17 November 2009

Who is equal to such a task?

A few Thursdays ago, Phyllis and I were on the road late in the evening. It was the day of the Ft Hood shootings and we were unsure of what was going on. So instead of listening to good praise or jazz or 60's music on our satellite radio, we tuned in CNN for four hours on the interstate. It kept me awake while Phyllis dozed and helped me get a grasp of what was happening in Texas.

Now a few weeks later most of us are still unsure of why this happened, but the ideas of terrorism and Islamic jihad, fatwa and Muslim extremism keep floating around. The shooter was a Muslim and we know how Muslims are, right?

So I've begun to think about all the Muslims I know. Most American Christians don't know a Muslim. They might have neighbors who are Muslims, but they probably don't know them, have never been in their homes or had them in their homes. But that's no big deal. Most American Christians don't know the Methodists or Catholics that live down the street. (Not that Methodists or Catholics are not Christians… you know what I mean.)

But I know Muslims.

I know Muslims because I lived in the Middle East and in Africa. And the "kinds" of Muslims are as diverse as there are "Christians." All shapes, sizes, theological interpretations and extremes. I know Muslims who did the hajj (the expected at least once in a lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca) several times but were totally secular otherwise eating pork, never attending mosque and hanging out with infidels – Christians – on a regular basis. I know some Muslims that are "cultural Muslims" in that they have no sense of religion, but because they were born in an Islamic family in an Islamic country they are in their minds Muslims. And I know some very devout praying-five-times-a-day and to the mosque on Friday Muslims. And I know even a few radical Muslims who despise Americans and Christians – in that order.

But I also know some Christians. And I know that they run the gamut of beliefs and practices. I know some fundamentalists who are more American than Christian and are angry about everything. I know some liberal thinkers that embrace Islam as another possibility to know god. And I know folks all in between these extremes.

Some of my friends use King James Bibles exclusively; everything else is just a perversion. Some are addicted to New American Standard, but without the passion of the KJV only folks. I know Christians who speak in tongues and believe that those who don't are running on 3 cylinders. And I know those who see glossolalia as totally demonic. And even some who think it's a psychotic condition of people who are one brick short of a load.

Christians – like Muslims – come in all shapes and sizes.

And I know church people who when it comes to Muslims, want to nuke-em-til-they-glow and let God sort out the remains.

And my concern is that we as followers of Jesus must do our best to look and smell like Jesus. In my thinking that's what it really means to be a follower of Jesus: modeling our lifestyle and philosophy of life after Him, His Words and example.

Paul writes to the church at Corinth: But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? (2Co 2:14-16)

The big challenge is in understanding who we are as Christ's ambassadors and walking it out in love and humility. Our life is found in being the sent people of God and living our "sentness" in compassion and mercy smelling like Jesus everywhere all the time.

And like Paul I ask, "Who is up to this task? "

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