No doubt, many of us hold our religious beliefs close to our heart. We all harbor a certain self-righteousness- we know what we believe and no one can tell us otherwise. Even if we believe that there is no God.
In just about every religion, there is some sort of directive or at least desire to make converts. Jesus at one point sends his disciples out with the command to spread the gospel, to evangelize, but also to shake the dust off their feet and move on if people didn’t welcome them.
There is no mention that I am aware of that directs these messengers to make converts at any cost and by any means including coercion, threats, intimidation, and heartless violence. What kind of convert can one expect to gain by employing such means? What kind of god rewards such behavior? Or is even worth worshiping?
One could say Jesus was a martyr, too. He died for his faith, out of conviction, obedient to the end. He, too, wielded a sword, though it took the form of words that cut like a knife, and actions that simultaneously enraged some and brought many others to faith.
Jesus was motivated by love. He embodied love. One would be hard pressed to say the same about acts of terrorism. Those who would make themselves judge, jury, and executioner are not motivated by love, but by something more primal, less evolved, and much less useful.
As we soon arrive at Christmas, we may be reminded of the words from Isaiah 9: “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace“- an Old Testament text that Christians have appropriated as being descriptive of Jesus, who wouldn’t come along for another 600 years or so.
In any event, may the coming season both alert us to Jesus’ coming and his presence among us, as we yearn and search for that peace that surpasses all understanding.