Saturday, August 5, 2017
Red letter Golden Rule...
Spending a cool, bright summer morning reading the red letter words of Jesus has been such a blessing to me today! I began reading chapter 7 of the Red Letter Revolution book, and one of the first things I read was the question, can any two of us have the same image of God and know who it is that we believe? Where do we get our own idea of who God is? The author, Tony Campolo, suggests that we look to Jesus, as He was the fullness of God. So, I went to Matthew, chapters 5-7, which is His sermon on the mount. Jesus had a LOT to say, and since He is the fullness of God, we can learn a lot about the the heart of God by listening to those red words.
I went even a little bit further, and I turned on the audio of my Bible app on my phone, so I could feel as though I was listening to Jesus speaking. Now, I realize that Jesus didn't speak in English, and this may be part of my overactive imagination, but in my mind I was sitting on that hillside with my legs drawn under me, hanging on each word my Savior was speaking.
Jesus spoke a lot about how we are to treat others, and He also gives us consequences for our actions, both positive and negative. I believe He was doing this, lovingly teaching us, so that we can have a better life here on earth, as well as in heaven. A parent lovingly teaches a child the ways to act so that they can prepare the child for life when they grow up and leave the protection of the home. Our Heavenly Father wants to prepare us as well. Jesus gave us stories and ways to understand what He was saying, so that we could relate to what He was saying.
"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12) This golden rule prepares us for every relationship we can possible have.
Chapter 7 of the Red Letter Revolution is a dialog about Islam. I was anxious to read this chapter, as I know several people who have strong feelings about how we are to treat and deal with Muslims. Because of the war and the other consequences of the terrorism attack of 9/11, there is much fear and hatred for Muslims, even in our Christian communities. I also have some friends from college who are Muslim, and I have always known them to be kind, gentle and peaceful, nothing like the picture of the terrorists I see in the media. The words of both authors in this chapter touched me deeply. Shane Claiborne tells of experiences he had while in Iraq, experiences that showed him that the core beliefs of Islam and the core beliefs of Christianity are really not that far apart. There were Muslims who risked their lives to protect this Christian person visiting this strange country. This showed me that perhaps the red letters of the golden rule are not just for Christians to follow. Perhaps the heart of Jesus and His teachings lives in the hearts of people who many not even know him.
We fear what we don't understand. We rely on our own understanding of our beliefs. We seem to need to know who's in and who's out, in regard to heaven and our salvation. In our Christian belief, we know that Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him." (John 14:6) This verse has given me such peace and comfort, for because of it I know who I am, to whom I belong and where I am going. For many, though, this verse provides the weapon to keep others out of heaven. If you don't know Jesus, you won't go to heaven. Period. Who's to say, though, that God, who is more powerful than we can ever imagine, is not powerful enough to show Jesus to those who don't know Him, even without a human being there to lead them to Him? Could Jesus be working in the hearts of Muslims, even as they read the words of the Koran? Perhaps there are people who are becoming Christians without yet calling themselves Christians. I don't understand how this could be possible, but it doesn't mean it couldn't happen.
On the chance that it COULD happen, and Jesus teaches me to treat and love others the way I would want to be loved and treated...perhaps I should respect and show love to others who believe differently than I.
Tony Campolo ends Chapter 7 with these words, which sound like a wonderful prayer to me: "We can pray that the Spirit continues to draw us all - Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Atheist, and Christians - closer to God and all things that matter to Him."