When I first heard about Pastor Terry Jones, like most people, I was incredulous about the new National Nut case. I guess I get why he did it. There is not a quicker way to get people to both hate and pay attention to you as to threaten to burn something religious. And this guy has got some obviously pretty strong opinions about the Mosque on Ground Zero. And he was going to do something about it.
(Somewhere in this story is a commentary about what happens when our major news networks create such conflict and then over-cover the war they began.)
But one of the more interesting things that came out of this whole tragedy is that we got a glimpse into what kind of world we are living in now. Terry Jones’ is an obscure preacher for a 30 person church in Gainesville Florida. If he would have called a Press Conference 3 weeks ago, the news wouldn’t have given him the time of day.
But Jones’ tweeted his plans to burn the Qu’ran a couple of weeks ago, and almost overnight his life was changed. Think about this, this guy sits down and presses not more than a 140 characters and the next thing he knows he’s on every T.V. station. Actually, his story is being covered all over the world. We are living in a time where what we say and do can make a global difference overnight. Which I think has got to inform the way we think about how we talk about the Gospel…or live it out
Dallas Willard once said that, “In a pluralistic society, a religion’s value is measured by how it affects those who do not adhere to it.”
You might want to read that sentence again.
Basically, Willard is saying, that in a world where a lot of people believe different things, the question people are asking isn’t do I want to believe like you believe, but do I want to be like you? Is your faith in Jesus making you a more just, more kind and generous person? Is it a good thing for the people around you that you are a Jesus follower? Or does it just mean that they have to live next door to the crazy guy with all the TV cameras in his front yard?
But across the world, another example of pluralism is giving people a breath of fresh air. Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi is a Tennis player in Pakistan, and he has a doubles partner…from India.
His partner’s name is Rohan Bopanna, and they should be enemies. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this area of the world. Pakistan and India have been at odds for decades, Pakistan fought for liberation on the basis of religious differences, but since the official seperation of the two countries there has been no love lost between them.
But that’s not true for Qureshi and Bopanna. They’ve learned to play together, and have even developed a very close friendship. Recently, they reached the Wimbledon qurarter-finals and they actually said what most people say when coming face to face with their enemies…”We have so much in common.”
One of the coolest things about this story for me, is that Pakistani and Indian fans are asking both players for their autograph. They wear shirts to every match that just read. “Stop War. Start Tennis.”
Their team stopped being about tennis a while ago.
When 9-11 happened, I heard a lot of people publically say that the Muslim leaders needed to come out and speak against the actions of the few Muslim extremists. I think that’s probably pretty wise. The world needed to know that the actions a few don’t stand for the actions of the many.
I think that’s needed here too.
Because Pastor Terry Jones doesn’t speak for me, or for any of the Jesus’ followers that I know. The way to defeat hate isn’t to match it, but to hold fast to the unique call that Jesus’ makes to learn how to love those who consider themselves our enemies. And the way to build up Jesus isn’t by trying to deconstruct Mohammed, but by telling His story with our lives.
This is not a call to just co-exist with people different than us. It is a call to die and to live for the people not like us. Because that is after all what Jesus did for us. And it won’t get the public eye as quick as hate, but it can make a difference.
I think we can take a lesson from some people who are showing us what that looks like.
So love your enemies.
Stop War. Start Tennis.