Can a Christian encourage violence and hatred?
This past Sunday our Gospel passage was taken from the 22nd chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel. In that passage Jesus is asked about the Commandments and what the greatest commandment of the law was. Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the Prophets.” This is the basis of our Christian faith.
Last week, a pastor from Florida announced that on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks he was going to hold a Koran burning on the lawn of the church. He said that he is doing this as a warning to the Muslims around the world that we want no part of your faith or your laws. General David Patraeus, Commanding General of the American Armed forces in Afghanistan, has made a statement that if this proposed burning takes place it could very well lead to the deaths of US Service men and women serving in Afghanistan as well as other locations in the Middle East.
We enjoy freedoms in America that others do not enjoy: freedom to practice our religion and yes freedom of speech and expression. These freedoms are held in almost a sacred fashion and allow us to practice our faith as we wish. But with freedom comes a moral responsibility and if our actions will or potentially cause harm to others then we should not perform that action. The burning of the Koran on September 11th will only fuel anti American sentiment around the world and place our citizens in danger.
In view of the passage quoted above, we are commanded by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to love our neighbor. The actions of this pastor in Florida will not further the love of Jesus Christ but only spawn hatred and hatred is not an element of the Christian Faith. Hatred is a destructive force and blackens the soul. We must work to get rid of hatred from our life. We received the commandment to love our neighbor and treat our neighbor as we wish to be treated.
As we pause to remember those who gave their life on September 11, 2001 and those who have given their lives in defense of freedom around the world since, let us pray for a better understanding of who our neighbor is so we may love him as Christ is commanding us to do.
† Archbishop NICOLAE