How have other religions enriched my Christian faith?
In the mid 1960’s I had the opportunity with my family to take part in a mission program that introduced us to the various faiths that Christian missionaries encounter in other countries. Now in 2015, the number of faiths represented in our own community has grown. So it is time to review impressions and form new relationships.
I remember the kindly older gentleman who represented Islam for the 1960’s study group and his graciousness in joining together in a time of prayer. He missed his grandchildren greatly but had come to the U.S. specifically to represent Islam. The emphasis on submission to God is one I subscribe to and believe Jesus taught us. The Apostle Paul attempted to bring his every thought into submission to teachings God had revealed through Jesus who was “Christ” and “Messiah.” (Both words refer to one who is “Anointed with the Spirit of God.”)
I remember the earnest gentleman, a Swami from the Vivikananda Center in New York, who was concerned about the difficulty of the travel of the soul down into the deep ravine of self-denial and up the other side to meet God. We visited about Jesus being the bridge over the ravine, so that anyone could cross. I remember the new light in the eyes of his American disciples who were with him as they delighted in the new knowledge.
I remember the sincere gentleman who came to teach us about Theravada Buddhism. His sister was Christian but he felt required to continue in the way of Buddhism in his search for Enlightenment. His devotion and simplicity of life was an inspiration. His example reminds me that Jesus came to give light to the world and that I also am supposed to be a light to others on their way.
Because I am a member of a Jewish family by marriage, I have benefited much from a closer look and understanding of Judaism. My visit to a new sanctuary was awe inspiring as, it seemed to me, the Shekhinah flooded the room.
Recently, Amy-Jill Levine, who teaches at Vanderbilt University and speaks and writes extensively on Christian-Jewish topics, has enriched my understanding even further. If I have a question about a New Testament translation, I often refer to the edition of the New Testament edited by Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Z. Brettler with its many articles and notes. See http://www.amazon.com/The-Jewish-Annotated-New-Testament/dp/0195297709.
My lesson from Judaism is the same as Jesus gave the lawyer, “Love God with your whole self and your neighbor as yourself.” He added in another place, “Love your enemies.” I think the advice from Jesus to love our enemies is perhaps the hardest for us humans, yet it is essential to peacemaking. And, peacemaking is essential to the Kingdom of God. Amy-Jill Levine thinks Jesus may have been the only religious leader of ancient times to emphasize love of enemies. How desperately we need that capacity today. The capacity to love enemies comes from God by God’s Spirit. The Spirit that Jesus promised to be IN us as we accept what God did in Jesus and trust him.
We can all say (or sing http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/b/burt_bacharach/what_the_world_needs_now_is_love.html#!), “What the World Needs Now is LOVE!”