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Monday, January 14, 2013

Missing Half of the Gospel

"...the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments... are summed up in this word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."
                                                                   Romans 13:8-10 (ESV)

Our daughter and husband are part of a congregation in Rochester, NY, which is home to numerous refugees from Rwanda and Burundi who endured terrible suffering in the brutal conflict between mostly Christian Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups.

American theologian Miroslav Volf, a native of Croatia, notes the similarity between that tragedy, where faithful church goers on both sides took up machetes against their neighbors, and the massacres that happened in the Balkans between Serbs and Croatians. He writes, “During the war in former Yugoslavia you could occasionally see a Serbian fighter sitting in a tank and flashing three fingers. And those three fingers represented, believe it or not, the Holy Trinity. Flashing that sign meant, ‘We Serbians know how to cross ourselves.’”

“It’s religiosity reduced to a single symbolic gesture," he writes. "And once you reduce religion to that...you can then project everything you want onto that. So you believe in a God who ... is all powerful and is also for you. And suddenly you’ve got this immense servant to do all the dirty work that you need to be done and then... feel good that all that has happened.”

What a shame that Christianity ever got away from the clear teachings of its founder, who renounced all violence with both his life and his teaching. And then to have Christian missionaries setting out to convert people like the Hutus and Tutsis without this mandate of the Prince of Peace--to not only love God with all our heart, soul and might, but also to love our enemies and our neighbors as we do ourselves.
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