Signs recently posted at a Spring Branch, Texas shopping center stated: “NO MUSLIM Parking in Westview Shopping Center. Your Car Will Be Towed.” There’s more to the story, however. Mall employees told reporters that there had been a problem on Fridays, the Muslim day of worship, as those attending the nearby mosque filled their parking lot.
Unfortunately, it seems that no one from the mall spoke with the mosque to reach a solution. The last church I pastored faced a similar parking problem with nearby retail tenants; if they had posted “NO CHRISTIAN Parking” signs, our members would not have been pleased.
How we talk to others can be more impactful than what we say. The same text that exhorts us to “make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” adds, “yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). We are to speak the truth, but we are to do so in love (Ephesians 4:15).
When you heard about the Muslims who attacked a Christian church in Pakistan recently, did you think better or worse of Islam? In response, 200 to 300 Muslims formed a human chain outside a Pakistani Christian church last Sunday to protect those who worshiped inside. How does their courage make you feel about their faith?
This headline on CNN’s Belief Blog caught my eye: “Holy Trollers: How to argue about religion online.” The writer describes five types of people who comment on his articles. The “Street Corner Prophet” condemns to divine judgment those who disagree. One called someone a “disgusting, deviant perverted virus” before predicting, “Hell is coming for you.” The “Provoker” is less theological; one told another commenter, “Thanks for once again confirming how vulgar, uneducated and delusional you are.”
The “Atheist” ridicules people of faith, such as: “Free people do not need a savior, Kate. Only slaves need saviors.” The “Scholar” cites Scripture and other resources but in a condescending, know-it-all fashion. Fortunately, the “Peacemaker” is a voice for reason and conciliation when dealing with those who disagree. We have seen the same on our website. It’s important to express our opinions, but just as important to do so in a way that persuades rather than repels others.
Jesus taught his followers, “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12). How different would our world be if everyone followed this one command of Christ? I must ask myself: am I obeying this command “in everything”? Are you?
As we begin the work week, I’m renewing my commitment to treat every person, in every circumstance, with the respect I would wish in return. Will you join me?