Inoffensive Faith

November 24, 2012

Excerpt from John 3:31-36

"The one whom God sent speaks God's words because God gives the Spirit generously."

Reflection by William C. Green

I find friends unwilling to sing the national anthem in the name of the world jumpy and judgmental. I've come to find Christians unwilling to speak of Jesus for the sake of not offending others similarly narrow-minded. I'm reminded of an old Pogo cartoon where Pogo says, "I love the world. It's people I hate."

Thinking generally of oneself and others is easier than being particular about what distinguishes us. I'm complicit in this common phenomenon. Working now for a Muslim leader who, like me, cares about prayer, she stopped me once amid a prayer when she could tell I wasn't going to mention Jesus. Thinking this dishonest she simply said, "Be who you are."

Jesus is "our" Lord and Savior and "the one whom God sent" as we Christians understand this. Those of different faiths or none are not hereby coerced or coopted into identifying themselves the same way. Whatever the history of Christian imperialism, we paternalize others today when we try to take care of their feelings at the expense of forgetting who we are.

Calling Jesus "the Way, Truth, and Life" makes him more compelling, at least to us - and less defensive - when we remember that Jesus' way is "narrow" only for those who limit God's Spirit to their way, truth, and life not that of Jesus; those who say "my way or the highway."

Our job is not to spread the word Jesus around but to welcome God's Spirit around, energized by the generosity we find in Jesus. That Spirit is palpable not just doctrinal; inclusive, not sectarian or monocultural. I keep discovering this the more I pay attention to Jesus and remember who I am - not when, playing God, I pay more attention to others and presume to take care of their feelings.

Prayer

Anchor me in the Spirit of Jesus knowing this makes me more generous, and honest, with others. Amen.

About the Author
William C. Green is Vice-President for Strategy and Development, Moral Courage Project, NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and the author of 52 Ways to Ignite Your Congregation: Generous Giving.

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