My son John, a six grader, started confirmation last Fall. As a parent, I have accompanied him and participated with him in the confirmation class from the beginning. In January and February, the confirmation students and parents took three field trips to visit three houses of worship: the Congregation Brith Shalom, the River Oaks Islamic Center, the ChristChurch Presbyterian. At each house of worship, one or two spiritual leaders spent ninety minutes to two hours with us, explaining to us their religious beliefs and practices, answering questions that we had about their faith traditions. I’d like to say these three visits were truly eye-opening experiences. To walk into difference worship spaces with different religious symbols has made me more aware of my Lutheran Christian identity. At the same time, to listen to and converse with religious leaders who share with us their unique understandings of God and life has also led me to affirm the common spiritual identity that I have shared with all people. That is, all human beings are children of God regardless of our different faith traditions and cultural, ethnic backgrounds.
In Genesis 2, God first created Adam. In Gospel of Luke, the author traces the genealogy of Jesus all the way back to Adam, and then ultimately to God. Why is that? One Jewish tradition explains this way:
For this reason a single human being only was created at the time of Creation: to teach you that whoever destroys a single life, Scripture reckons it to him as though he had destroyed a whole world; and whoever saves a single life, Scripture reckons it to him as though he had saved a whole world.
Also for the sake of peace among human beings, so that a man should not say to his fellow: “My father is greater than your father.”
Also to prevent the heretics from saying that there are many divine powers in heaven, each one responsible for the creation of a different human being.
And also to proclaim the greatness of the Holy One, praised by He. If a human being stamps several coins with the same die, they all resemble one another. But the King of the kings of kings, the Holy One, praised be he, stamps all human beings with the die of the first man; and yet not one of them resembles the other. (Jakob J. Petuchowski, Our Masters Taught: Rabbinic Stories and Sayings, by, p. 15)
We Christians believe Jesus is the descendent of Adam. When we read the stories of how Jesus Christ treated people with different ethnic, religious backgrounds and moral standings, it becomes imperative that we need to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and affirm the dignity and value of every human being. We are to affirm that everyone is a child of God, everyone is a brother or sister of Jesus Christ, and therefore everyone belongs to a single family—the family of God. In this big family of God, we all are brothers and sisters. A tale from Hindu tradition goes like this:
A Guru asked his disciples how they could tell when the night had ended and the day begun.
One said, “When you see an animal in the distance and can tell whether it is a cow or a horse.”
“No,” said the Guru.
“When you look at a tree in the distance and can tell if it is a neem tree or a mango tree.”
“wrong again,” said the Guru.
“Well, then, what is it?” asked his disciples.
“When you look into the face of any man and recognize your brother in him; when you look into the face of any woman and recognize in her your sister. If you cannot do this, no matter what time it is by the sun, it is still night.” (Anthony De Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, p. 161)
Jesus is the light of world. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5). “but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Now, let us think about it and ask ourselves:
- What are the sins that we need to be cleansed from?
- What are the ideologies that divide people instead of uniting people, exclude people instead of welcome people?
- What are the racist and nationalist slogans that put one group of people above and over the rest of humanity?
- What are the political, religious, moral prejudices and judgements that cause more conflicts and divisions in the family of God?
Let us ask God to forgive and cleanse our sins. Let us work together in the ministry of reconciliation—to be reconciled with God, to be reconciled with one another. Let us practice in our personal and public life the spiritual truth that is taught in the Scripture: “for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28)
(This article was published in Mountain Mover (March, 2019), the newsletter of Faith Lutheran Church, Bellaire, TX,