We Have Our Brother Back
I rejoice that Pastor Terry Jones and his church have decided never to burn Qurans.
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Pastor Terry Jones and the members of Dove World Outreach Center say it is a "New Testament Church -- based on the Bible, the Word of God." To make such a claim assumes a terrible responsibility. It also gives others a strict measure by which to assess one's behavior. Christianity is a difficult religion. It requires a costly discipleship. Those who follow Jesus agree to walk a narrow path. We give up our own will to the will of God, as mediated through the teachings of Jesus Christ. This requires us to love our enemies, to work to overcome evil with good, to treat others the way we want to be treated. Our Christianity frees us from worries about eternal oblivion, but it warns us that we can lose our relationship with each other and with Jesus through our actions. And this is a tragic consequence.
Our actions can cause us to lose relationship with the body of Christ. There is a procedure that Jesus gives when a member has offended us. We ought to speak to the offender one on one, then with a small group, and finally we take the grievance to the entire church (Matthew 18:15-17).
Pastor Jones was told that his plan to burn the Quran offends Christians. If is offensive because it goes against what Jesus commands. Jesus commands us to love God with all of our being and our neighbor as ourselves. He commands: "In everything do to others as you would have them do to you, for this is the law and the prophets" (Matthew 7:12). Burning the Quran would not have shown love for God or for our Muslim sisters and brothers.
Christians appealed to him one on one, in small groups, and the church universal asked him not to do this contemptible thing. I do not know of an event that has caused such widespread condemnation, from the Vatican to evangelicals, from progressive and conservative Christians.
Beyond that, the highest officials of the United States asked him not to do this. President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, Secretary of Defense Gates, Generals Petraeus and Odierno have said this would put our warriors in more jeopardy. Romans 13: 1 says: "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God."
Pastor Jones said that he has decided never to burn a Quran. He said that God stayed his hand much the same way that God stayed the hand of Abraham at the moment when he was about to sacrifice his son Isaac. He said that he had accomplished his goal by showing the violent and radical elements of Islam. I will not judge Pastor Jones. I am not privy to his prayers or to what God says to him. He and I no doubt disagree on many political issues. However, we do agree on the power of God's word. We do agree that God's word is true: "Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven" (Matthew 18: 19). We prayed that the Pastor would know and do God's will. And so he has.
I rejoice that we have our brother back.
Dr. Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar who publishes lectures and essays at JustPeaceTheory.com. She received her Ph.D. in religion and society from Temple University and taught Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School.