By Dr. Kevin Thomas —
What’s different doesn’t have to offend us. I’m reminded of an episode of M*A*S*H. A Korean, convinced he was possessed by an evil spirit, refused to have life-saving surgery until a local shaman performed an exorcism. Col. Potter obliged the man’s request but apologized to the unit’s chaplain, Father Mulcahy. The colonel, not surprisingly, assumed that the eastern, pagan religious act would be offensive to the Roman Catholic priest. The Father surprised the operating room when he said that he actually found it interesting to observe the non-Christian ritual.
It’s so easy to push those away who don’t share our specific set of beliefs. We wall ourselves off with likeminded people in buildings that bear the logos of our particular tribe. We spend too much time hurling arrows at other tribal groups because they differ on a couple of the finer points of theology. At our worst, we convince ourselves that our group is the only one getting into heaven. The isolation blocks our mission to the world into which God sent His only Son.
What if we let down our guards? What if we sat at the table “in the presence of [our] enemies?” Recently, I was speaking with a woman who is pursuing her doctorate in anthropology. I told her that the subject interests me and that I’ve considered taking an anthropology course sometime. “Well you’re going to be surrounded by a lot of atheists and agnostics,” she cautioned. I responded, “That’s great! I love atheists and agnostics!” And I do. I have wonderful, thought-provoking conversations with people who don’t share my belief, conversations that enrich my life and just might invite faith in them. My motto is becoming, “If you don’t believe my story, let’s get together and talk.”
It’s hard to transform the world when we spend all of our time running from it. God sent Jesus into the world so that the world might discover God’s love. Let’s follow Christ into the world with the message of love.