"Pakistan and India have spent so much time disputing their borders in Kashmir that they don't have the wherewithal to learn how to operate as neighbors. If they would learn to operate as neighbors, they would have the relationship with which to resolve the disputed borders." - Yours truly, after reading an article in Time magazine yesterday on the issue
"Love your neighbor as yourself." - Jesus, when summarizing the point of all of God's laws
"Who is my neighbor?" - a listener of Jesus, asking the fair and obvious next question.
"Everyone." - My summary of Jesus' answer to that listener
If a group of people in Zimbabwe are feeding the widows and orphans of their nation, preaching the name of Jesus Christ, and then bowing down to Allah 5 times a day in the direction of Mecca for prayer...are they Christian's or not?
If a group of people in Nepal are giving to the poor and needy, living and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, and hanging up prayer flags daily to pray to the Hindu god Shiva...are they Christian's or not?
If a group of people in China are spreading the message of Jesus Christ house to house, depending on God in prayer, but do not sing songs to God in their worship gatherings...are they Christian's or not?
If a group of people in Egypt live perfectly moral and upright lives, and do everything they can find in the Bible what the first century church did during their worship gatherings, and are careful to do nothing more or less, and do so faithfully, but never speak of Jesus Christ to anyone but each other...are they Christian's or not?
If a group of people in Amarillo meet weekly in order to share each other's stories for purpose of knowing one another deeply enough to take off the masks and help each other become more like Christ, but they never sing at their gatherings, take the Lord's supper, and sometimes they don't even pray...are they Christian's or not?
"Who is my brother?" is one of the titles of a book written by a wonderful man in the fellowship of Churches that I call home. The title articulates a question that has dominated the minds of my "tribe" of Christ followers (and others as well) for many, many decades. It seems to me that we have "disputed our borders" with such zeal and commitment that we have an undeveloped (at least underdeveloped) capacity for being neighbors.
I'm totally done with that, in all honesty. Maybe a better way to say it, I'm free from all that.
I call all human beings my brothers and sisters. I spend zero time trying to treat anyone as anything other than family (yes, in Christ). Every human I meet is at a remarkably different level of awareness about our oneness in Christ, and this affects greatly how they live, how they respond to my love and acceptance, and what the parameters of our relationship ends up looking like practically in the day to day.
I love them all the way I want to be loved. Looking for the good and true in them, finding our common ground there (no matter how small or hidden, it is there), enjoying the fellowship that comes from that, and then letting our differences be explored by each other as we live and pursue life to the full.
The questions "Are they Christian's or not" or "Who is my brother?" -- questions that have been the subject of countless debates, tens of thousands of hours of back-breaking Bible study, the source of an embarrassingly large amount of disunity and division among well-intentioned Christ followers -- as it turns out, are questions whose answers are COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY TO KNOW and USELESS in following Christ, in sharing Christ, and in ushering in the Kingdom of Christ.
We can debate this all we want (and I have within me more zealously than I ever with another human being), but I have lived both lives. And I can tell you this - the life I lived that thought it necessary to distinguish between "Christian or not" left me in the company of Christians debating it. The life I now live in which I spend zero time figuring that out, and all my time loving all people as brothers and sisters in Christ, leaves me meeting lost people (in and outside the church) who are VOLUNTEERING to learn the message of Christ. Seriously, there are some weeks that I meet a new a person who is looking for life every day. I'm not exaggerating.
And I'll tell ya...the Bible's message starts really jumping out at me when I live this way. It is humbling. It is lively. It is the good fight. It is grace.
So, my call of the day to the world of Christians - bypass all unnecessary questions and ask the one that will put you in alignment with the God of the Universe, who's agenda is to break into the this world of people and rescue their hearts from darkness (which is very real) and bring them into light (which is also very real) - ask the question, "Who am I to love as a brother today?"