Tuesday, April 08, 2008

No more Mr Nice Guy

Tony (we don't do God) Blair has spoken about the importance of religion in a lecture at Westminster Cathedral. His lecture, among other things, deals with the question of how different faiths should relate to each other in today's global culture. He pleads for tolerance and the avoidance of extremism. Here is the key passage

I don't think there is much to disagree with there. We are all a bit sick of the Spanish Inquisition and Hindu violence against Christians in India and most of all of Islamic Jihad, but how does all that gel with Nehemiah chapter 13?

Remember that Nehemiah had been given permission to leave his job as Royal wine-taster to return from exile and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. with God's enabling he overcame the difficulties and the walls were successfully rebuilt and Judaism re-established in the city. Job done he returned to his job in Babylon, but some time later he asked permission and came back to Jerusalem. He found everything had gone to pot. His long-term enemy, Tobiah, had finagled a room in the Temple. The Levites had been denied the tithes and offerings and had gone back to work their fields for a living and many young men and women had married foreigners so that their children could not longer speak Hebrew and could not therefore understand the word of God.

Nehemiah's attitude was to lose his temper and get violent. Verse 25, "I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair"

The question is where does zeal end and intolerance begin? We should not tolerate the intolerable. However, violence must be a very rare occurrence. Vengeance in mine, says the Lord, I will repay.

There are those Christians who hate Islam and tell us that the violence and oppression are part and parcel of the faith; it is there in the Koran. On the other hand I have friends who are Muslims as well as Hindus, Sikhs and atheists. They are cultured, humane individuals who would no more think of blowing up a bus than I would.

I absolutely believe that as Jesus said, "No man comes to the father, but by me." but once I have explained the gospel, the best witness I can be is by living a life of love and self-sacrifice. Belief in God is a personal choice. You do not become a believer by inheritance or by force. We are saved by faith and this is itself a gift of God. It cannot be coerced by zealots.

No comments: