Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Very Brief Theological Response to the Attacks in Tehran

Most Iranians (89%) are Shiite Muslims. The Islamic State is a radical version of Sunni Islam. If Christians believe that God created humanity, then both Sunni and Shiite Muslims are part of God’s creation. When one group hurts another group, God’s creation is in disharmony. This summation might sound simplistic, but we complicate God’s view of the human condition with our opinions.

Origen of Alexandria wrote about the difficulty of giving up opinions and how dangerous our opinions can be. In Contra Celsus, book 1, section 52, he wrote, “A person will abandon habits more easily than surrender opinions.” If we hold a colonial worldview in which Muslims are part of the heathen masses waiting to hear the Good News, we miss the richness of mutual exchange. Furthermore, dialogue becomes nonexistent when our only interest in Middle Eastern sisters and brothers is converting them to our Westernized Christian faith.

Instead of seeking their conversion, when considering people from other traditions, especially those who oppose Christianity, we can follow Jesus’ lesson in the Sermon on the Mount. He said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

God is present in Iran.
God weeps with the people of Tehran who weep.
God wishes to comfort those who lost a loved one.
God seeks a relationship with everyone.
God want to enable doctors and rescue workers to help and heal people.
God desires to change the hearts of those who hate.

Following Origen’s advice, and setting our opinions aside, is a challenge. Opinions can be a deep part of our identity. Our opinions can make it difficult to see people who seem to be very different from us as our sisters and brothers. Setting those opinions aside can help us see people the way God sees them.

God does not want humanity to act violently against itself. When a terrorist hurts a person, we cannot let the terrorist win. When we react with violence, the terrorist wins. I picture a terrorist walking into my office and saying, “I am here to hurt you.” How would Jesus respond? He might say, “I am here to love you.”

What happens next? We think we know. That is, we assume that the terrorist would kill/hurt someone. But, we do not know. Only God knows. Trusting God is difficult. To be a Christian means being a person who trusts God in all things and at all times.  

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