At times, as you read this column, which focuses upon our relationships with people of every religion and no religion, it may seem as if these relationships are “easy.” All we need to do, it seems, is strike up a conversation and discover all the things we have in common with different groups of people, and life is sunny and friendly.
In fact, our explorations of the belief systems of various groups of people cannot help but lead us to a contemplation of the complexity of truly taking in what people have to say. When we come face-to-face with the fact that many people do not even ask the same questions which you and I tend to ask about human existence and its meaning, we may feel as if dark clouds have obscured the sunshine of life. We are troubled by the thought that great numbers of people live their lives without adherence to what we hold dear.
Many Christians are particularly troubled by the idea that the Jewish people, in not recognizing Jesus in the manner that Christians do, have somehow put their relationship with God in jeopardy. We Christians, of course, find that the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus say profound things to us about our humanity. We experience the beauty of a personal relationship with the God who became human, and we wonder about what others may be missing.
Christianity, of course, emerged from Judaism, and it is of the greatest importance that we Christians appreciate our “roots.” We consider the faith of Abraham and Sarah, so striking in its affirmation that there is one supreme God, whom imagination cannot grasp, who cannot be represented in any artistic manner. You and I have inherited this precious faith in one God, in all its implications, as we perceive that all humans are brothers and sisters, and that the one God demands justice for all people.
We must appreciate how startling it was when the upstart Christian religion announced to the world that this God had become human. The God who cannot be pictured or imagined has taken on human flesh? Messianic hopes did not include this idea. It was unthinkable.
Our church has affirmed that God, who established a covenant with the Jewish people, has never and will never revoke his profound relationship with the children of Abraham and Sarah. A new document, The Gifts and Calling of God are Irrevocable, from the Commission of the Holy See for Religious Relations with the Jews, explores the complexity of the shared Jewish and Christian experience, and lets the complexity be.
We need not fear the complexity of interreligious relationships. Indeed, we Christians may perceive that the very complexity of the human situation is a gift to us from Jesus. For Jesus calls us to love, and love is a deeper and stronger thing than conformity.
Please make a calendar note about an event coming up on the evening of Thursday, Aug. 25 at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 533 S. Walnut in Springfield. While the exact time has not yet been announced, Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, professor of New Testament at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn. will speak about the state of Judaism at the time of Jesus. I will have more to say about this event as we wait for it.