My Twitter feed this morning lit up with comments about the Sydney siege. I read the news with sadness:
A Muslim man (I will not give him the honor of saying his name) held a cafe hostage for many hours, terrorizing innocent Australians who were just enjoying a morning cup of coffee. The terrorist ended up killing two people, young people in their 30s who should have had a long earthly life ahead of them. The man proclaimed himself to be a sheik, a Muslim religious leader. During the siege of the café, he flew a black flag in the window, declaring Allah and Islam as the only true religion.
He is no religious leader. He dishonors Muslims everywhere. Terroristic people of any religion dishonor the vast number of peaceful followers of all faith paths.
The Sydney Siege and Hateful Religion
There are too many extreme Muslims like this man. They wage war and terror against Christians and Jews, while proclaiming their way is the only way.
Likewise, there are too many extreme Christians, including a large number of American Christians, who are hateful toward Muslims, while proclaiming their way is the only way.
My own fundamental Christian parents rejected me for “not following the only way of salvation,” and they called me a child of the devil when I said that all true seekers find God, no matter which religious path they start with. In religious hatred, my parents sent their daughter and toddler grandson to live homeless and hungry in the street, while in religious fervor, they sent money to a missions agency to support the “poor hungry Indian children struggling in Muslim regions.”
Here in Minneapolis, a group of Christians prevented a Muslim congregation from holding services in a community center. These Christians went on local television, loudly proclaiming that all Muslims are terrorists who wouldn’t be allowed near their community center.
I cannot understand the blatant hypocrisy. These “Christians” are not far from jihad themselves. Their angry words show the hatefulness in their hearts.
Religious terrorism comes in many forms. Religious hatefulness leads to jihad and bloodshed, bombings of towers and bombings of abortion clinics. Religious hatefulness led to the Sydney siege.
Jesus and the Sydney Siege
Religious animosity existed during the time of Jesus, too. The Jews and Samaritans hated each other, an ancient religious rivalry not unlike the Christian/Muslim rivalry today.
In religious extremism, Jesus’s own disciples tried to call fire on a Samaritan city. How did Jesus respond?
Luke 9:51-56 (NIV)
51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.
In this story, Jesus was heading to Jerusalem and his own betrayal and death. The Samaritans rejected him. The Jews and Samaritans had long hated each other for differences in theology and religious practices. Jesus as a Jew could have rebuked the Samaritans for disbelief. But Jesus rebuked his disciples! Jesus does not stand for acts of religious terror.
In another story, Jesus was walking through a Samaritan town, and he stopped to rest at a well. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, he spoke with her. I am sure that the very act of speaking to her and drinking from her well shocked his Jewish disciples. Here is what he told her:
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
The biggest argument between Jews and Samaritans was whether God was to be worshiped in the temple in Jerusalem or on Mount Gerizim. Jesus told her that where a person worships makes no difference; worship comes from inside a person’s heart, led by the Spirit in truth. Jesus did not tell her to convert to Judaism, or find the only true religion. Everyone who seeks God with all their heart will find God.
Jesus Admires the Love of the Faithful
In the Sydney siege and other acts of religious terror, we see the face of evil, the face of religion used as an excuse for hatred. It is so easy to create divides between “us” and “them,” but the true transformation of faith is seen in acts of love.
Look at the most famous Samaritan in the Bible:
Luke 10:30-35 (MSG)
30-32 Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.
33-35 “A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’
The Jewish religious people left the man to die on the road. But the Samaritan, the person most hated by the Jewish religious leaders, had compassion on the man and did Jesus’s work of love. Right before he told this story, Jesus said that to show love to your neighbor is to fulfill God’s whole law.
Imagine that parable today. Imagine the good Samaritan as a Muslim in the middle of an American Christian community, or the good Samaritan as Coptic Christian in a Muslim Egyptian community. This is the kind of love Jesus was explaining. This is Jesus’s answer to the problem of religious hatred, division, and terrorism.
Jesus Says #IllRideWithYou
Many Australians are responding in love toward the Muslim community who fears a backlash from the hateful actions of the terrorist’s Sydney siege. They are tweeting #IllRideWithYou, standing in solidarity and protection with the Muslims riding the public transit system. This is a group of good Samaritans.
Love will defeat hatred. Love will overcome terror. Follow Jesus and embrace your brothers and sisters of all different religions and colors. We are all children of the Father. Together we can redeem the pain of the Sydney siege.