A friend of mine, a rabbi, said to me some time ago: “This world is troubling. You better start bringing more Jesus to the table.” I thought it was an interesting remark, coming from a leader of another Faith. I responded lightly, and he countered seriously: “I mean it, Michael. I keep talking about what Judaism says about Peace. My friends who are Imams keep talking about what Islam says about Peace. We’re counting on you to bring Jesus to the table. He talked about Peace, right?” Right! As Christians, we are called upon to bring Jesus to the table – and especially all He said about things like, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”
I appreciated the wisdom of my friend. He reminded me that all people of Faith choose a path to leads them to God. In our Tradition, the spiritual path we have chosen is the life and teachings of Jesus. Jesus is the window through which we try to see God and thus to find the life, hope, wholeness, life beyond death, meaning, and peace that God wants for us. Other faiths look through other windows (the teachings of Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, etc.) all in search for the same things. We honor all those traditions while hopefully taking our own as seriously as others take theirs.
The late Gerald Kennedy said once that he sometimes heard people refer to themselves as “sort of a Christian.” As a leader with The World Council of Churches, he noted that he always found that statement odd. “Across my life,” he said, “I have worked arm-in-arm with leaders of all the world’s great Faiths, and I have never heard anyone say, `I’m sort of a Muslim,’ `I’m sort of a Jew,’ `I’m sort of a Hindu,’ or `I’m sort of a Buddhist’. Being sort of a Christian,” he said, “means claiming to believe in Jesus without ever paying much attention to what He said or stood for.” Sometimes other Faith leaders challenge us at the point of taking our own Faith seriously. “You better start bringing more Jesus to the table.”
I have a Muslim friend who sometimes worships at Marble. I asked him once if all the “Jesus talk” didn’t bother him, and he answered: “Many of us Muslims take Jesus more seriously than some of you Christians do.” That was similar to what Gerald Kennedy said. Jesus and His mother, Mary, show up in the Quran. Likewise, Hebrew Scriptures are filled with references to the long-awaited and long-desired Messiah. When He got here Jesus, the Jewish Rabbi, clearly honored that tradition and said: “I have come not to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it.” Jesus quoted Confucius. Jesus is mentioned as “Messiah” in Hindu Scriptures. Buddhist writings five hundred years before Jesus talked about “the coming Holy One,” The Messiah. As Gerald Kennedy and my Muslim friend pointed out, other global Faith systems respect and honor the teachings of Jesus... sometimes, sadly, perhaps even more than some Christians do. Even many atheists, agnostics, and deists are quick to confess that though they do not call Him “Messiah,” they still believe that He was a great Teacher Whose philosophy of life and love have the power to turn hatred into peace if we would simply listen and seek to live as He instructed.
So, as people committed to a multi-Faith approach to building community and establishing peace, is there some reasonable way to pursue those goals? I think the answer for us as Christians is to learn and live the teachings of Christ. Or, as my rabbi friend put it, we need to bring more Jesus to the table.