Let him without sin throw the first stone – Love Anyway Blog

I read the news today – oh boy….

Unless you are not in touch with current events in the US, you’ve heard the story.

Supreme Court Justice nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, has been accused of sexual assault when he was in high school. And the breaking news is he has been accused by another woman of assault while he was in college.

And in checking the story I see that just now a lawyer is about to release information (or so he claims) regarding at least one incident of gang rape by Kavanaugh and his friends at some point in the past.

And there’s a lesser-known story (overshadowed by the Kavanaugh story) about Representative Keith Ellison abusing his wife or girlfriend or something… (I didn’t look too hard because the specifics aren’t super relevant to this rambely blog post.)

And, of course, we all know the story by now, about the President’s own admission, on tape to a TV gossip show host, saying he could “grab them by the p*ssy.”

This is our world now. This is what we’re talking about. 

So here’s my question: To what degree should a person’s past affect their current and possibly future positions in business or politics?

When should we, as the gathered crowd ready to pass judgement, throw the first stone?

And here’s my opinion, for what it’s worth:

We, as humans beloved by God, should be forgiven for our past sins.

But we, as humans, must also accept the possible ramifications of our actions, even in our ‘distant’ past.

Because while we are forgiven, while our character and ethics can, and should, evolve and group and improve, there is always a consequence.

And when it comes to holding an important position, be it the local school board, or a seat on the bench of the highest court in the land, we must acknowledge that, right or wrong, people are going to dig that up.

I have a past. I’ve done some terrible things. So have you. These things speak about what we are. At least in the eyes of those who might put us in a position of responsibility. Right or wrong, that is the reality of the world we live in.

The more important thing is how do we answer those accusations? What matters about our character NOW is what will we say about our past? Do we deny it? Do we own it? Do we take steps to completely squash our accusers?

My point of view is guided by my faith and beliefs, so I will share my opinion based on that.

And to do that, I’m going to share a bit about my past.

Almost 30 years ago, round about my wife and my 2nd anniversary, thing went completely to sh*t. We had ventured into an attempt at running a mall food-court burger shop. I thought I knew what I was doing, but all I really managed to do was run up a huge amount of debt in a very short time and file bankruptcy. It was truly a disaster.

Out of desperation, I accepted what I believed to be an honest job opportunity from friends in Arizona (we lived in Nebraska at the time). So I left my wife and toddler daughter and got on a Greyhound bus and went to Phoenix. With no money and no place to live, the plan was that I live with our friends there until I got settled in my position and was able to find a place to live of our own.

I’ll spare you the details, but the job never existed. I took a crappy minimum wage position at a pizza place because that was all I could find. I was lonely, miserable, depressed, and broke.

I tell you that not as an excuse for what happened next, but just as background. 

Our friends, a husband and wife couple, were very generous. He was the co-manager of an apartment building, but also did some work for his brother. He was never home except very late at night. Leaving she and I alone. Almost all the time.

I was lonely. She was lonely.

Again, not an excuse. And I can’t seem to bring myself to out-right say it. Even though it’s been decades and it’s far behind us and we went through a long period of marital counseling and I know I’ve been forgiven, the guilt of it is still very real. So I can’t say it. But you can infer from this that I did a terrible thing.

I am forgiven. It is in the past. It’s behind me. As some in the Christian community like to say, it’s “under the blood of Christ” because he died for my sins and I’m forgiven by God. (there are about a hundred things wrong, theologically, with that statement, but that’s for another post.)

People like to say “forgive and forget”. God might answer “what sin?” if He and I were to talk about this.

But we also live in a real world with real people and real actions have real consequences even if they are in our far past. 

And if I were to run for office, it would come up. As it should. It speaks to the character of the person I was.

But my job, now, would be to speak as the character of the person I am NOW.

To deny my past, to claim it didn’t happen or that it has nothing to do with my life today, would be ridiculously insincere and false. 

If I claim to be a Christian, what is my responsibility for what has happened in the past? 

I need to own it. 

To do otherwise is to bear false witness. 

If someone were to challenge my position as the ‘leader’ of this ‘ministry’ called Christianity Without The Insanity because of my past sins, claiming it makes me unworthy to lead, I would only make it infinitely worse by claiming it never happened, or that I don’t remember. What would that make me in the eyes of my followers? A fake. A phony.

(Now we could get into the whole discussion of how I feel I don’t really ‘lead’ CWOTI, I don’t, it’s a community and I’m just part of it, but that’s off on another tangent.)

To be ‘real’, to be ‘sincere’, to be ‘human’, to be a follower of Christ, I am compelled to acknowledge the past. And while I believe I am forgiven by God and my family, I must also accept the consequences of the choices of those around me. 

And such is the state of our politics in this country at this time. 

Kavanaugh, Ellison, Trump, and whomever else we are talking about, are we looking at people who are being sincere about their past? Are they owning the actions of their past selves and making a case for their current selves? Or are they dodging? Distracting? Are they sincere? Or slimy?

This rant isn’t really about making a conclusion. It’s about how should we go forward.

I never really spoke about the accusers. In my opinion, that isn’t the point here. By default I believe that those that claim to be a victim should automatically be believed. At the same time we have the legal concept of “innocent until proven guilty”. Those two things are not incompatible. If I accuse my neighbor of stealing my ladder, he will either have the ladder or not. Until it’s proven that my ladder is in his possession, he’s innocent. My claim is neither true or false, it just IS. Until it’s investigated we can’t know.

And that’s how we should proceed. Believe the accusers insofar as we actually hear them out and investigate their claims. And the accused should cooperate with that action.

If someone were to accuse me of the thing I admitted to above, an investigation wouldn’t turn up any evidence. Except the testimony of one or two people. It would be up to a judge or jury to decide what is true or not. (Except in my case I would own it.)

I’m all over the place here. I’m not going to edit this. My brain is going a mile a minute. I’m angry and frustrated and disgusted by the whole situation playing out on our national stage.

Just own it. Own your past. It’s part of you even if you’ve been forgiven. It’s what has brought you to the place you are now. Own it, accept it, and accept the consequences of your poor choices.

That’s it. That’s all. Rant over. Carry on.

God Won't Give You More Than You Can Handle

Pain. Illness. Politics. Personal conflict. Family troubles. Bills. Debt. Climate change (it’s 120°F where I am today).

And in your church, among your religion friends, in your facebook groups, people will tell you “God won’t give you more than you can handle”.

And when you’re dealing with all frustrating stuff (at least, speaking for myself) the response you want to give is “what a bunch of hippie, dippy, bologna.”

While the saying is meant to be comforting, is it really Biblical?

My best guess is that the expression comes from 1 Corinthians 10:13, which states:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (ESV)

Other translations are closer to the expression, but being modern translations, did the expression come first or did the translating?

No trial has overtaken you that is not faced by others. And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it. (NET)

Let’s get to the root of it.

The word translated as “temptation” and “trial”, respectively, is in the Greek manuscripts as “πειρασμός” (peirasmos). It’s a common word that is found in many other places in the New Testament, such as 1 Peter 4:12 (“…do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you…”),  Hebrews 3:8 (“…on the day of testing in the wilderness…”), and Luke 4:13 (“…when the devil had ended every temptation…”). But just as in English, every use of a word is dependent upon its context. Context is, as always, key.

And the context here is the first letter to the Corinthians from Paul.

Now, a personal note here, I am not fond of Paul. Without going into an entire discussion about whether the Bible, in its entirety IS the word of God, or if it CONTAINS the word of God (and not everything is meant for all people at all time) – personally, I believe the latter – I find Paul’s writings to be frustrating, aggravating, and sometimes just… ugh.

In this particular letter, Paul discusses divisions in the church, sexual immorality, marriage, and lots of other things. It was written during his missionary journeys and at the particular time of the writing, he was in Ephesus (according to tradition). The church in Corinth had been founded previously and being, literally, a new church, they had lots of questions. Paul basically does a “memory dump” in the letter and tries to answer as many questions as possible. Chapter 10 falls within a long discussion starting in chapter 8 and food offered to idols. And it meanders all over the place, ending at the end of chapter 10 with “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

So it’s in that context that we need to look at verse 13.  Verse 7 says “…do not be idolaters..” and verse 14 says “…flee from idolatry…” So what is verse 13 talking about?

Temptation. Specifically, temptation to idolatry. And while it may be true for all temptation (“No temptation has overtaken you…”) Paul is using this thought in the context of dealing with idolatry.

So, to quote one of my favorite reality TV shows, “myth, busted”.

But does that theme hold up throughout the Bible, that God will not give us more than we can bear?

In a word, no. Just from the average first grade Sunday school lessons, we have Jonah, eaten by a big fish, we have Abel, killed by Caine, we have multiple stories of the 40 years in the wilderness of snakes, fire, plague, all killing many Israelites. Job afflicted with all that stuff, basically on a whim of Satan. And we have Paul, imprisoned, and according to tradition, beheaded.

LIFE will give us more than we can bear. That doesn’t mean God is punishing us or trying us, it just means LIFE HAPPENS.

Does it mean God allows suffering? That’s a whole different discussion, and too big a topic for the scope of this one blog post, but we can be sure of one thing:

However our trials come to us, and sometimes they will be overwhelming, sometimes to the point of near death, Jesus gives us hope: “In the world you will have tribulation (θλῖψις: thlipsis – pressure, stress, affliction). But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

 

13 Reasons Why – and why you should watch it without turning away

Warning: The book and the Netflix mini-series “13 Reasons Why” deals with very difficult topics.  There are scenes of rape and suicide as well as teen alcohol and drug use. View discretion is WAY more than advised, it’s necessary. I personally DO NOT recommend this for teenagers, unless you, as a parent, feel they are mature enough to handle the graphic nature of the violent scenes.

Netflix has given us a great deal of amazing original programming.  One of their most recent additions has everyone talking, but not necessarily in a way that everyone thinks is positive.

Based on the book by the same title, “13 Reasons Why” was added on March 31. I binge-watched it right away. I was vaguely familiar with the book, so even though I had not read it I sort of knew what to expect. But even then I wasn’t prepared for everything that was in the show.

The premise of the story revolves around audio tapes left behind by Hannah, a high school girl who had committed suicide. That’s not a spoiler, that’s known right from the start. On the tapes, she recounts 13 reasons why she committed suicide, each reason is a person or rather an action or inaction by that person – or so it seems and we follow her story through they eyes (ears) of Clay, one of the people listed on Hannah’s list of people to listen to the tapes and a classmate that had a crush on Hannah. And like many others is left shaken and confused.

The Netflix series is well made. Produced by, among others, Selena Gomes, and featuring a cast of talented young actors, everything about the series is very good, from a production value point of view.

But the show runners did not flinch. While it takes place in the lives of high school students, it’s not a made-for-tv teen drama.  In that way, I think, it’s very honest and real. That’s not to say it isn’t without issues, some scenes are a little cartoonish, the characters can be a stereotype sometimes, and the “B” story of Hannah’s parents suing the school, while integral to the overall plot, seems unpolished. The issues, however,  are overall negligible. In the end, the overall effect the show-makers wanted was to make the viewer FEEL something.

With that in mind, the story that unfolds is not only topical, it’s important. It’s something that we all need to watch. and not blink.

Some ‘experts’ are saying the scenes are “exploitive”. And they are right, in a way. But I feel they HAVE to be. They have to hit you, they have to gut punch you, they have to make you HURT.

SPOILER ALERT – SPOILERS MAY LIE AHEAD – SPOILER ALERT – SPOILERS MAY LIE AHEAD

I repeat, do not blink. Don’t skip scenes, don’t skip episodes, don’t skip parts of the story or you will miss the point.

If you went to high school, there is much in this series that you will recognize. And there is much that I hope you don’t recognize. As I warned at the start, the show presents very realistic depictions of rape and suicide. Those are the gut-punch moments.

But more than that, it depicts an unblinking look at depression, hopelessness, and untreated mental illness. And that is the real story that the gut-punches drive home.

And that’s why, as I stated in the title, we all need to watch it, without turning away. If you have kids, know kids, work with kids, have neighbors… well, you get the idea… you need to watch it and then talk to the kids in your life.

Because in the end, it wasn’t the events or the people that lead to Hannah’s choice, it was her feelings, her despair, and hopelessness. And one last attempt to reach out.  An attempt that, admittedly, she should have tried harder to make work, but nonetheless fails.

