A Muslim imam recently underscored for me just how central peace-making is to the teachings of Jesus and the biblical vision of the kingdom of God. He had spoken at Messiah College on the role Islam could play in achieving world peace. On the way to the airport, I asked him about the resources for peacemaking that reside in all three Abrahamic religions--Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. One finds in Islam, he said, a very mixed witness on that issue, since the prophet Muhammad was a pacifist in the early years of his career but later became a soldier. One finds, he said, the same sort of ambiguity in Judaism, especially in the Hebrew Bible which features in certain sections vivid accounts of God-directed wars, but in other sections a vigorous condemnation of war-making and an equally vigorous charge to make peace. Then he said, "Of the three Abrahamic traditions, only Jesus was consistent on this point. The problem," he said, "is that Christians don't get it."
Or (again, emphasis mine):
Of all of Jesus' teachings on concern for the poor, perhaps none is more graphic than the criterion for the final judgment offered in Matthew 25.
According to that text, that criterion has nothing to do with church attendance, or observance of the sacraments, or how often someone prayed or what someone knew about theology. Rather, in Matthew 25, the only criterion for the final judgment is how we treat the poor. Thus, "I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was . . . naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me." And then the verdict: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the fire prepared for the devil and his angels." (25:41-43)
I look forward to Richard's next post!