What a burden we face when we fear the unknown. Gandhi is quoted as saying “THE ENEMY IS FEAR. WE THINK IT IS HATE, BUT IT IS FEAR”. So how does this fear affect us as Christians?
Our Christian faith is challenged when we become averse to change, resist the differences we encounter as members of a diverse human race, and all too easily fall into patterns of habit that at the least, deprive us from new experiences, and at the worst, cause us to segregate ourselves from those who look or think differently than we do.
Most of us spend very little time experiencing the various cultures of the world. If we are fortunate enough to do some traveling outside of our own environment, we may get only a superficial knowledge of cultures unfamiliar to us, how people work, spend free time, exercise their family life, and worship their God and Prophets. It is therefore easy to understand how, based on this lack of knowledge, we may come to overemphasize and fear the perceived differences that exist in the world, a world, we should remember, that was created by God.
Unfortunately, the 5:30 news does tend to focus on the bad things that happen around us, and throughout the world. Most of these headline-grabbing stories are examples of outrageous actions perpetrated by extremes in individual behavior, or by actions taken by extreme factions of a culture or religion. All cultures have their extreme factions, and is it easy to extend the actions of the extreme as representative behavior of an entire culture. As we explore any cultural extremes, we see a common characteristic, that characteristic being a very narrow perspective of rules and behavioral norms.
So if our experiences have been narrow in scope, and our awareness of those who may be outside our scope of experience is slanted toward extremism, then our desire to broaden our experiences is diminished. Does this not contribute to the narrowing our points of view?
So how do we break this vicious cycle? It starts, of course, through prayer. Asking our chosen God to help us broaden our environments. Opportunities to do so can come from reading more, listening to the opinions of others, recognizing that fear comes from not knowing and therefore finding ways to know more. We can extend our sphere of understanding and tolerance by simply offering a friendly greeting to those obviously different from us, spending more time with business associates and neighbors with foreign accents or attending events representing foreign cultures.
In the Bible, we can find passages that speak of tolerance, and we can find scripture that can be interpreted as suggesting intolerance against those who do not follow a set doctrine. Nevertheless, we are not guided in scripture to perceive ourselves in anyway as being superior to those different from us. As Christians, were are guided to lead a life that demonstrates love and compassion for all human beings, as demonstrated to us by Jesus Christ during his time on this earth.
Yes, in stewardship of our Christian faith, we should reach out to those who know no God, or have not yet found a community of faith. However, we should work just as hard to find that connection to those who worship differently. Our goal is not to try to convince them that they are wrong in their beliefs, but to show the confidence we have as Christians that love, acceptance, compassion, and forgiveness are life models that should be fundamental in how we all live our lives in this beautifully diverse world.
“REPLACE FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN WITH CURIOSITY” (unknown)