And this is where it important not to skip any episodes or any bit of dialog. Don’t judge the story by clips or comments other people make (since the majority of people commenting seem to start their comments with “I didn’t watch it, but…..”

Hannah’s story is not told in the events that happen to her (though they push her story along), it’s not told in the tapes and her peer’s reactions to them. Her story is told in her feelings. In her inner life. And when you catch that, when you hear Hannah talking, you realize the point:

The story is about depression. And the importance of being involved with the people in your life.


 

This is the part of the blog post where I am going to get a little personal. I won’t claim that my experiences make me an expert, they don’t, nor will I claim that my experiences give me some kind of special insight, they don’t. But they shape my opinions on this show and I hope it will help you see it the way I do.

I suffer from depression. Actually, I hate to phrase it that way. I have depression. That’s not quite it either. The way I am wired, in my brain and body means that I have what professionals call clinical depression. Yeah, that’s it. That’s the best way to put it. As such I periodically need therapy and constantly need medication.  I have been this way since I was a teenager, long before Prozac became widely prescribed, and long before the invention of social media where everyone claims to be depressed and sad. I cannot, nor would I claim to, speak for everyone who says they have depression. I only know my experience and that if I am off my meds it is bad. Bad bad.

Twice in my life, I have attempted suicide. A lot more than twice have I thought about it.

Again, I am not claiming my choices give me any kind of special insight, nor do I claim to know anything ‘special’ about it. All I have is my experience and my opinion.

As such, I recognize in Hannah, through the course of this story, a couple of things:

  1. She wasn’t ‘driven’ to suicide by the things that happen to her, she was already on that course. The events – or rather her choices during those events – pushed her there sooner, rather than later, but they weren’t the cause.
  2. She is not blameless. And the show (and presumably the book it’s based on) don’t make her the hero. There are at least 30 things she could have done differently, especially as she is finishing her tapes and is sitting with the school counselor. That’s part of the realism of the story. And it’s OK to admit that she could have saved herself.

But hindsight, in reality, is 20/20. And that is the beauty of a fictional story, especially one like this that forces you to watch, powerless, as the story unfolds. It gives us, the viewers, an opportunity to FEEL and have that moment of OH MY GOD and the aftermath feelings of sorrow and terror and shock without having to have something awful happen in our lives. And it, therefore, EMPOWERS us with some wisdom and willingness to take care of the people in our lives. We see Hannah’s life and death through the eyes of the guy and we can take away his experience and see it in the lives of people in our own lives and thereby save someone.

Do no judge this story by the events, or by the people. Judge it by the boy whose eyes we are seeing it through. Put yourself THERE, not in Hannah or her parents. That is where you will ‘get it’.


 

Now I know many of you are going to come back with your own opinions of the story. And that’s great. And you have your own experiences, some similar to mine, and those are going to color your opinion. That while I am sad that you have those experiences, I am glad you are still here. But I do ask that you don’t attack the story unless you have seen it.

If you have thoughts of suicide, please get help. If you cannot reach out to a professional, reach out to me. I’ll listen.  Message me on social media or through the email listed on thsi website. Someone cares and will listen.

What about those who…..?

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

– Romans 1:19-20 (ESV)

———–

A new favorite at my house is the Disney movie “Moana”. As with most movies these days the disk included many extras, including behind-the-scenes stories of the people who helped make the film.

I was really impressed by the filmmakers working with the Polynesian people to tell an authentic story in an authentic setting.  And while the finished product is a Disney product, complete with cute characters that can be sold as action figures and dolls, the folks in the features seemed very happy with the process and the story.

One thing I did not realize was that there is a character in the movie that, like in other Disney products, is based on someone ‘real’. Or more precisely, someone that many used to – or maybe still do- think is real.

Disney has done it more than once previously. Hercules has been featured, as has King Arthur, Pocahontas (though we know for certain that she was a live person, the movie was her mythical story), Mulan, many versions of Santa Claus…. not to mention many different trips into the religion/mythology of many different people (Brother Bear for example, as well as lots of stories with angels and witchcraft, etc.) But with Moana, the filmmakers wanted to do it with great respect and some authenticity.

Enter Maui. Not the island, but the demi-god the island was allegedly named after. And while other mythological aspects of the film were ‘fictionalized’ (no spoilers), they tried to make Maui as true to his religious/mythical being as one can in a Disney kids’ movie.

