Monday, January 24, 2011

Respectful Dialogue… Not Just "Co-Existence"

“Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders…. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:5-6)

This past Sunday we began a new sermon series exploring what it means to be a Christian in the midst of a multi-religious world. Throughout the next six weeks, we’ll be learning about several other major world religions – their origins, fundamental beliefs, how those are similar to or different from our own Christian beliefs, what we as followers of Jesus can learn from them, and how we should interact with them in our world today.

Though I’m excited about offering this series, I recognize that it will not be easy one – the subject matter itself is very complex and extensive, and you may at times find that you don’t agree with all (or any) of what’ presented, or that it challenges your current thoughts about the relationship between Christianity and other world religions. I must confess that I myself have been challenged in many ways – good ways, but challenged, nonetheless – and have found my own Christian faith and walk sharpened and strengthened through my preparation for this series. My hope and prayer is that the same will happen to you as we unpack a different major faith each week.

The key to our growth in this area, I believe, is to maintain an attitude of prayerful openness and humility as we explore these topics together. And as we do this, we need to recognize that the best way for us to witness our faith in Jesus Christ is not by looking down our noses at the faith of others, or denigrating their beliefs and practices. It’s also not in simply (in the words of a popular car bumper sticker) “Co-Existing” with them – as if we must strain to barely tolerate one another.

Instead, the best way we can relate to those of other faiths – the way I believe modeled by Jesus, and the way the apostle Paul challenged us to do in the above scripture from Colossians 4 – is to engage in RESPECTFUL DIALOGUE with those of other faiths. Properly understood, dialogue treats others as equal “neighbors,” while at the same time recognizing the validity and importance of our differences. (Find out more about the biblical nature and practice of Dialogue in the “Christianity and World Religions” links here)

When we dialogue with others in this way, our lives are enriched by the differences of the faith of others, a new sense of community can emerge, and others may receive the gift of God in Christ, while we receive the gifts God gave them to share with us. Always remember that God loves you and I do, too!

2 comments:

  1. Pastor Brian,

    I want to let you know how much I have been enjoying this sermon series. I am a teacher, and being able to more clearly understand my students' spirituality is of great help. It makes me more effective in the classroom when I understand more about my students as people with specific religious beliefs and cultural backgrounds, rather than just thinking of them as one of 30 teenagers sitting in my desks and listening to their iPods.

    I first visited ECUMC back in December, and the news of this series is one of the things that has kept me in regular attendance over the last month. Now I know that ECUMC is the kind of church where I would one day feel comfortable putting down roots.

    Thank you for the great series! I am learning so much.

    Sincerely,
    Whitney Chandler

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  2. Thanks so much Whitney. That is one reason I felt led to offer this series... to help others understand and relate better to those of other faiths. I'm so glad it is helping you. Let me know how I or our church may serve you! God bless!

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