Viewpoint: On becoming a community of peace and goodwill to all

Posted at 11:44 PM on Mar 23, 2019

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BY REV. STEVE SHOEMAKER

The phrase “peace, good will to all” is a familiar one to many, taken from the gospel of Luke’s story of Jesus’ birth. But it expresses the values of all three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

It may sound like an illusory dream in face of the horror of last week’s massacre of 50 Muslims at prayer in the two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. And of last year’s massacre of eleven Jews at worship at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa. And the six killed at the Islamic Center of Quebec in 2017. And the killing of nine black worshippers at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015. And the killing of three Jews at the Overland Park Jewish Community Center in Kansas City in 2014. And before that the six killed at Oak Tree Sikh Temple in Oak Tree, Wis., in 2012.

There is a global and national surge in racial and religious hatred. Hate-filled words are incipient murder. It is in the air around us. The killer in New Zealand wrote of “white identity” and the threat of “invading” immigrants. We can do terrible things in the name of religion, race and nation.

All three Abrahamic religions show a better way. Each teaches a “golden rule.” To use the words of Jesus: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In the years before Jesus, the great rabbi Hillel was approached by a man who said that he would convert to Judaism if Hillel could recite the whole Torah while standing on one foot. Hillel stood on one leg and said, “Whatever is hateful to you do not do to another. This is the whole Torah. All else is commentary. Go, learn what this means.”

And all three religions have at their heart the dual command to love God and neighbor. Asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus answered “Thou shalt love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself.” He was drawing together two verses from the Hebrew scriptures. Here is how the Islamic scriptures, the Qur’an, puts it: “Devote thyself to Him with complete devotion” and “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbor what you love for yourself.”

I think this is what we hope for when we think of our community: a place where we love for our neighbor what we love for ourselves.

Last fall, after the murder of the Jews at Tree of Life synagogue, we carried in our hearts Congregation Emmanuel and the Jewish community of Statesville. We prayed for them and showed support and displayed active good will. This week let us offer the same to Masjid Al-Muminum, and the Muslim community of Statesville. In God’s eyes we are all minorities; together we can build a community of peace, good will to all.

Steve Shoemaker is pastor of Grace Baptist Church of Statesville.

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