Saturday, March 19, 2011

Words of Faith

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1) But what is the Word? The Holy Bible? Righteous deeds and service? The embodiment of Christ? As a young Lutheran, I always assumed the latter, but after serving on an interfaith service trip in the diverse megalopolis of New York City, I realize there is more to this passage; these words of faith are not exclusive to Christianity; indeed, I now see the Word in all faiths and all people striving to be more holy and righteous.

So what then of the Christian notion of exclusivity? Of the acrimonious assertion that Jesus is "the way, the truth, and the life" and that "no one comes to the Father" except by him? (John 14:6) For some Christians, this is it. Jesus leaves no doubt that he is the only way to salvation. And I still believe this to be wholly applicable to my life; faith in Jesus is the only way for me to be saved. But does this apply to my Muslim comrades?

Admittedly, I have struggled with this idea of exclusivity. How can I reconcile this passage with that which I have experienced this week serving hand-in-hand with devout, pure-hearted Muslims. They love God unconditionally. They serve with humility. They worship with sincerity seldom seen in my generation. They are disciplined. They are as much like Christ as I am. Jesus said, "Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him." (John 14:21) God is merciful and just; judgment is not mine to proclaim.

As my generation begins to tackle increasingly global issues, we as Christians need to work with Muslims, not against them. Indeed, we must embrace all peoples of faith, all who are concerned about poverty, about injustice, about equality, and about sustainability. Why must we bicker and posture with pointless animosity while the world cries out for help?

I will close with a passage particularly illuminated by my experiences this week. Jesus said, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me." My Muslim brothers and sisters love Christ. I love Christ. God the Father, the God of Abraham, is the God of Islam whom my Muslim brothers and sisters worship. Our words of faith may be different in theory, but they are the same in action. We have faith in the Word, and together our faith will move mountains.

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