Christians and Interfaith Relations (1)

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12 NRSV).

It has frequently been noted that some version of the classic phrase “do unto others” exists in nearly every culture and religion on the planet. In affirmation of this concept, the United Nations has a mosaic based on a Norman Rockwell painting, which I have included in this post. I really like the mosaic and hope to see it on a future visit to U.N. headquarters sometime. A couple of years ago I saw it in a magazine, cut it out and stuck it in my Bible as a reminder.

Some statements of this idea are put negatively, saying something like “Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want for yourself.” Others, as in the Judeo-Christian version, put it more positively. It isn’t just a matter of avoiding doing harm to others, but of actually doing well for them. This universal ethic of reciprocity, in all its forms and permutations, can form a solid basis for interfaith relations.

The term “interfaith” can cause uneasiness in Christian circles, though. Those of us who affirm the four Gospels as canonical and authoritative Scripture cannot deny that Jesus has said that he is the one Way to the Father, and that he has further commissioned us to “make disciples of all nations.” This being the case, any mention of “interfaith relations” summons images of meeting with religious folks of other faiths, talking about what we have in common but negating our testimony that Jesus is risen and the exclusive path to God with smiles and friendly pats on the back. This is a valid concern, but I don’t think fear of implicitly denying Christ is sufficient for us to fail to live out one of his central teachings.

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