I was recently privy to a conversation online where someone had taken a passage of scripture of the Quran and used that one piece of scripture to paint a picture of what the entirety of Islam looks like. Now I realize at this point I may have lost some of you, but I beg you to stay with me because I think this discussion leads somewhere important. The problem I had with the conversation had nothing to do with Islam really at all, but the danger of taking something out of context. Take for instance some of our scriptures. If you took Psalm 137:9 out of context it could really be detrimental to our message.* How can you communicate a story of grace with a verse like that being taken out of context? But we do it all the time. We love to judge people by small representations of their groups and then it is much easier to avoid them. I mean can you imagine what would happen if the entire world judged the church by the likes of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church? I shudder at the thought. And yet, we demonize all sorts of groups of people just because of the actions of a few, or their words/stories taken out of context.
It kind of reminds me of a story in scripture where even Jesus’ encounter with another leaves us wondering. In Mark 7:26-29 we find the following encounter. “The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”“Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.” Jesus initially came with a message for the Jews and even seemed apprehensive at getting involved with a Greek/Gentile woman. But all the same as her imploring took on a note of a plea for compassion, we see Jesus attitude towards her change and he relents and brings healing to this woman’s house. Now I realize that some of this is up for interpretation and debate, but doesn’t it seem like Jesus perception of this non-Israelite was changed by the above encounter? And if God allows change to occur in his human interactions then how much more should we?
What I guess I am saying is this…We should never alienate or distance someone until we know their whole story. You never know how someone may have been judged or mistreated all because of an off-chance word or misaligned ideology. We are all God’s children and Christ has died for all. So shouldn’t we be willing to extend arms of grace and fellowship to all? And maybe that is as simple as hearing the whole story…
* Psalm 137:8-9 Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who repays you according to what you have done to us.9 Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks. This verse is of course alluding to the judgment of Babylon for all they had done to Israel, but still tough to read.