Elvis had left the building. What would Jesus have done?

Elvis had left the building. What would Jesus have done? Short answer. I have some idea.

Let’s go back a bit first. Recently, I had the opportunity to sit in on a muslim christian discussion evening here in the UK. I have been to this particular series of gatherings before. They are lively, energising, and at times somewhat scary affairs. This one was the scariest by far but not in connection with the subject of this blog post. What was much more interesting was the way a christian and a muslim handled an exchange of words and emotion.

Q&A

Image source: click image

At the Q&A time of the evening, both speakers having delivered their respective presentations, a christian brother took the opportunity to ask a question. The question would turn out to be a very important question. Great. The question would get lost in a moment of heat and pain. Not so great.

The christian brother was from Pakistan, not an easy place to be a christian believer these days. The evening discussion was about Peace – a perspective from Islam and Christianity. The Iman used the majority of his presentation time to present an elaboration of the external greetings of Islam – the ‘salaams’ (peace greetings) and how they are so integral to Islamic thought and the practice of every muslim.

salaam-peace-logo updated

Very interesting but a little thin to my christian heart and consciousness. He included very briefly a number of more important points about the deeper aspects of peace. I say more important because in my opinion they were far more significant. But perhaps not in his opinion. Otherwise he might have and maybe should have given more time to them. However I have to say in fairness to this dear Iman, he is not the most direct or forceful kind of communicator. He frequently appears to squander his time on background or at least secondary issues. So the ultimate shape of his Peace presentation was perhaps more a continuation of this personal limitation or style rather than there being little to say on the more substantial aspects of peace from an islamic point of view.

Notably, he did take a moment to say that in a real sense Islam is not a religion of Peace. He had obviously not been ‘madrass’ed’ (schooled) by George W. Bush, Tony Blair or other such ‘Islamic scholars’ of the recent age. I appreciated this honest statement and look forward to an elaboration of this in due time. He actually proposed that the subject of War be a topic for another evening. That could be interesting.

Anyway, towards the end of the night, the pakistani christian during his Q to the Iman’s A,  asked a question about the place of salaams (peace greetings) in engagement with non-muslims. The Iman indicated that there was some discussion within Islamic authorities and scholarship around whether the traditional muslim greeting ‘As-salam alaykum’ should be extended to non-muslims. He concluded that there was only minimal support for it. Reciprocating that greeting when extended first from the non-muslim is another and more positive matter altogether. It’s interesting, I just googled the phrase ‘muslim greeting’ to ensure I got the spelling correct for this post and the internet is full of this very discussion – the yes’ and the no’s of whether a muslim should and can initiate this greeting to a non muslim. (How do you spell the plural of no? What is the plural of no?)

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Gospel: Souls and stomachs?

Gospel: Souls and stomachs?  & ‘Both/and’ but not always!

What’s all that about? If you are like me – a bit of a bridge – a peacemaker – you mostly want people to get along. Different people with different perspectives and sometimes people with different emphasis within the same perspective being helped to get along, understand and appreciate each other. All so they can reach a consenus ad idem (I am happily a failed accountant – took a bit of latin – failed it – more grounds for being a humble donkey). A consensus ad idem is a meeting of the minds. Potentially a beautiful thing. One of the most powerful tools in the peacemaking business is the highly effective and arresting – it’s not your way or his way! – it’s your way and his way – it’s both/and not either/or. This can be a light bulb moment for people. It can help them to see the other person’s side – its validity in part and its interplay with their side bringing about a restorative effect on battling parties.

As a peacemaker I have tasted the sweetness of this line and it’s powerful effect – but it can have an ego inflating effect also (sorry humble donkey). Partly due to such a consequence, it can also lead one to misuse it – to misunderstand when it has appropriate application and even to be a bit careless about its use. You can even end up using it to superficially resolve particular tensions or differences which do not warrant or allow resolution. In doing this we can end up flattening terrain that should be or has to be mountainous just because we have at our disposal some kind of mountain flattening machine which makes us feel a liitle bit high. Some things do not need resolving into one. To do so could dishonour and contort each thing. If that’s the principle – what the  application?

For image source go to patternoflife.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/both-and/

We often see this melting, merging of two into one when applied to the life of the Christian. Many christians can emphasise one thing at the expense of another – when they are unwise to do so. For example, sometimes trust in God’s overall plan and prayer about a specific situation are pitched against one another. But it’s not trust in God’s sovereignty (God’s freedom in choosing, doing, being) at the expense of prayerfully seeking God’s help in a situation. It’s both/and. It’s trust and prayer. You see how that works. Both/and. It’s also like someone saying belief in Jesus is the only essential for salvation (a safe, beautiful eternal life with God) and someone else saying repentance (sorrow for dishonoring God through sin and turning life toward God) is the only thing necessary for salvation. Again another opportunity to resolve this either/or situation is presented. It is in fact both/and – repentance and belief – After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news! (Mark 1:14-15).

So both/and is often very useful, wise and necessary, particularly when we have pitched two compatible, complementary or sequential things against each other. Notice however, that in being both/and – we have not said the two things are the same thing. As if they were interchangeable because the differences are so minute. This is because they are not the same, not interchangeable. Their distinctness is important and their relationship to one another is important. They are connected but not carbon copies.

Both/and is a necessary piece of wisdom for peacemakers when two sides of the same coin have been pitched against each other as if they were actually sides of different coins. They are connected but not carbon copies. Both/and statements seek to highlight the connection and difference when wise to do so – when being pitched, in an inapproriate way, against each other. So in certain contexts both/and type understanding is necessary and wise but in other contexts it is wrongheaded, confused, confusing and unhelpful. Such a context would include where the two connected things are being forced to merge into one thing in the sense that distinction is ignored or downplayed and people now speak of either thing to mean the exact same thing. If clarity and restoration are some of the benefits to the correct and wise use of both/and, what are some of the consequences of getting this wrong?

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Music Mondays – Classic

438357572_640Good enough for dozens of movie soundtracks and good enough for Humble Donkey – try to play this through your some decent headphones or speakers (not laptop speakers) and enjoy.

The story of this great song leaves the Sinnerman without hope. I would point the Sinnerman in question and any sinner man you know to Jesus the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. By repenting of sin and believing on the Lamb who takes it away you will find him to be a Perfect Saviour.

John 1:29 The next day he (John the Baptist) saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Newsflash: Sermon wakes christian from slumber – watch, wake & wise up

Here is a wonderful life shaking sermon from a brother (Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile whom I would love to have coffee with – I would be the one drinking tea). Thabiti has a careful mind, a big heart, measured wisdom and a knack for keeping the gospel and those who need it, front and centre. It builds from mind to heart. Stay with it.

Thinking for the Sake of Global Faithfulness: Confronting Islam with the Mind of Christ

 

You can get the audio download here for your portable device.

http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/conference-messages/thinking-for-the-sake-of-global-faithfulness-confronting-islam-with-the-mind-of-christ#/listen/full

Thabiti blogs at Pure Church (http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/) and The LORD uses his careful thinking and reflections to keep assaulting the subtle racist within. Do yourself a favour and check his blog out regularly.