I watched with interest to see how Terry Jones’ plan to burn copies of the Koran would turn out. His decision to meet with the Imam responsible for the proposed Ground Zero mosque in New York afforded him a venue for backing down with a small amount of dignity; a moderately wise move following an incredibly misguided one.
While explaining that Jones, according to the first amendment, had the right to proceed with the burning, “Yahoo News” listed 11 of the most common reasons for opposition to his plan. They range from, “It could endanger our troops…” to “…boneheaded and wrong…”
I agreed with most of the list, but felt that an important item had been left out. Jones’ plot totally failed to reflect the ethos of biblical Christianity or the nature of the Savior, Himself. Christianity never advocates angry, hateful, extremist, vengeful or radical behavior.
Jesus lived in Israel during the time of Roman domination. Rome was known for its cruelty, religious corruption, immorality and rampant, brutal slavery. Yet Jesus didn’t promote protests, vandalism of Roman property or the desecration of pagan temples. In fact, He made it very plain that His kingdom was spiritual, not political; one that begins in men’s hearts and results in transformed lives. The closest He ever came to making a political statement was calling Herod a “fox” (Luke 13:32). His harshest, most scathing remarks were made, not against those of another faith system, but to those in His own. And the cleansing of the temple was to encourage purification of those who claimed to follow the God of the Bible, not those from another religious group (Mark 11:15 – 17).
If this seems a little passive, don’t forget that taking a non militant, non-retaliatory posture isn’t synonymous with failing to take a stand. Christianity, in its proper and purest form is non partisan, but maintains a careful scrutiny of and holds vigorous convictions on all issues.
Did Christianity impact the Roman world? Bertrand Russell, a skeptic with respect to the Christian faith, answers this question for us. He writes, “Infanticide, under Rome…was almost universal until the rise of Christianity…”
Relative to women’s rights he states, “In antiquity…male supremacy was unquestioned; until the introduction of Christian ethics, women were harmless but rather silly, and a man who took them seriously was somewhat despised.”
With respect to Christian influence and benevolence in general Russell said, “Christianity…put an end to gladiatorial shows…Christianity also did much to soften the lot of slaves. It established charity on a large scale, and inaugurated hospitals.”
The impact and influence of Christian teaching was and is powerful and liberating…however it has never been by militant, contentious reaction, but through merciful, compassionate acts.
— Pastor Ross Helgeton is senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church