Wednesday, January 26, 2011

An application of the golden rule

Some of you know that my favorite part of the bible is the Sermon on the Mount. This hardly makes me unique; in fact it's probably one of the most often cited "favorite" sections of the bible.

I just love it - -the buildup as Jesus' ministry gets going, the slap-your-face boldness of his message of charity and forgiveness, I even love the differences in sequence and phrasing between Matthew's account and Luke's account.

But one of the key messages of the sermon is surely the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would want them to do to you.

This isn't a passive instruction to wish well for people, or have positive feelings for your neighbor. It's a call to action, and it's very clear that this applies across the board to how we treat everyone: friends, enemies, family, strangers... we're not excused in our treatment of any person on earth. They all deserve to be given empathy.

So last week I started thinking (usually dangerous)... who are some of the most hated/feared/unknown people in my circles of influence? The answer came to me quickly: Muslims.

"Who" of Golden Rule

I'm feeling called to live out the golden rule in a powerful way that's new to me. And when defining whom the "others" are that I'm supposed to treat well, I knew it was going to be Muslims.

I don't know why. I'm not sure I even know a Muslim personally. But maybe that's because I am not ready. It's time to work on that.

"What" of Golden Rule

So how would I want to be treated by a Muslim friend?

I'd want them to see me as a whole person, not a label. I'd want them to give me space for my personality quirks, my blind spots and my screwups. I'd want them to help encourage me to be a better version of who I am today.

And I'd hope that at some point they would want to listen to my faith story. That I could tell them about the inspiration and example I see in Jesus, and how the bible continues to shape my life's journey. Yes, I'd want them to give the bible a chance, with an open mind, and to give me a chance in telling how it's shaped me.

So how I apply the golden rule to a Muslim seems pretty obvious -- I need to read the Koran, with an open mind. I cannot possibly expect someone to listen to my faith journey if I am not ready to listen to theirs, and I cannot expect them to explore my texts until I have read theirs.

"When" of Golden Rule

I'm already reading the Koran. In totally 21st Century fashion of course, with an electronic version on the Kindle device, downloaded for a dollar. It's a highly-regarded English translation, which is all I can handle although I know I'm missing a lot of the beautiful poetry that lies in the original Arabic.

It's a short text, compared to the bible. And while I'm in no rush and want to read at a pace that allows me to appreciate the message, it probably won't take more than a month to read the entire Koran.

What I've Learned in The First Chapters

-- The Koran assumes the reader already has a pretty good knowledge of the bible, both Old and New Testaments. I didn't expect all the references to the "people of the Book" , meaning Christians and Jews. Most comments about we people of the book are positive.

-- No nonsense about heaven being a place where men pleasure themselves with 72 virgins. Heaven is described as lush gardens with flowing water.

-- There are quite a few threats of hell and eternal fire, mostly for disobedience of Allah's laws.

-- There are regular instructions to be peaceful and charitable.

I'm sure as this experience continues, I'll have lots more to share. See you soon!


Debby said...

Wow. You never cease to amaze me. And inspire me. I will follow your example. I will read the Koran.

At the end of the semester.

Don R said...

I read it some 20 years ago, because I had several Muslim kids in my classes, and have referred to it occasionally since. I was struck by the similarities in the stories it told. HOWEVER, all this was before my journey began over six years ago. I need to break it out again.

Logan said...

Funny you mention this Mike-I've been reading bits and pieces of the Koran while browsing in B & N (a dangerous place to be). The first time I was really disturbed by some of what I read; the second and third times I have to say I was deeply moved by what I read. I should also point out that when I started reading the Bible from the beginning a while back (I didn't finish) I was really disturbed by a lot of what I read there too. In any case my view on Islam has changed the more I've learned about it...I'll have to blog on that soon. Thanks for writing.

Tit for Tat said...

The great irony is the fact that all of the Three big religions are pretty much talking about the same idea of God. Not that anyone of them would agree to that though. ;)

Good on you for trying to be open minded.

Anonymous said...

Islam is the way of life..