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!