Category Archives: Reasons

Making Our Appeal: The Significance of Interfaith Work as Christ’s Ambassadors

Just a few days ago, Greg and I both wrote a reflection about a photo tweeted around the web depicting young Egyptian Christians linking arms in protection of Muslims praying behind them. A common theme ran through both our posts—that such a display of love demonstrated quite poignantly the love of Christ for humanity. It was a sacrificial love, and in both of our reflections we touched on what we felt to be one of the most important aspects of their actions: that they were representing this love to the world.

The Muslim community in Egypt, who began this exchange of prayer protection over Christmas, are now once again returning this act of love by protecting the Christians while they pray. One act of kindness bore another.

Having grown up in the church, I often hear the term “ambassadors of Christ” used to describe Christians’ social identity. Indeed, Greg and I have even employed the term at various times on this very site. Though perhaps a rather awkward way of referring to a Christian individual to modern ears, the concept makes a lot of sense, and has a lot to bear on interfaith interaction.

The expression itself comes from 2 Corinthians 5:20, which says:

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

These words (like usual) belong to St. Paul, who writes this in his second letter to the early church in Corinth. If you are like most introspective Christians, the question becomes: But what does it mean to be Christ’s ambassador, exactly?

Being ambassadors of Christ requires something more of us than simply attending church services or calling ourselves “Christian.” Instead it necessitates action, doing. The act of being an ambassador means representing another party—“represent” is a verb.

Though I touched on this briefly in my recent post on evangelism and interfaith work, and will address it again in our upcoming series that focuses on evangelism specifically, all I will say here is that these Egyptians demonstrated what it means to be an ambassador of Christ: they showed that they were willing to act on Christ’s behalf to bring peace into the world, to show the world what the Kingdom of God looks like.

I think the prominent New Testament scholar (and former Bishop of Durham, UK) NT Wright has the right idea regarding what it means to represent Christ as his ambassador. Essentially, he talks about the Kingdom of God as being on earth now, enacted through us as believers, as well as the Kingdom of God as a future event worthy of aspiration. This view makes a lot of sense when you look at Pauline theology (which Wright does a great deal) and understand that this rubric compels us to live a faith in action, a faith that moves here and now to represent the ideal that we hope for in heaven.

All of this is a protracted way of saying that interfaith cooperation presents a perfect opportunity to enact our faith, to live it as those Egyptians lived theirs (both Muslim and Christian). Indeed, interfaith cooperation is the very definition of ambassadorial work—representing Christ to those who do not share your religious tradition. How does the notion of representing Christ affect your life? Does it move you? Does it impact your actions? What does it look like, in your eyes, to be an Christ’s ambassador?

Please join in the conversation, either by leaving a comment here or finding Faith Line Protestants on Facebook!

 

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Photo by sanja gjenero (http://www.sxc.hu/profile/lusi)

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What Being a Peacemaker Really Looks Like

In the introduction to his book, Acts of Faith, Eboo Patel opens with an account of the trial of Eric Rudolph.  Though perhaps most known for detonating bombs at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Rudolph also bombed several other sites in the two years following the Olympics before he went into hiding in the Appalachian wilderness.  Patel describes how Rudolph showed no remorse for his actions:

“In fact, Rudolph is proud and defiant.  He lectures the judge on the righteousness of his actions.  He gloats as he recalls federal agents passing within steps of his hiding place.  He unabashedly states that abortion, homosexuality, and all hints of ‘global socialism’ still need to be ‘ruthlessly opposed.’  He does this in the name of Christianity, quoting from the New Testament: ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.’”

Rudolph faced a world different from the one he had constructed in his mind.  The moral code he had internalized didn’t match with what he saw going on around him.  And he decided that the way to reconcile these differences was to murder and destroy.

I believe we all face the crisis that Eric Rudolph faced.  When our faith traditions provide guidelines for what is right and wrong, we will encounter others who live by a different standard.  We will find those with whom we disagree.  The tension may be moral, theological, or preferential.

So how do we respond?  Thankfully, very few respond the way Eric Rudolph did.  For Christians, the Bible provides clear direction on why Rudolph’s actions were wrong.  But I know many Christians who would respond with violence of another form.  A violence that others do not see, but exists nonetheless.  I know because I’m guilty of such violence as well.

I’m referring to the violence we commit in our hearts – the judgment we pass as we perceive someone in an act of “wrongdoing,” the pride we feel when we interpret our lives to be more excellent than another’s, the righteousness upon which we gloat as others fall below our personal standards.  While such responses are devoid of the violence that placed Rudolph in prison with four consecutive life terms, they also lack the quality that could have caused Rudolph to build bridges instead of bombs: love.

The Bible tells the story of Jesus and a man named Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10).  Zacchaeus was a tax collector (and possibly a cheating one at that) and the sort of man about whom others muttered under their breath (Luke 19:7).  Whether it was his fault or not, you might say that Zacchaeus was the kind of person with whom religious people disagreed.  But instead of joining in the muttering, Jesus invited himself to be Zacchaeus’ guest, shocking those around him who would rather criticize Zacchaeus than associate with him.

What if Eric Rudolph had a real understanding of the Christian faith instead of a warped understanding of justice?  Imagine how this world would be different if he had pursued peace instead of violence, but with the same determination.  Instead of building bombs, he would have been building relationships, instead of lashing out with violence, he would have been reaching out through service.

In a famous sermon depicted in the New Testament, Jesus says “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9).  I believe that when Christians build relationships instead of condemning those with whom we don’t agree (whether it is morally or theologically), we are being peacemakers.  In a world where violence is used too often to solve issues of religious difference, our faith compels us to be at the forefront of making peace.

Thus, we are also compelled to be interfaith leaders.  And remarkably, when we create interfaith relationships, we find that there is plenty about which we do agree.  These are not realizations that blur the boundaries between religions, but understandings that we are better working together for positive change.  When we are building bridges instead of bombs – that is when we are peacemakers.

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Bridge photo by ivanmarn (http://www.sxc.hu/profile/ivanmarn)

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Questioning Our Assumptions: Reasons for Interfaith Involvement (Intro)

Why should we want to participate in interfaith efforts? What’s the need for a web site like Faith Line Protestants? Why is interfaith cooperation even important in the first place?

No, this isn’t our first existential crisis. They’re fair questions.

In the past few posts, Greg and I have discussed a number of things that we feel are the commonest barriers between the Christian community and interfaith cooperation. But simply enumerating barriers isn’t enough. For our next series of posts, we will give four reasons why interfaith cooperation is important—and, more specifically, why the Christian community should become involved.

Greg and I believe that the reasons for Christians’ involvement yield tangible and positive results both for the church and the world. Some of the things we’ll discuss are:

  • the ability for the church to act as peacemakers in a world of strife and disagreement
  • what being Ambassadors of Christ has to do with interfaith cooperation
  • the practical and tangible benefits of mobilizing faith groups in service
  • interfaith cooperation’s potential for building local (and global) community, and how interfaith cooperation can work to build religious literacy and promote understanding in religiously diverse world

We’ll also be posting with increasing frequency on topics outside of our series’ scope, hopefully fostering more discussions on different topics that have interfaith implications.

The Christian church has much to offer in the discourse surrounding interfaith cooperation. Join us as we step into a new series making a case for our participation in interfaith work.

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