Friday, August 29, 2014

Greed Prevents Generosity and Community

Any casual reader of the Gospels will know that Jesus had a great deal to say about wealth and possessions and our proper response to them. In fact, he had more to say about the subject of money and care for the poor than any other subject.

Jesus constantly provoked his hearers with radical ideas about wealth and possessions; ideas so radical that we still attempt to explain them away or ignore them altogether. But, at the heart of his message was a strong warning against greed.

Defining a term like greed can be somewhat difficult. After all, greed can be understood in fairly relative terms. At some level all of us are greedy. So, a clear definition of the term greed is quite difficult to pin down.

But I think we can at least come to some level of an understanding of the concept of greed from the point of view of Jesus. To do so, we need to see greed along two intersecting planes: The vertical and the horizontal.

The vertical plane of greed is our greed in terms of our relationship to God. When we are greedy toward God, that is, when we desire more and more wealth and possessions, we put these things in the place of God.

We make wealth an idol and we serve mammon as our god. This is what Jesus warns us against when he states that we cannot serve both God and wealth (Luke16:13) , for one will always come before the other in receiving our devotion. It is this kind of greed that most Christians associate with sin; greed is putting material things before God.

But, although we might find this vertical plane of greed convicting, we also believe it to be manageable. We believe this kind of greed is more easily overcome through our words that convince us that we are not guilty of the sin of greed.

The remedy we have for greed against God is just to say to ourselves, and to God, that we do not put wealth and possessions in place of God; mammon is not our idol. After all, many of us do not consider ourselves wealthy in the first place, so how could we put our wealth before God when we do not see ourselves as wealthy? And those Christians who are wealthy simply argue that they have been blessed by God with their wealth.

Moreover, we quickly defend our innocence of vertical greed by saying that we always put God first. We pray, we attend worship, we do good things, and here is the big one, we tithe, perhaps even more than 10%. Yes, many, if not all of us, would quickly say that we are not guilty of greed against God, for wealth is not our idol.

The other intersecting plane, however, is what catches us. And this is perhaps why Jesus has more to say about our holding possessions in light of the plight of the poor. The horizontal plane is our greed in relation to our fellow human beings.

Just as Jesus stated that the two greatest commandments, to love both God and our neighbors, are of equal value, so Scripture is also clear that greed is not only sin because we put wealth and possessions in place of God, but also, and perhaps an even greater sin, because it prevents us from sharing with others who are in need.

As John rightly asks, “How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” John’s rhetorical question implies that one cannot logically say they love God and also withhold aid from those in need.

So, although we can rationalize that we are not greedy because we do not put possessions in the place reserved for God, our hoarding and not sharing with others reveals our true spirit of greed toward others and toward God.

When we hoard our wealth and possessions, however large or small that amount is, we neglect the needs of those who are in great need. Doing this is the tell-tale sign of where our hearts really are.

Greed is caused by placing inappropriate value on possessions that lead us to rationalize why we need this new thing or that new thing. Once we begin to make such rationalizations, we become trapped in an uncontrollable sequence of desiring more, obtaining more, and then desiring more.

But if we repent of our vertical greed toward God and our horizontal greed toward others, our perspective and the use of our possessions can change. We can begin to see the essential worth of possessions primarily as God’s gracious gifts given to meet our basic needs, and not as things we cling to. Such a perspective sets us free from the need to want more, and we can reject wealth as an idol in order to serve God fully.

Moreover, if we change our perspective of possessions to be the things that meet our basic needs, we can also act more generously toward those who are in much greater need than we are. We can share our money and possessions with the hurting in our neighborhoods, our communities, and indeed across the globe.

I once preached at a church in which the following served as the Prayer of Confession:

O God, Source of all that makes life possible, Giver of all that makes life good, we gather to give you our thanks. Yet we confess that we have often failed to live thankful lives: What we have we take for granted, and we grumble about what we lack. We have squandered your bounty with little thought for those who will come after us. We are more troubled by the few who have more than we do, than by the many who have so much less.

