All in all, my Friday afternoon was a blessing. I met many kind and friendly people. I saw families who loved each other, who worshiped together, fathers that caressed their sons with tenderness during and after worship. And as the proverbial sore thumb odd duck, I felt welcomed as a stranger. I met business owners who were struggling to make it through the Covid crisis, I met blue-collar construction workers, and I met many bright, professionals who were surgeons or professors.
I am not sure about you, but I am who one is sooooo tired of hatred. I grow weary of one group bashing another. I grow agitated by the arrogance and self-righteousness that permeate our cable opinion (formerly news) networks. I cringe at both strangers and good friends alike who bash one another with anger-filled social media posts. I often just shake my head in disgust, and disappointment after viewing posts, even from people I love and respect. It seems that just about anything can cause hatred and division these days: race, color, creed, masks, vaccinations, politics, candidates, or even weather and climate.
My recent journey into the Muslim world came from a long-felt prompting in my gut. I call that the tugging of the Holy Spirit. I can either be part of the problem and spew off like most of the world, stay silent or act on teachings of my own faith in Jesus to become a bridge builder or a peacemaker. How can I offer up an opinion on a person or group of people when I do not personally know them? I decided it was time to quit hiding behind the safety of the fortress walls of my own church and venture out across the bridge to build conversation and friendship.
Jesus calls us to love our neighbors, to pray for our enemies, and to do good. Sadly, most of us only love those who look like, act like, believe like, and talk like us. But "neighbor" is a very broad term. I have a hunch that if Jesus himself, returned to earth today, he would sadly shake his head in disappointment and disgust. And that disappointment would most likely begin with those of us who sit in churches and proclaim Jesus as our Lord and Savior.