NEXTChurch Takeaway: Interfaith Relationships

“Interfaith work is not an extracurricular activity.”  Tim Hart-Andersen addressing the NEXTChurch 2017 national gathering

I think I joined the Daughters of Abraham book group in DC because I wanted to broaden my knowledge on Judaism and Islam. It would make me smarter and better informed.  I would get to read novels by authors I never would have read before.

I didn’t realize I would also make friends.  They were real friends who were not offended when I asked simple questions about their practices.  Why did Barika wear hijab but Aminah didn’t? Why did Karen keep a kosher kitchen but Rachel didn’t?  

Yes, I got smarter.  I became better informed.  I even became a better follower of Jesus.  But I also made real friends.

When Tim Hart-Andersen spoke on the opening day at NEXT, he shared video clips from worship in the church he serves in Minneapolis which included dialogue sermons with a rabbi and an imam who happen to be his friends.  They have traveled to the Holy Land together.  They talk about things that matter.

I’m not one to say that all religions are the same.  There are clear differences in our theology and practices – even within a single faith.  But it is essential in the 21st Century Church that we who claim to follow Jesus work with people of other faiths and not just because it will make us smarter and better informed.

It’s a matter of life and death.  It’s a matter of faith.

There are 917 identified hate groups in the U.S. at this moment. Hate crimes are up 20% in 2016, especially against Jews and Muslims. In Chicago, police report “22 hate crimes in the three months following November’s election, including 13 during the first five weeks of 2017 — more than triple the number recorded in the first five weeks of last year.”

Remember when the Irish were discriminated against in 19th Century America? Today some of us are proudly wearing green and eating soda bread.  God-willing/Inshallah/B’ezrat HaShem we will celebrate our Muslim and Jewish neighbors with equal enthusiasm in the future (although a Muslim man was kicked off a Southwest flight last fall for saying inshallah into a phone.)

Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

It’s harder to hate people when we can enjoy a cup of coffee together or when we understand that they love God by praying prostrate or keeping kosher or wearing hijab.

Ignorance hurts innocent people. Sometimes ignorance kills people.  We need to follow Jesus’ lead.  Reread the story of the Samaritan woman at the well.

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