I don’t know about you, but I used to wonder every time I read news about representatives of the different faiths affirming their commitment to Singapore’s religious harmony.
I’d ask myself: How could these people who believed in different gods find any common ground? As a Christian, would I stand on that stage? And would I be compromising my faith to God if I did so?
This was what happened last week, when more than 250 organisations from the various religions here pledged their commitment to religious harmony. What, I wondered again, should a Christian think of this?
I suppose there will always be divided thoughts on this, and I would hesitate to suggest that there are any “correct” or “wrong” answers.
A mature Christian who is a leader in his church, however, offered this perspective.
As a Christian, we are called to love and to help people, no matter whom they believe in. Jesus underlined this principle in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), which showed that the true “neighbour” was the one who showed mercy to the needy robbery victim—not necessarily a fellow believer. It is also significant that Jesus’ second great commandment is “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:39)—and not, for instance, “Love your churchmate”.
Loving others, I believe, includes respecting who they are and their right to worship, even when our beliefs differ. As Bishop Terry Kee, the President of the National Council of Churches of Singapore, noted after last week’s event, “We always affirm that it is our right to embrace our faith, to practise and also to propagate (it). However, we have no right to denigrate or ridicule other faiths.”
Jesus himself showed this principle in his interaction with non-believers. He always sought to show love first, rather than draw lines between people because of beliefs
Veteran Sri Lankan pastor Ajith Fernando, who has operated in a multi-religious society for many years, notes that Christians have been given the freedom to worship in many countries, and this is something we should be thankful for. “Would it not be right for us to do to others this thing that we wish for them to do to us?” he asks, citing Matthew 7:12 in his book, Sharing the Truth in Love. “Our belief in the truth of the gospel does not mean that we should deny people of other faiths the freedom to worship and share their faith,” he stresses. “In fact, Christians should defend the rights of those of other faiths.”
As the Christian leader I spoke to also pointed out, if we are ever-ready to show Christ’s love in practical ways to whomever we meet, we will be faithful witnesses to the God we worship. Perhaps our Christlike behaviour will make them curious enough to ask us about our faith one day. That will be our opportunity to “give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have… with gentleness and respect”
(1 Peter 3:15). —Leslie Koh
Lord, help me to show Your unconditional, grace-filled love
to Your people, whom You have created.
Let my actions and words reflect Your love for them.
Loving our neighbour means… loving everyone