It is my privilege to serve as a Global Peacemaking Coach with Peace Catalyst International, a vibrant, growing movement of ragtag Jesus followers committed to promoting peace in the way of Jesus and reaching out in love to those whose backgrounds and perspectives are different than our own.
Our work is not rocket science. Rather, it’s simply a matter of opening our hearts (and often our homes) to meet people where they are, to build genuine friendship, and to share with these friends the little things in life—like pancake suppers, play dates with our children, golf outings, coffee shop pow wows, and three-hour potluck meals. This is loving others in the way of Jesus. And it’s how I want to live my life—because it is the way of Jesus, because it’s a liberating way to live, and because real friendship always leads to deep discussions and often new understandings about life and love and the most important matters of the heart.
Jesus—Friend of Sinners and Respecter of Those from the Other Side of the Religious Tracks
Notoriously, Jesus was friendly with all the “wrong” people—oppressors, partiers, prostitutes, women in general, and even those from the other monotheistic religion. He gave dignity and respect to all manner of outcasts and outsiders, and He invites us to do the same—to build real friendship with real people with whom we have real differences.
Jesus’ call is not to a politely-tolerate-one-another sort of “friendship,” because in Jesus’ economy tolerance is a bar set too low and He instructs us to actively love others, even those whom we might think of as enemies. In , Jesus compels us to love, do good to, bless, and pray for our enemies and those who mistreat us. Essentially, he says, “If you want to follow me, then treat enemies the way you would treat a beloved friend.”
Of course, Jesus modeled this in an ultimate way by dying for us while we were still sinners and enemies of God so that we might become friends of God (), and He invites us to follow His example by living sacrificially for others ( ).
Real Friendship, Real Differences
Real friends enjoy one another’s company. Real friends play together and help one another. Real friends make scheduling and financial sacrifices so they can spend time together. Real friends talk openly and respectfully about deep matters of the heart. They share their convictions about faith and family and politics, eager to learn and persuade all at once. And real friends do all this with an abiding confidence that their friendship is bigger than their differences and that love (a commitment to pursue good for someone) covers a multitude of sins and disagreements.
You Can Do It!
Christians, will you join us in following Jesus into real friendships with Muslims? Muslims, will you follow the example of Jesus by building real friendships with Christians?
If you would like some tips to help you get started, feel free to post a comment below so that we can dialogue. I will be happy to share ideas, but keep in mind that it’s not rocket science and it might be as simple as smiling and saying hello to someone next time you’re out shopping!