In reality, missionaries long ago brought the Gospel to the Polynesian islands and Maui, along with their other gods and demi-gods, has been relegated to children’s stories. Like Hercules, King Arthur, and the Ice Queen.

And this brings me to the point of this blog post. A question that has been around since Biblical times and many folks smarter than I have tried to answer: What happens to those who have never heard the gospel?

I used to be a big fan of missionaries. I had a great friend working in Colombia, a former preacher at our church was in Brazil, I was the chairperson of the Missions committee at our church for a long time….. but then something changed.

I won’t bore you with the details, but it’s enough to say that the whole “business’ of missions really got to me. At one point someone seriously asked: “are we saving enough souls per dollar?” Like we were buying people into heaven and we better shop around to make sure we’re getting the best bang for our missions bucks.

Since then I’ve often thought “what if we just ‘didn’t’?” What if we didn’t send people to China or Ireland or Uganda or the Polynesian islands?

Paul gave an answer – though I believe it’s out of context when it comes to missions – in his letter to the Romans: “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”

In other words “God made stuff, look around and this proves God”.

Māui Snaring the Sun, pen and ink drawing by Arman Manookian, circa 1927

But if that’s true, then why are there cultures, like the pre-missionary Polynesians, who have ‘different’ gods, like Maui? If looking at creation is all it takes, then why did they look at creation and see a being that created the tides and the wind and pulled the islands from the sea and not the god of Moses, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Of Jesus and Paul and Peter?

And were they wrong?

And what if the missionaries had never gone out to those islands? What if they still worshiped the gods of nature, the volcano, of the tide and wind?

Would they still be ‘wrong’? Would they be – in a word – ‘damned’?

And if not, have we done them a great disservice by insisting that they do away with their ‘gods’ and follow ‘ours’?

My short answer is “I don’t know” and “that’s for God to decide”.

My long answer – my full opinion, since I don’t honestly feel there is a single answer – is “I hope not”?

Putting aside the whole dilemma of “are we saving the most souls for our buck”, I really wonder…

There are some really great, colorful stories that we now call ‘mythology’. In fact, I would argue that the three major religions of our modern world, the so-called “Abrahamic faiths” of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, are downright packed with a ton of their own mythology (and I do mean ‘myth’ – but we’ll discuss literalism and the insanity of it at another time.) It’s through myth that we make sense of our world, it’s how we wrap our brains around bigger things that we cannot understand. Even in our modern age with our scientific methods and ways of actually knowing how things work, myth still helps us know the stories of people and animals and cultures long gone.

But in Christianity, with our ‘policy’ of sharing the Gospel and ‘forcing’ out whatever religion was there before, I have to wonder if we’ve done more harm than good. Not because we’ve shared the Gospel, but because in doing so we’ve insisted that the stories of other faiths have been crushed, destroyed, and forgotten.

My own lineage is complex and varied. I am the product of the Great American Melting Pot. My family is German, Irish, British.  We’ve traced our family line on one branch to the Morman migration, and being one of those that dropped out and settled in what is now the American Great Plains. On another branch they came over shortly after the Mayflower and became heroes in the Revolutionary war, the Civil War, and on through American history.

But my surname, that’s Danish. Old Danish. That branch of my family tree, they were Vikings and farmers and explorers. They told stories of Odin and Thor (not the comic book versions) and great wars and hope for a home in Valhalla in the afterlife, spirits in trees and water and even stone.  Those ancestors of mine, I want to be able to understand them. Maybe even someday I might meet them in Heaven (which starts a whole other discussion, again, for another time) and I want to talk to them about the things that were such a huge part of their lives. To do that, those old religions, what we now call myth, should be protected and honored. Shouldn’t they?

 

What do you think? Discuss in the comments.

 

 

 

R-E-S-P-E-C-T Why it's important to have it for those who believe differently

This meme has been making the rounds for quite some time with both fans and critics taking a swipe at what it means and what we, as Christians, should do about it.

Often, in posts from ‘Christian’ sources, the conclusion is “The KKK? Satan Worshipers? Are you going to respect them? That’s ridiculous. No, you don’t have to respect them.” Or they state “Our job is to share the gospel, and sometimes that means telling people they are wrong.

