A Message from Pastor Mike: “And He Hung His Head In Shame”

As I write this, we are all still reeling from the events in Orlando.

Not surprisingly, the faith of the Muslim people has again been called into question, and there have even been videos on Facebook of a radical Imam voicing support for the killing of LGTB people.
What we are less likely to embrace is the fact that there are at least two videos circling showing Christian pastors saying very similar things.

I wrote the following a number of years ago in response to an email I had received condemning Muslims.  I share it again and hope that we will consider how dangerous it is to condemn, and how we, also, as people of faith, need to be very careful about casting stones…

From Pastor Mike:

And now, a little Bible study…

Moses assembled all the congregation of the Israelites and said to them: These are the things that the Lord has commanded you to do: For six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy sabbath of solemn rest to the Lord; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. (Exodus 35:1-2)

Excuse me, did he say death?

Yup. Death. Curtains. The last dance. The big sleep.

Kinda makes you think twice about mowing the lawn on Sunday, doesn’t it?

This is not an article about the Sabbath—though it could be. We aren’t very good at giving ourselves “Sabbath,” but that’s not my point today…

I’m writing this in response to an email I’ve received from a number of you; it’s one of those “chain” emails that probably end up in your box as well.

This particular email began with a “pastor” who works in prison ministry. He tells of his encounter with an Imam (a Muslim cleric) and of how he “forced” the man to admit that the major focus of Islam is that all non-believers (i.e., all non-Muslims) must be put to death.

The author goes on to say that; upon admitting this “truth,” the cleric “hung his head in shame.”

What is sad is how readily we accept this kind of information. Something shows up in our email box, we accept it, and start to fear a significant number of the world’s people. (If you want to find out how questionable this email is, go to “snopes.com” and search under “Allah”.  You’ll find that the email and its claims are highly questionable.)

Here are some things to ponder:

When Mohammed came to power in Arab lands, he did not destroy the non-believing tribes around him. He probably could have, but he didn’t. That’s why we still have those tribes around, including Arabs that are Christian, Zoroastrian, and even followers of John the Baptist.

The vast majority of Muslims, millions of Muslims, live in peace with their neighbors, neighbors that are often Christian.

If Islam is not the fastest growing religion in the world, it’s real close.  Why?  One reason is that Christianity is seen as intolerant.

What if someone took this scripture from Exodus and wrote an email that looked like this:

A Christian youth group came to the prison today.  And I asked them, “But doesn’t your Bible say to kill anyone who works on the Sabbath?  Even if they aren’t Christian?”

“Well,” said one of the kids, “I’m not sure it exactly says that…”

“Oh, it does,” I replied. “Exodus 35.  It says to kill them.  Kill them dead.”

“Uh…What translation is that?”  The kid’s voice was starting to quiver.

“And what about Psalm 137?” I said, “That one says, ‘Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!’  Now, could you please explain for me, are these ‘evil’ little ones, non-Christian little ones, or can this include Christian little ones who aren’t behaving properly?”

Get the idea?

My point here is not to make us question the usefulness of scripture, but to remind all of us that scripture, as Jesus found in the temptation, can be quoted even by the devil for his own purposes. Our scriptures must be interpreted in the light of Christ, and (as we know in our study of him) most complaints against Christ were “supported” by scripture.  Especially scripture concerning the Sabbath.

There are times when God’s word is not meant to be for “all time.” The psalmist’s song, which was expressing tremendous human anger in response to Israel’s exile in Babylon, cannot possibly be reconciled with the current, or future, intentions of our loving God. The command to “kill” Sabbath violators cannot, in this day and age, be taken seriously as the intention of that same loving God (especially when one of the biggest “violators” of this command was our Lord himself.).

What looking at our scripture closely shows us, however, is the foolishness of demonizing Muslims without truly understanding their scriptures or faith. Yes, there are radicals in Islam with scary interpretations of scripture. There are also Christians who have scary interpretations of our own scriptures. Both groups are minority groups in the realms of these faiths, and should be seen as such.

We are called to love. We are called to seek to understand. And, like Christ, we are called to rise above fear and hate and live with compassion for all people. Remember this the next time something about Islam pops up in your email box.

Peace,
Pastor Mike

Posted in: Our Life Together

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