Friday, 07 July 2017 15:06

Can We So Love the World?

Written by  Sam Whatley
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In 1954, when I was five years old, I had a friend about my age who lived nearby. Let’s call him Johnny. Nearby was about a quarter of a mile away on a dirt road in Macon County, Alabama.


For months, Johnny and I had a good time playing with marbles, blocks, and little plastic trucks in the sand. Then something terrible happened. I had a birthday.


Dad explained to me that I was six-years-old now and old enough to go to school. Johnny and I could no longer play together. I couldn’t go to his house or he to mine. Dad said white boys and black boys did not go to school together. He said our friendship had to end. When I asked why, he said that was just the way it was and no one could do anything about it. I was very sad for a long time.


Years went by and our country realized that something could be done about it, but Johnny and I had become adults by then and did not know each other anymore.


Now before you judge my dad as unnecessarily harsh in his view of his neighbors, consider the times in which he lived. Now consider the times in which we live. Because, we are doing the same thing all over again. What if Johnny had been named Hussein and his parents had been from Pakistan?


In reaction to our very real fear of terrorists, we American Christians are walling ourselves off from neighbors who need to know the Lord we worship. The overwhelming majority have nothing to do with the jihadists. In fact, many Muslims are seeking asylum from the very terrorists we fear.


Members of other religions are becoming more and more part of our everyday life. Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, and others are our students, doctors, professors, lawyers, hotel clerks, and servers. They are our neighbors, whether we choose to admit it or not. So, what would Jesus do?


Over the years I have come to realize that, since Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, we need to show kindness and respect to those who have not yet come to this truth. Christ is seeking all mankind, and so should we. Jesus said not only “Love your neighbor as yourself,’ but also: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you,” (Luke 6:27 NIV).


As Christians, these words are convicting. Many times, when faced with people of other beliefs, we act out of fear and anxiety, not love and kindness. When we see someone shopping in Arab dress or with a beard and olive skin, do we look away? Do we glance back at the person with suspicion?


The Apostle John said:

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God is in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…” (I John 4:16-18 NIV).


I grew up in the segregated South. I remember when walls of fear, suspicion, and disrespect separated people with different skin color in our state. As time has gone by, most of those walls have come down. It is now time to realize that we are doing the same thing to people who worship differently than we do or come from a country we distrust.


Much of the racial strife during the Civil Rights Era was caused by fear-based hysteria.  We would do well to learn from that time. Remember Paul’s words to Timothy when he said, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control,” (2 Timothy 1:7 ESV).


Years ago, I asked a former-Muslim Christian how Christians could point Muslims to Christ. He replied, “Show them love. They have never seen it.”


“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” (John 3:16 NIV). Through the Holy Spirit can’t we so love the world?


**Sam Whatley’s latest book, Ponder Anew, is now available at the Frazer Bookstore located inside Frazer Memorial UMC.




Last modified on Friday, 07 July 2017 15:23
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