And while I get that, while I sort of understand “loving someone sometimes means correcting them”, I don’t honestly believe that sharing the gospel means being disrespectful and confrontational. In fact, it’s the “us and them” mentality that has caused so many problems throughout history. “We’re right, they’re wrong, so we don’t have to respect them” – with the “them” being any religion or nation we choose as the ‘wrong’ one.

Now, putting aside the whole argument as to whether Christians are to ‘evangelize’ – for the sake of this blog post we’ll say they are – does that mean that it’s our job to tell people when they are wrong in their sincerely held religious beliefs? Or are we to just respect them as this meme states?

First, let me state that there are extremes that need to be addressed. In every faith-group there are extremists. Westboro Baptist, Isis, the KKK, Buddhist Nationalists. These are dangerous groups. They don’t really follow the faith they claim to belong to. They are harming and killing people. “Respect” doesn’t mean you let people die. So no, we’re not going to ‘respect’ terrorist. Everyone that says ‘respect others’ will agree on this. Respecting a belief does not mean the extremes. Logically, there’s a middle ground and those are the people we need to be talking about. The peaceful, sincere followers of Christ and Muhammed and Buddha. People that aren’t harming anyone and are sincere in their beliefs and habits.

That being said, I honestly believe we should not only practice respect, I feel we are COMMANDED to practice respect. And yes, respect means not telling people they are wrong “for the sake of the gospel”.

There is one very prominent example in the Bible that shows how to love your neighbor without disrespecting them:

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed.He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.”33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others. – Acts 17:22-34 (NIV)

So here’s Paul, in Athens, at a meeting of the “Areopagus” – basically the elders of the city, the court, or a public gathering of some kind, the text isn’t clear as to whether it’s the location or the organization that shares its name -whichever definition, there were probably a great many people there. And he’s got this chance to talk to all of them about the God of Israel and Jesus Christ.

And rather than tell them that they are wrong, he actually uses their belief as a stepping stone to talking about his belief. He doesn’t start by telling them they are wrong, rather he expands on what they already believe to introduce them to the gospel ofJesus.

When it comes to matters of faith, we can’t start by telling people they are wrong. What would have happened to Paul if, instead of using the example of the “Altar to the Unknown God” he had said “First of all, you’re all wrong, your gods are fake. Now listen to me while I tell you about a real God.” He probably would have been executed on the spot. Instead, they listened and some came to believe, including one who was an elder of the city.

There are many examples in the Bible of someone having an opportunity to speak to someone of a different faith but never do they start by telling someone they are wrong.

But again, in the Bible, as in our modern lives,  there are examples of the extremes, and those ARE called out, but within the same tradition. Peter at the Temple, for example. But even then, he doesn’t attack them, rather he leads them from their error with love.

My opinion is this:

We cannot, ever, share our position with people if we do not respect where they are. And yes, that includes Islam, the vast majority of believers who are peaceful and just living their lives.

HOWEVER, respect does not mean total acceptance. I can respect my friend’s fandom of the Cowboys without becoming a football fan. I can respect my friend liking Metallica without wanting my ears to be assaulted by what I consider terrible noise. I can, and do,  respect my friend’s atheism while continuing to believe in Christ.

AND, respecting people and their belief does not mean demanding respect in return. My Cowboy’s fan friend is free to be rude and angry with me for not being a fan of football. The Metallica fan is free to call me a hater and stop talking to me. My atheist friend is free to think I’m a fool. Respect does not mean you demand it in return. I will not disrespect them just because they disrespect me.

Finally, sharing your belief does not mean tearing apart THEIR belief so you can be ‘right’. I believe my belief in Christ is ‘right’, but when I talk to someone who is Muslim or Atheist, I’m not going to share my belief by destroying theirs. I’m not going to use phrases like “let me tell you where you’re wrong”. To respect another’s belief while sharing my own, I need to, as Paul did, find a way to talk about their faith without attacking it. That is the truest form of loving your neighbor, to be able to accept that you don’t have to be ‘right’.

COEXIST isn’t just a flashy bumper-sticker, it is the core of the message of Christ. Love God, love your neighbor as yourself. That love means respect in every and all forms, though not necessarily acceptance. Let us practice it every day.