(I haven’t blogged in awhile because I’ve had this post on my mind. I had a longer post written, but I decided to cut back on it. Keeping it short. Well, short by my standards!)
Thinking out loud here.
Recently, I was walking the halls of Christ Community Church
during Sunday morning services. An individual stopped me to ask if I was a friends with Beth Katz
. There was some concern there. Why? Well, Beth is Jewish. She’s also the Founder and Executive Director of Project Interfaith
There was concern, apparently, since Beth tweeted some positive comments
about me. Why would someone who is Jewish, who runs an interfaith organization, be positive about a Christian? The thinking then goes that I, Robert, must be watering down what I believe if Beth were to have a positive impression about me. That’s one of the things I took from the conversation I had in the hallway that recent Sunday morning.
(Unless there is any more concern from other Christians, I will be clear. Jesus is my Lord and savior. I believe in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. I believe the Bible. I advocate John 14:6
and Matthew 28:18-20
. I’m a former missionary and a licensed and ordained pastor.)
Beth and I connected at Big Omaha. We made plans to meet in the following weeks. We met up, and shared our stories. Stories of faith and how we ended up working at our current jobs. It was a great discussion. I found out more about the work Beth is doing in the community. We talked about our respective organization’s efforts in helping and serving the community.
We met up again, recently, and this time I had one of my coworkers, Tim Perry, come along as well. We had another great discussion on Omaha, engaging cultures, Judaism and Christianity.
Why say any of this? Not sure entirely. I just know Beth is my friend. Being her friend doesn’t mean I water down what I believe, nor does it mean I expect her to believe what I believe. I have lots of friends who believe different things than me. They have different backgrounds, come from different cultures and look quite differently than me. If someone takes issue with me being a friend with Beth, being a friend with someone who is Jewish, being a friend with someone who is different than me, that’s their deal.
Omaha is a diverse place. If we’re going to engage and impact the community, we’re going to work with some people who don’t believe/look/think like us. Are you willing to do that? Am I? I’d like to think I am. I am challenged in this at times. I’m challenged when I have conversations with John Heaston, or when I see the life of Ron Dotzler. Because I realize I have a long ways to go when I see and hear the examples of their lives.
Why am I trying to engage the culture and society around me? Is it to do it so I feel better about myself? I can pat myself on the back and put a star by my name? I did my Christian duty by making an appearance with someone in another part of town? Or, is it for something better and greater than me? Is it for someone else in the community? Is it for someone else across the city, in a neighborhood vastly different than mine? Do I have the interests of Omaha, and its people, in mind? Is it because I’ve been transformed by the life and love of Jesus, and I want to reflect that to others in the community through my life?
When you engage with people from different religious and cultural backgrounds, it can be tricky at times. You may say or do some idiotic things. You may accidentally offend someone. You may be challenged on what you believe and why. Press on and press in. Don’t give up. Don’t detach and live in a bubble. You’ll be better for it.
Thinking out loud. Thanks for reading.