Standing in love does not mean we agree on everything

9 Oct

Religious leaders stand together for diversity and harmony

Yesterday, I attended a press conference where Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders called for 25 October to be a National Day of Unity.

The announcement came at a time when tensions are rising within the Australian community and violence against Australian Muslims is increasing.

As a Christian, I was disappointed not to see more denominational leaders present.

I understand the challenges. Our churches have people who have converted from Islam. Our faith teaches us that Jesus is the only way to salvation and that other gods are not only false but ultimately dangerous.

I also understand the fear that many Australians, not just Christians, have that recent violence by Islamic extremist organisations elsewhere in the world will arrive on our shores.

But it is into a climate of fear and uncertainty that God calls his people to go. As we live in he world, Jesus commands us to love not only our neighbour but even our enemy. It is hard to see how standing with our Muslim friends at this time can be seen as anything other than an expression of our love for them – the very love that we’re called too.

True friendship happens over coffee

True friendship happens over coffee

I have had the privilege of becoming friends with a number of Muslims in Australia. Through them, I have heard countless stories of racial and religious abuse on the streets of our major cities against young men and women purely because they ‘look muslim’ (whatever that means). The more I hear of these situations, the more inclined I am to stand against such uncivilised behaviour.

Just as Jesus stood beside those who were relegated to the outer circles of a community, so I am called to stand with the vulnerable in love.

Standing next to my muslim friends does not mean endorsing their religion. I fully support the right of all Australians to practice their faith peacefully. And standing in a demonstration of civic unity with Muslim (and Jewish) friends no more compromises the unity I have with my Christian brothers and sisters in the Spirit than it does extend that special unity to my Muslim friends.

However by standing with them in love, I not only enact the very love that Jesus calls me to, but build stronger personal relationships with my friends. And who knows what opportunities for the gospel will spring from that.

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