60/366 - we like our cats, what can I say? alternately titled: these pictures aren't going to match the post, so get used to it.
Miroslav Volf began with some provocative thoughts on violence and faith. He told about a friend who has commissioned a study on the "body count" over the centuries for the world's major religions: how many people have been killed in the name of a particular faith? According to him, Islam ranks third, Christianity is first. Volf asked if violence is the bastardization of religion.
We know that Christians serve, but we also know that violence has been done in the name of Christianity. We live in an inter-connected world and must know how to relate to others without violence.
Then he spoke from I Peter 2:17, on the small text: Honor everyone.
Honor, he said, is treating another person as those who are created in the image of God and who are loved by God. It is not simply tolerating the other person. It is more than respecting them.
Honor encompasses telling the truth to each other, but also hearing the truth of the other person.
The reach of God's love is the scope of our respect and honor.
This honoring presupposes that we can separate the doer from the deed. This is what all people who love each other do. He told the story of his little son, after hearing a fairy tale, asking if his dad would still love him if he had been turned into a donkey. What he was asking was, even if I look and act like a donkey, will I still be your son? Will you still love the me inside? This is what it means to love someone.
And we are to honor EVERYONE. There are no exceptions.
Volf talked about respecting other faiths and being willing to respect whatever truths we can find within them, even though the differences may be great. We can honor truth. In his research, he discovered this description of God tucked within some Islamic texts: God is "the forgiving God: One who conceals the ugly with His hand and makes manifest the beautiful."
~ My sixteen year old daughter was particularly struck by Volf's talk that night. She wrote the following piece and graciously allowed me to post it here. I think it beautifully and honestly examines the tensions that come when we seek to honor everyone. It was written after a group of us saw a young transgendered person on the train. I'd been on the other side, but I saw the young man's hesitancy to walk past the crowd of clean-cut, laughing kids that were with us. Later on, as we drove home, a boy in our group made a rude remark and started to laugh about the incident. My daughter's reaction is below:
Miroslav Volf said to honor everyone. It's in 1 Peter 2:17. Honor everyone, that simple.But when we got in the car after long hours of listening and scribbling and trying to claw on to something, you said those words, born from your long fear and lack of imagination, the judgement lying heavy under every syllable, and the words I said back killed me. They weren't eloquent phrases that said anything more than the obvious, but every person in the car heard what I heard: these were showing the unending back-and-forth of us, how I don't try hard enough, and you make it difficult, always. It was my own words that hurt, more than yours, even though you were the one that started it. I was so quick to leap on the speck that spilled off your tongue, running smack into the log out of my own mouth. I don't understand why you say these things when you know they hurt not only me, not only us, but the people that you talk about. You treat them like they don't really exist, as though they are silly figments drifting through your real world, placed there for you to mock. You do it so carelessly because you don't know the gravity of what you say. You don't know the kind of pain that judgement inflicts.I have been trying so hard to think outside of myself, to see people as people, as human beings, as images of God. I want to love more than hate because I have no right to do anything else. So many people need to know the God that I know, and I have no clue how else to show them, except to love.So when you said those two words, your tone all biting laughter, I got angry. I got angry because on that bus, when he walked by he met my eyes when I wouldn't look away as though I were ashamed. He met my eyes, and he dared me to judge him, the anger and bigotry of countless people welling up in his face. He knew what people thought when they saw him, but he couldn't have known when he looked at me that I wanted nothing more than to love him. I saw the pain that these judgements had caused him as the seed of his daring me, the root of his anger. He didn't know that I saw behind his facade for just the moment when our eyes met, and I was sorry for how I had treated him. I was-- I am --so sorry for the people like me who don't want to give him the time of day, even though Jesus loves him. For me, there is nothing else. If God has enough grace to forgive him for his mistakes, to forgive me for mine, than I can do no less. I am called to love, and to forgive.
That is why I snapped back at you when you spoke that phrase, because I knew how much he had been hurt already, and you wanted to do it again. But when my words stung me, I knew that I had done it wrong again; how could I forgive him, and not you? God loves not only the oppressed, but the oppressor as well. I have to believe that no matter who they are, what they have done, how they have trafficked and murdered and bought and sold and beaten and judged, God loves them. If He did not, then I would be nothing. I am the oppressor, every moment of my life. So if I am to honor everyone, how do I love not only those who have been taken advantage of, those who have been trampled on, but also those who did the trampling. Everyone needs love. I have to pray that God gives me the grace to not only love the downtrodden, but also the angry one. I cannot love only him, and hate you.
So forgive me, because I was hasty. Forgive me for not honoring.
God give me grace.