I am convinced that the great challenge for many of us in the church today is a fear of otherness and difference. It makes sense. We live in a radically diverse world that necessitates constant interaction with people of other religions and ethnicities. This context is a fairly recent one on the US scene that began in the mid-1960s when the US borders were opened again to immigrants from all over the world.
Now most of us relate on a daily basis to people who have very different worldviews from our own. We have to learn to live on the margins or at the edges where our worldview and perspective meets the perspective of another. Such engagement demands humility. It necessitates that I somehow lower my defenses and enter into relationship with people in ways that model the way Jesus related. He asked questions, caring questions, that revealed a deep concern for who they were and the challenges they faced. He constantly crossed boundaries–between genders, races, social classes.
It was His way . . . and so it is our way.
I have a lot of hope for all of us. I spent some time last night at the First Baptist Church of Marietta, Georgia, a church that has turned its attention for the next few weeks to understanding folks from other religions who live around them. We wrestled with hard questions and reached the conclusion that most all human beings are on a common search to find meaning and purpose in life. And that there is something sacred about the search itself. When we look at it that way, the Hindu or Buddhist stranger somehow becomes much more like me, and I am able to move beyond what divides us and toward the Love that draws us together.