Saturday, August 12, 2006

E-mails & Commentaries That Stir Up Hate & Fear

I received a well-intentioned e-mail this afternoon regarding photos of people protesting and carrying signs defending their faith, which is different from my faith. The words on the signs were strong and offered violence as a strategy. The e-mail came with a warning that we Americans need to be aware of the dangerous people group. Let that be my vague summary of the e-mail. If you have questions about the details, contact me.

This type of information causes me concern and questions.

It could promote fear, which is not of God. It puts my focus on what man can do, and that is not the whole story. I know in Scripture I am called to love my God, my neighbor, one another, and my enemy. Information like this does not promote any of those responses.

I am also called to hate evil. I am called to discern and evaluate. I am not called to judgment. That is reserved for the Triune God. That judgment is not a synonym for hating a people group.

I also see in Scripture that a holy battle is happening and it is not in flesh and blood, so I expect hateful, violent events. However, information like this directs my focus away from other evils in the church and in the world that are just as important to God. This type of material is out of balance. In Habakkuk, the nation Israel was judged by God for their superficial worship and belief. Evil was used by God to move Judah into real faith. That is my heart’s awareness and my challenge to respond to personally. That changes my perspective.

Evil is not a political battle, and these types of articles that list taking over countries diminish the broader scope and impact of coming events. Also, implicating all Muslims is disrespectful and offensive to me, as disrespectful and offensive to me as when Christians are generalized to be a certain way and treated with disregard in the world. God intends to redeem all nations — including every Muslim who searches honestly for God and the truth. Does this information edify me, build compassion in me for the world, encourage me to pray for all peoples? This is not my battle. This is God’s.

If I worry, I sin. If I battle people, I miss redemption’s greatest irony (incongruity between what actually happens and what might be expected to happen, especially when disparity seems absurd). We have sinned and, as happened in the Garden of Eden (Mesopotamia), we are now aware of good and evil that co-exist in our world. If we did not have that awareness, we would find trusting God easier.

This information is inappropriate for me in my walk with God. It could promote hate that does not seem wise in God’s design for overcoming evil. Forgiveness is one thing Satan cannot imitate. Does this prompt the power of forgiveness?

If we criticize this religious expression, can we ask for our comrades to be able to have freedom for religious expression?

I hope you are challenged to think deeply about these sensitive issues. These are tough times. We must behave in ways that honor God and one another.