I know, I know - I dropped a little bit of a bomb into yesterday's post. Don't worry; I fully intend to go back and blow that up, but not today. (Maybe tomorrow.)
Today, I want to talk about a difference between the Christian faith and the other faiths that are out therein our world, stemming from the same event that triggered the interview with the pastor discussed yesterday. This pastor was not the only faith leader with whom the local media was talking. That's because several of the victims of this tragic events were members of the local Sikh community. So of course, we got to hear from the Sikh leaders.
Now, I recognize that the Sikh faith is not one that we hear about a lot in our dominant culture, so it's a bit of a mystery to many. So let me start by saying that I have had the opportunity to have several interactions with the local Sikh community and they are a kind, welcoming, gentle people who work hard, love their families, and invest themselves in the communities in which they live (both faith communities and secular communities). I have not a single bad thing to say about the Sikhs with whom I have had the privilege of actually having real-life interactions. And to add to that, every single Sikh I have ever met has invited me with open arms to come and worship with them. This is just the kind of people that they are.
That said, there remain some fundamental differences between the Christian faith and the Sikh faith, and one of those stuck out to me as I listened to this Sikh leader speak on the local news. He was talking about how their community was coming together to support the families of those lost. Specifically, they were working to make sure that the families knew they were not alone and "working to make sure they get all of the government benefits that they are eligible for."
This is where Christians come up against that fine line of being in the world but not of the world. This is where we all dance that fine line between faith and culture.
On one hand, one of the benefits of having a benevolent government is that it is there to help us (sort of) in our times of need. The government doesn't have a lot of pure handouts in this case, but the assistance they can provide is fundamentally different than we often find in the private sector. On the other hand, the church is called to provide more benevolence to her communities than even the government can provide. And the truth is that if we are the kind of community that God calls us to be, then we don't need what the government is offering. At least, we shouldn't need it.
So to hear this faith leader proclaim, unashamedly, that part of his faith's response to tragedy was to work the channels and ensure that his people received everything they were due, everything the government had to offer them, was striking. What was more striking was that it seemed to be the only tangible assistance he referred to at all when talking about his community's response for these families. He never once indicated that their community was taking food to these families or helping with funeral expenses or making arrangements for widows or anything. He said they were grieving with the families and working to secure them government benefits. (And to be honest, I'm not sure what government benefits are available for a tragedy like this one.)
I mention it, again, not to paint the Sikh faith in a bad light; that's not the point at all. Rather, what I want to do is to highlight the differences between the Christian faith and the other faiths that are out there. I want to believe, in my heart, that the Christian church's response to this would be vastly different than the Sikh response. I want to believe we would show up with pot roasts and lasagnas, with tissues and tears, with donations for funeral expenses and arrangements of flowers. I want to believe that we would rally around our families, gather around our widows, be powerfully present in the lives of our grieving as we actively grieve with them and that we would not be looking for hand outs, but instead, holding our hands out. That's who God has called us to be, isn't it? That's how He wants us loving one another, isn't it?
It's important how we respond in moments like these. It's important what our community does in times like these. Part of our witness to the world is what we do next, what we do now. And here we have one of those moments when it's time for us to show the world the difference that Jesus makes in our lives. Not just in our individual lives, but in our collective lives. In our community of faith. In our community at large.
There's a fundamental difference between the Christian faith and others. Do you see it?