What struck me the most about this prayer was the last sentence: “We are more troubled by the few who have more than we do, than by the many who have so much less.” Unfortunately, in the current economic state of our nation, the latter group is growing larger and is increasingly being neglected.
Greed is a desire to have what others have. When we cannot, we become jealous of their riches. But Jesus calls us to reverse our gaze by turning from our desire to have what others have, to notice and serve those who have less. In doing so, we will not only find healing from greed; we will also become more generous towards and find community with the people with whom Jesus found community.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Jesus' Experience of God and his Vocation as God's Agent

In recent post I wrote about the importance of Jesus’ own faith in God. The question that might follow up this post concerns the origin of Jesus’ faith in God.

Did Jesus have an innate faith in God or did Jesus come to faith in God?

Of course, if we consider the traditional Christian understanding of Jesus as being God in human flesh, then the question might be easier to answer: Jesus was God, and thus any faith in God flowed from his own knowledge of his being God. Yet, this seems too easy of a step, and makes it more difficult to affirm Jesus’ own monotheism or his submission to God.

This is not to suggest that earliest Christians did not affirmed him as God, for, as my Ph.D. mentor, Larry Hurtado has argued, earliest Christian worship of Jesus was incorporated into their worship of God, which is evidence that they believed something about Jesus’ divine nature. (See Hurtado's How on Earth Did Jesus Become God?: Historical Questions about Earliest Devotion to Jesus.) 

But, we would be hard pressed to find clear evidence of Jesus directly referring to himself as God. Indeed, Jesus seems to affirm his humanity as the Son of Man who has the power to do what God can do.

So, the question might be how the human Jesus found his faith in God and not only where his faith came from, but how he knew the will of God for himself.

There are many things we could say about Jesus, but one significant point that is certain was that Jesus was a first century Jew. Most Christians, of course, might know that Jesus was Jewish, but they may see Jesus’ Jewish faith and identity only as a precursor to his founding of the Christian faith. Yet, Jesus was thoroughly Jewish and remained so throughout his life.

As a Jew, Jesus held in common with other Jews that the God of Israel was the supreme God who had chosen Israel and had redeemed them out of Egypt. Jesus, like many of the Jews of his day, was looking for God’s new redemption of Israel from the chains of their oppressors. He was looking for a New Exodus, not from the enemies in Egypt, but from the power of Rome.

He accepted the traditions passed down through Israel’s history that God had set Israel apart as God’s people and had made a covenant with them to be their God. He also believed that Israel had lost her way, as the prophets testified, and that Israel’s current plight would only be ended by an act of God.
So, at one level Jesus’ consciousness of God was influenced by his own religious tradition.

Yet, we also must consider that Jesus’ awareness of God, and thus his own faith in God, was also greatly informed by his own experience of God. Indeed, though he, like many Jews of his day, believed God would redeem Israel from Roman oppression, it seems that through his own personal experience of God, Jesus took on this vocation as his very own mission.

While we can point to various events in the life of Jesus that shaped his experience and understanding of God, as well as his own understanding of himself, including his upbringing under the weight of poverty and injustice and his constant encounter with the suffering of his own people, the Gospels suggest that one specific event seems to have played a particular role in forming his own vocation as God’s envoyThe baptism by John that is found in the Synoptic Gospels is that event.

In his own baptism, Jesus witnessed the opening of heaven and heard God’s affirmation that he was God’s beloved son. Perhaps in hearing this declaration from God, Jesus interpreted this as God’s commission for him to live out his identity as God’s chosen agent, the one sent to bring judgment on God’s enemies of unjust power and oppression, and restoration to God’s people.

It is hard to say exactly what happened at the baptism of Jesus, but it does seem that he had some sort of experience of God, whether we can corroborate this or not. This religious experience perhaps gave affirmation to Jesus about who he needed to be and what he needed to do.

But, in his experience of God, Jesus became cognizant of a God that could not be strictly defined by his Jewish tradition. While he accepted the traditional Jewish views of God (e.g. monotheism and covenant), he also gained through his own experience of God an alternative to the tradition.

