My thoughts on the Pastor McConnell Controversy

29 May 2014

"Jesus replied: "Love The Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment, and the second is like it: "Love your neighbour as yourself." All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" Matthew 22: 37-40

I posted a short response from the Methodist church in Ireland and some personal responses to the debate sparked by Pastor McConnell's remarks last Friday. I find myself this morning wanting to move to action, and thinking and praying about what loving God and loving neighbour looks like in this context.

"Love the Lord your God" Clearly Christianity and Islam differ and differ profoundly theologically. I believe that Jesus is the unique Son of God and it is through Jesus' life death and resurrection that human beings can know salvation and fullness of life, that is the view from where I stand. However the crucial issue in this debate is not on whether we differ, we do, and all should be able to voice difference. But, difference must be voiced respectfully and in the context of real relationships. As I said last week this debate challenges all of us to get to know those with whom we differ, to build friendships. It is in the context of those friendships that we can learn from each other, ask questions of each other, talk about our faith and talk about differences.

I thank God for those of you whom those relationships and friendships are the stuff of normal life. Thank you too to those who have been in touch, publicly or quietly with Muslim neighbours over this last week.

"Love your neighbour as yourself" Loving my neighbour means praying for her or him; it means being respectful: it means watching the language I use: it means being practically helpful. I believe that all of these things apply to my Muslim neighbours and all of them also apply to Pastor McConnell. While we may disagree no-one should be demonised. God loves all people.

Loving my neighbour also means caring about Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag in Sudan who had a baby girl last Tuesday and who has been sentenced to death by a Sharia court for refusing to denounce Christianity. This is wrong. But making this point and making it clearly does not make it alright to build suspicion about Muslim neighbours.

Beyond all the talk, how might we show love for God and neighbour today?

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