How do I love my neighbour? Well, a good start would be to have a conversation. A respectful conversation in which I try to hear and understand what is important to my neighbour.
I spent today in a conversation between 15 Muslim scholars and 15 Uniting Church ministers. (We also prayed together and shared a wonderful lunch.)
The focus of our conversation was the document known as “A Common Word”. It was published as an open letter from an group of eminent Muslim scholars to church leaders throughout the world. It recognises that Muslims and Christians make up most of the human population and that, consequently, there can be no meaningful peace in the world without peace between Muslims and Christians. But it argues that:
“The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbour.”
It’s an important and helpful document, and I’d encourage you to read it.
Australia is increasingly multicultural and multi-faith. And that is sometimes experienced as a source of tension, or even conflict. So it was an act of service to Australia, the country that we have in common, for us to come together to listen to and try to understand each other better.
As I approached this conversation I couldn’t help but think of the words of the Apostle Paul: “Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8)
Listening to each other with respect and trying to understand each other better is an act of practical love. The sort of thing that St. Paul constantly called the early Christians to do. If nothing else, this day was an act of obedience to the call and command of God:
In the words of Jesus, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”.
In the words of the Prophet Mohammad, “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbour what you love for yourself”.
There are Christians who will disapprove of this conversation. There are Muslims who will too. But there is no question that Christians and Muslims are neighbours in Australia today. There is no question that Christians and Muslims are commanded by God to love their neighbours. And there is no question that 15 Christians and 15 Muslims were blessed today as we spoke, listened, ate and prayed together – loving one another as neighbours.