In the hours and days since the bombings at the Boston Marathon, I’ve seen many graphic images. I’ve seen the bomb exploding, knocking a runner to the ground while others duck or raise their hands as if they are being shot. People without limbs. And, a heroic man clamping the artery of a wounded man as they make their way down the street to medical help. Perhaps the most vivid and the most graphic image was on Facebook. I have a diverse group of friends ranging from far left to far right. Still, I wasn’t prepared for the glaring image that was on my newsfeed. It was a picture of a billboard edited to show an image of the bombing of the marathon. Blood was splattered everywhere and emergency workers were assisting the wounded. The quote said, “Upset by Muslims setting off bombs in public places? Maybe now you understand why Israel put up a fence to keep them out.” This was before we even knew who the bombers were, what their religion was and what might have motivated such a horrendous crime. Since then, the inflammatory and outrageous images have continued. Just today, I came across a picture that showed men of Middle Eastern background with torches, burning a car and protesting. The quote said, “How dare people make fun of our peaceful religion?”
The first time I met a Muslim was a few years after September 11, 2001. I was in seminary and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship initiated the 11 on 11 projects. Groups were working that day to do 11 acts of service on September 11th in an effort to promote love and unity on that awful anniversary. A group of Baptists coupled with a group of Muslims to help others in the Lexington community. We never shared our individual beliefs as we worked side by side. I will tell you I saw compassion and hearts of service in my Islamic brothers and sisters. No torches, no animosity, only kindness. The second time I encountered a Muslim was at the mall. My young son was in the play area. He and a beautifully tan little boy were playing, climbing and giggling. Elijah went a little too high and started to slip. That’s when an angel stepped in to rescue him. She didn’t have wings, but wore a hijab (traditional headscarf worn by Muslim women). She helped him to his feet by the time I had reached them. She, through heavy accent, apologized; I guess for touching my child. I, in turn, thanked her for helping. There was a moment of grace and understanding that passed between us as we looked in each other’s eyes. We were united as mothers; any differences didn’t matter.
So my limited experience with Muslims has been one of caring and compassion, not of hatred. That’s not to say that there aren’t Muslims out there that would treat me as such, but there are Christians who would do the same. There are Christians who have.
I’ve been teased, abused, stalked and even raped by a Christian. I’ve been judged and even been called “unbiblical” by other Christians. Are any of those actions congruent with the teachings of Jesus? Are any of our actions as Christians when we judge a whole group of people based on a few indicative of Christ who came and died for us? Before we point a finger, we might ought to go back to those first four books of the New Testament known as the Gospels. Jesus says in Matthew 22:37-40 states, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
The bottom line is love. Even in the midst of hate, even in the darkness, even as the sulfur and smoke enshroud us and cause us to fear. Dare to love, dare to hope, dare to look at that person who is so different whether they spout hate or peace and love them. That is our challenge and that is our command.