by Neal Foster
“To tell you the truth, I’ve done the normal, ‘nice’ interfaith stuff, and now I want something different,” my Muslim friend said as he looked down at his coffee. “I want to start a group that takes seriously working for peace, compassion, and justice – we need to stand up for each other and really work for the good of our neighbor. I think you would agree – are you interested?”
My immediate reaction was, “Yes!” He and I continued discussing and dreaming about it, but later I reflected more. Would it really work for a devout Christian and a devout Muslim to work together like this? Let’s cut to the chase: our respective religions are different yet claim to have an exclusive revelation from God; how can we honestly collaborate to promote a certain way of life (peacemaking, taking a stand for justice, loving our neighbor, and so on)?
As a Christian, I have to ask the question this way: is it possible to do interfaith work in a Jesus-centered way? Or do the exclusive truth claims of Jesus preclude partnering with non-Christians?
Jesus’s default attitude was love; in Mark 9, when his disciples got worried about someone “not with us” who was doing similar works, Jesus told them to relax because “he who is not against us is for us.”
So how does all this connect to Peace Catalyst’s vision to ignite a global movement of Jesus-centered peacemaking communities? My Muslim friend and I think we can be part of a peacemaking community that, inasmuch as we accept people of all backgrounds and labels who want to honor God and love their neighbor, is Jesus-centered. Following the two greatest commands of Jesus sounds like a great start to centering on Jesus. What happens next? Well, let’s see–for a group to be healthy and stand up for peace, compassion, and justice, we might need to do something like have regular meetings, where we:
- Hear each other’s struggles
- Encourage each other in our values of honoring God and loving others
- Teach about those same values
- Acknowledge our need for God’s help together
- Plan activities that benefit our greater community, reach out to outsiders, and make a public witness for peace
This sounds like something Jesus would be in on. It sounds like a start toward what he did with his disciples. It sounds like starting to make disciples of all nations.
(My wife just walked in and looked over my shoulder. “No one’s planning to say anything about Jesus at those hypothetical meetings?” I said, “Honey, if I’m there, Jesus will be talked about. I can’t NOT talk about Jesus.” “Okay, sounds good,” she said as she gave me a thumbs-up.)
I believe John 14:6 is a two-way street; not only does it say something about the exclusive nature of Jesus, but it shows us how to encourage all people to encounter the living God who loves us all more than we can imagine. I believe that whoever begins to value any little bit of the way Jesus taught, the truth he shared, or the life he exemplified, is on a collision course with the peaceful kingdom of the God who makes all things new. Yes, it is possible for a Christian and a Muslim to start a group composed of serious believers – of any faith – who want to love God and love others. It is even possible to believe that God will use such a group to draw people to himself, expand the influence of his kingdom, and increase faith in the ways, words, works, and worth of Jesus.