Based on John 10:7-16
One of the many troubling things that I’ve heard from one Presidential candidate in the current political season is that Muslims should be banned from coming to America without what he calls “extreme vetting.” That statement took me back to a twenty year old pastoral memory of a church member who told me that she was leaving the church and converting to Islam. Instead of trying to talk her out of it, I referred her to an Omar Shaheed, a local Imam and a good friend.
Two weeks later, she was back in church and didn’t want to talk about her meeting with Omar. When I called him to find out what happened, he said, “I asked her what she was doing in her church besides showing up on most Sundays. When she said ‘nothing else,’ I told her to go back to her church and try to be an active and committed Christian and if that didn’t work out, we could talk about her becoming a Muslim.” She’s still in the church twenty years later and has become a good church worker.
Omar and I have numerous points of irreconcilable disagreement when it comes to matters of faith, but we respect each other and work together because at the end of the day, we’re both committed to loving God and loving others as we love ourselves.
I offer that memory to you in this political season, when many candidates are trying to be elected not by stating what they actually plan to do, but by demonizing their opponents and stirring up racial, cultural and religious fears.
We’d do well to remember that we’re all creations of the same God and that, in many cases, we relate to God in ways passed on to us by those who raised is. We may relate to God in different ways and may be committed to our beliefs about salvation – I am – but we also have to appreciate the power of God to work with, bless and use all of us – regardless of who we are or how we relate to the Lord.
Take the time to see everyone who comes your way as a child of God – regardless of color, culture or faith and regardless of their mind sets and attitudes. When you do, you’ll gain a new appreciation for how God works through all of us and celebrate what AME Bishop Frederick C. James once called the “diversity of our unity and the unity of our diversity.”
You’ll also be able to find new peace of mind, climb walls of division and find new vision, build new bonds of respect and gain a new awareness of why my ancestors in the faith sang, in spite of slavery’s chains, “When all of God’s children get together, what a time, what a time, what a time!”