Interfaith Dialogue: Compromising and Unfruitful... Really?
A close friend of mine was sharing his heart with me. “Rick, I was talking about the Seven Resolutions Against Prejudice, Hatred & Discrimination with a well-known pastor. The pastor dismissed the document without even reading it, saying, ‘I don’t do interfaith stuff!’ How do I respond to this?”
I said, “This is not just an interfaith document. It is a justice document. It is about loving our neighbors, not about watering down our faith or making nice with non-Christians." (Check it out for yourselves). He smiled and said, “Rick, where were you when I needed you?”
I have attended interfaith dialogues of all kinds since I began pursuing peace between Christians and Muslims. Frankly, they are not all created equal. Many who attend these kind of gatherings are liberal and universalists (= all roads lead to God). But there are an increasing number of devout evangelicals and devout Muslims who engage in these dialogues without compromising their faith. They believe it’s possible and even necessary to seek the common good and bear faithful witness in doing so. The Common Word Dialogue at Yale is an example of this.
The Seven Resolutions document (signed by Muslims, Christians and Jews) is another example of this. It speaks against compromise (point #1) and acknowledges that outreach is important to both Muslims and Christians (point #6):
1. Our commitment to partnering for peace does not mean we dissolve our distinctive, historic beliefs into an imaginary “One World Religion.” Rather, it means each community seeks to be authentically faithful to its historic beliefs and finds within those beliefs the resources to reachout to one another in love and respect...”
6. …We do believe that both Islam and Christianity want to win the world to their respective faiths by persuasion and not through violent means. (For the historical background of the Seven Resolutions click here.)
Engaging with people of other faiths can be a powerful opportunity for witness. But even if they are not responsive to our verbal witness, they notice our good deeds (just as I notice theirs!). We are commanded to obey God’s commands and seek the common good regardless of people’s response to Jesus:
- Seek the welfare (shalom) of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare (shalom) you will have welfare (shalom) (Jeremiah 29:7).
- Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
- Always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people (1 Thessalonians 5:15).
Whenever I share about the importance of good deeds, some of my evangelical friends feel like I may be compromising the good news. I don’t get it!? How is talking with Muslims about justice, peace and neighbor love compromising? I love the way my friend Michael Gatlin describes this in his church: "Love God. Love Neighbor. Period!" It’s not surprising that his church is experiencing significant growth.
By the way, if you struggle with the relationship between good deeds and good news, you should read Timothy Keller’s brilliant book, Generous Justice.
And if you want to know how this works out in practice, please check out the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good (NEP). The NEP is an example of an organization that seeks the common good while bearing faithful witness to Christ. Here is a both-and organization that I am proud to partner with. Its mission: a renewed Christian public witness for the sake of the Gospel and the common good.
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