Growing up, I was led to believe that my church did things right while others did not. It doesn’t matter which denomination it is. I’ve since found many denominations share this opinion about their own sense of what “the truth” truly is.
I came across this quote this morning:
Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams – they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do — they all contain truths. – Muhammad Ali –
It reminded me of some courses I studied in college. I attended a Christian college and was “required” to take a world religions course. I loved it and opted to take more than one such course. You see, they taught us not only Christianity . . . not simply western religions . . . but eastern ones too. It was truly a “world” religions course. I was taught about some groups whom I’d been raised to believe were “evil” in their beliefs.
Know what? When you are put in a position to listen, to truly listen, to the culture and values and beliefs of another, you learn that we are all far more alike than we are different. I was amazed at the similarities I could suddenly so easily see as I compared and contrasted the many religions of the world.
This is not the place to delve into a long sermon on what I took away from each and every world religion I studied for it would be far, far too long for a blog post. I write this because rarely do I pick up a newspaper, click to a webpage, or switch on the television or radio without finding the “different” among us being judged and found lacking.
We judge one another, but we also judge the church . . . in my mind that is much the same thing since WE are the church, not the brick or wooden building with a few trees and a parking lot. You and I are the church and we carry its message to those who need to know it in our generation and the next. How can we do so when we seek to relate hate and indifference rather than truth? A tired cliché tells us the “truth will set us free.” Sure enough. Freedom. Isn’t that what we all seek?
Yesterday’s Gospel reading at my church spoke of difference, of the truth, of freedom, and of healing. You do not have to belong to my parish, my denomination, be a Christian, nor belong to any “organized religion” to admit those are things you seek. We all do. It was, in fact, creating a stir in the Gospel story told. Someone seeking those things was not “one of us.” He was overlooked, despised, an outcast. What was Jesus response?
In the reading Jesus was surrounded by a vast crowd including His chosen 12 and oh so many others eager to meet Him, to hear Him, to touch Him. One man, Bartimaeus, was blind. He’d been the despised one of which I spoke. Society at the time believed his condition surely was caused by some dreadful sin he or his people had committed? He cried out to Jesus believing He would heal Bartimaeus. Oh, the crowd had fits, even Jesus own chosen 12. Jesus, though, called the man to come to Him. Jesus didn’t care which “group” this man belonged to. He surely wasn’t part of any. Jesus didn’t overlook him as pretty much everyone else did. He healed the man and told him that “your faith has set you free.” Freedom, healing, acceptance.
We climb over, walk around, and pass by those who are different every day. We wrinkle our nose at how they “smell” and cover our eyes at the way they look. Our failure to accept them forces them to live as they do in many cases. Why do we not look at them? Could it be that if we looked into their eyes we’d see ourselves reflected there? Could it be that we’d see our own human weakness, often denied, staring at us? Could it also be that we’d see Jesus Himself looking back at us? We would see the Truth staring back at us for sure. We don’t want to see it. It is time we stopped denying. We are all different. It is time to embrace this and to seek unity.