Love your neighbor, no exceptions

Coexisting means loving others, regardless of whether we agree with their worldview or religion.

Illustration+by+David+Rhee%2FTHE+CHIMES

Illustration by David Rhee/THE CHIMES

Catherine Streng, Writer

My friend Darla has a “Coexist” bumper sticker on the back of her car. Anyone behind her in traffic reads the word “coexist,” but upon closer inspection, they realize icons from different religions form the word itself. Darla, a Christian herself, wishes to promote peace among religions around the world. I do not know if a bumper sticker actually achieves that effect, but I know that through the power of the Holy Spirit we as Christians can successfully coexist with other religions.

AN ELITIST ATTITUDE

Christians know that without repenting from sin and accepting the power of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, one cannot go to heaven. We also know that anyone who believes otherwise will not gain eternal life. When we come across a person of another religion, scripture makes clear that we have no justification for treating a nonbeliever poorly, particularly if that person has never heard the Gospel. Nor does it mean we can look down upon them, especially since God created all humans equal in his image, as it says in Genesis 1:27.

Becoming a Christian does not make us better than non-Christians. We sin daily and repeat mistakes. We fall into temptation, make bad choices, harbor bitterness and resentment, and pass judgment while engaging in a multitude of other shortcomings that plague the human race. So what makes the difference between us and other humans who follow different religions? While humanity as a whole recognizes their mistakes, Christians have the opportunity to ask humbly for forgiveness from God. No Christian deserves the mercy God gives us, but we gain it through Christ. Though we will go to heaven when we die, while on this Earth, we do not get to use our standing before God as a free pass to treat others with disdain or disregard or think of ourselves as superior to unbelievers.

LOVING OTHERS AS GOD LOVES US

We know God loves everyone, equally and wholly. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, according to Romans 3:23. So when God commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves, he did not mean only our Christian neighbors. He included all people. We coexist by loving because God is love.

Many worldviews believe something directly contrary to Christianity. My Jewish friend does not view Jesus as the Messiah. My agnostic friend believes we cannot know any divine being that may exist. Despite our differences in conviction, I consider them some of my greatest and closest friends. I do not think of myself as more loved by God or as better than them. We do not need to accept or agree with their beliefs to love them, especially since giving acceptance would mean we do not take our own beliefs seriously, but love and agreeance can be separate actions. Just because they err in embracing a false religion does not mean they should be marginalized or mistreated.

God loves the Jew, the Muslim, the atheist, the Wiccan and the Christian all the same. And so should we.

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