I don't know if you've been following the headlines much this week and if you heard about the pastor from Florida that was planning to burn the Qur'an today. He was planning to burn the Qur'an in protest of the proposed building of a Muslim mosque near Ground Zero in New York City. Today, the ninth anniversary of the September 11th bombings, was his planned date for the burning. When I first heard about this earlier this week, I got a huge knot in my stomach and I felt this intense sadness and also anger that another stupid thing would happen in the name of "Jesus". Pastor Terry Jones felt led by God in his plans. (Enter eye roll here.) Even faced with the knowledge that innocent people's lives were being placed in danger because of his actions, he persisted in his plans. (Enter punch to the face here.) Even when top government officials, including the President, were urging him to stop, he wasn't listening. (Enter Simeon Rottier tackle here!!!) Only after receiving death threats of his own did he stop to consider that just maybe it wasn't such a great idea to burn the Qur'an. (Enter throwing hands up in despair!!!)
Over the centuries, Christians have been labeled judgmental, arrogant, hypocritical, intolerant, fundamentalist, conservative, racist, exclusive, and the list could go on. I, at times, have not shown that I am any different from what people expect from a "Christian". This week started out like that. I realized that I was thinking about Pastor Jones with judgment, arrogance and intolerance. I was the very things that Christians are famous for. I felt like the enemy was within my own ranks and I had to do something about that. Thus the punches to the face and the Simeon Rottier tackles!! As I took time to ruminate and really think this thing through, I was reminded of Jesus words concerning enemies. He says "...love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst." (Matthew 5:44) I was definitely letting the worst come to the surface. It hurt me that someone, calling themselves a Christian, was doing something so crazy and thoughtless. But I was, in my thinking, really angry with Pastor Jones and thinking he deserved to be tackled by a really big football player and somehow I was still able to call myself a Christian. That was a jolt to me. Jesus asks that I LOVE my enemies and pray for them. He wants me to be generous and gracious to others the way that He has shown that to me.
It's so easy to hate. I look at the world and I see it everywhere. It's difficult to love those that hurt you, to be gracious to them, to extend them patience and tolerance. I don't agree with burning the Qur'an at all, but I do believe that I needed to see how my intolerance of Pastor Jones was, in fact smearing the face of Jesus' reputation just the same. So, Pastor Jones and I both need grace and we both need to keep finding out who Jesus is and what He's all about. I'm praying for you, Pastor Jones.