Once again our clever editor has posed a tricky question for us naïve pastors. “Should strong relationships be formed with those who have different religious views than you?”
I started working on how to tip-toe through these “gotcha!” words “should” and “strong.” I thought I would begin with the concepts of ecumenism and kumbaya when it suddenly dawned on me. Of course. The correct answer is “absolutely!” Christian. Muslim. Buddhist. Atheist. Agnostic. None. Doesn’t matter.
The correct answer is Matthew 28, verse 19 through 20A: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” I think that’s pretty clear. Jesus was a Jew. He came to save everyone, the whole world. Not just the good people, not just the attractive people, not just the “holy” people. He came to save all.
Most people are familiar with John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” But most people don’t pay attention to the very next verse: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Notice that word “world.” That means everyone.
So, back to the editor’s question. Don’t you find it’s easy to like those people who believe the same as we do? Most of them go to our church. They dress like we do. They like the same movies and music. They drive a similar car.
What about those in a church belonging to a different denomination? Well, I’m sure they’re a little like me but I’m not sure what their religious beliefs are. “You know, those (fill in the blank) are a little weird. They believe in (fill in the blank) or they don’t believe in (fill in the blank).”
So what about those who don’t believe in anything I as a Christian believe in? What about the Muslims and Buddhists and atheists? Should I form a strong relationship with them? And of course the answer is “yes!” Jesus did. Remember Jesus was a Jew.
Who did he hang around with? The dreaded Samaritans. The unclean Gentiles. It was even worse. Jesus didn’t just hang out with Samaritans and Gentiles but many were tax collectors, sinners, and prostitutes.
For me, then, the answer is clear. Yes, we should form relationships with those who believe differently than we do. We should respect them. We should listen to them. But, as Jesus commanded us, we should look for an opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ and why He came to earth, why He died the most brutal death man has ever devised, and why God raised Him from the dead. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Evangelism and discipleship is our job. The world is our mission field.
The Rev. Dale L. Chrisman is Rector of Trinity Anglican Church. Trinity is now in our new church at 18900 FM 1431, just five miles west of Leander and Cedar Park. Join us at 10 a.m. Sunday mornings.