith in the name of religious harmony, on the other hand, we need to address the nature of the exclusiveness of the Christian faith that may lead to a lack of tolerance and respect towards those of other faiths.

Trying to make sense of all these, God showed me something in His Word. In Luke 10, Jesus sent out the seventy-two disciples for the harvest; obviously to the people of different beliefs and practises. Jesus told them to proclaim peace to them (v5-6). To heal, stay and eat with them, and to proclaiming the gospel to them. If the disciples are unwelcomed, leave graceful with the proclamation that the Kingdom of God is near; “wipe the dust off your feet” and not inciting anything else (v10-12), leaving the judgement to God.

Further down the same passage, we see Jesus speaking on the the Parable of the Good Samaritian to a Jewish audience, in response to “And who is my neighbour?”. To quickly understand, a Jew was robbed and was laid there to die. Fellow Jews, a priest and a Temple Levite, both highly regarded, came and walked pass without helping. Then a despised Samaritan came along, felt compassion for the Jew and acted. Worth noting that Samaritans were despised tremendously by Jews because of their difference in race, in religious worship and beliefs; but mostly because of  long-standing bigotry, prejudices and intolerance between the two. Nevertheless, the good Samaritian was the one who was able to rise above the bigotry and prejudices of centuries and showed mercy and compassion for the injured Jew after the Jew’s own countrymen pass him by. It was with those centuries of opposition and hostility between the two groups as the backdrop that make this parable divine. And to answer the first question of who is the neighbour, the obvious answser would be the good Samaritian who showed mercy. In closing, Jesus gave instruction to go and do the same, refering to the good Samaritian even if the ones helping maybe of different race, belief  or opinion.

Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

Living with Religious Harmony, Time to see

Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God.   Romans 12:14-19

I guess that is a big framework for us to live and conduct ourselves.   We are living in a small world and modern technology made it even smaller, more than ever we need greater discernment and wisdom to live among us.

Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!     1 Peter 3:13-17

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