So what did Jesus believe about God?  

Of course, there may be many things he believed about God, but foremost in Jesus’ mind was the belief that God was presently acting in the world to bring about something new that would radically shift the Judaism of his day.

Nothing clarifies this more than Jesus’ announcement that the kingdom of God had come near.Jesus believed that God was not simply the God of Israel’s historyRather, Jesus’ God was now present in 
the world, working outside the religious establishment of Judaism, overthrowing the powers of evil, and establishing God’s own rule.

Jesus believed that God was inaugurating a new order in the world, one that reversed the oppressive power of injustice and inaugurated a world of compassion, justice, and peace. Jesus acted on this understanding of God by taking on this vocation.

His miracles serve as vivid metaphors of God’s power to release the captives and to overthrow the powers of the world, and his teachings proclaimed a new ethic that he believed would continue to bring order and justice to creation through the living of his followers.

Thusfrom his own experience of God, which precipitated his own faith in God, Jesus worked outside the religious establishment of Jerusalem, and lived out his vocation as the envoy of God’s rule.

Perhaps viewing Jesus as taking on the vocation of God through his experience of God is a better way to talk about Jesus as God.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Jesus Defined Life as Living in the Presence of the Living God

Jesus consistently engaged in debate with Israel’s two main religious-political parties: the Pharisees and the Sadducees. These two groups, both important to first century Judaism, were similar in many aspects, but they did differ on several issues. One crucial theological point on which they certainly disagreed was the idea of resurrection. While the Pharisees did hold to a belief in the resurrection of the dead, the Sadducees did not believe that such a resurrection would occur.

In Mark 12:18-27 we are specifically told that the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, and in being told this, we know exactly why this group of religious leaders come to debate theology with Jesus. They come to argue with Jesus not in an attempt to discover theological truth.  They come to Jesus for the sole purpose of entrapping Jesus by forcing him to answer a conundrum about brothers, marriage, death, and resurrection.

When I read about these encounters Jesus has with religious leaders, encounters he surely knows are motivated by aims of trickery, I often wonder why he would even give them the time of day. After all, was his mission as the one sent from God to waste time debating with theologians who remained embedded in their traditions and who refused to believe that God could speak and work outside of those traditions? Was not his mission toward the poor, the outcast, the sick, and the oppressed, and if so, why does he spend any time debating and arguing with either the Sadducees or Pharisees?

There is a fundamental question that underlies every debate Jesus had with any group of religious leaders. Every discussion, every debate, every argument, whether instigated by Jesus or the religious leaders, centers on this one question: Who speaks with the authority of Israel’s God? And over and over, every one of the debates raises the next logical question concerning the nature of God. Whether the debate is over the Sabbath, purity laws, or paying taxes to Caesar, the underlying argument is over who speaks for God and who defines the nature and purposes of God.

I think this helps us see why Jesus engages in debates and arguments with these religious leaders when he certainly had better and more important things to do with his time. He argues with them about the nature of God, because for him, God is the ultimate reality that gives meaning to human existence, and he understood this not simply because of his place among the people of Israel, but perhaps more fully through his own experience of God.

Let’s suppose Jesus did not believe God to be the ultimate reality that defines human existence. Suppose he was just another good person with certain powers to heal people, which he chose to do frequently. Yet, in healing these people, what life would he be offering to them if he was not also offering them the essence of what it means to be human? 

In other words, while his healings would have been physically beneficial to those who were sick, if such physical healings did not also encompass the reality of God as the one who gives, sustains, and blesses life, such healings would fall short of the restoration to full humanity. Healing is not simply the absence of physical amelioration. Healing is the holistic union of a person’s body, mind, and soul that returns them to the unity and peace of the original creation. Healing involves the whole of a person restored to wholeness.

And this is why this particular debate between Jesus and the Sadducees is so important. They have not come to discover theological truth from Jesus. Nor have they come with open hearts and open minds. Indeed, they have come only to trap Jesus into admitting there is no resurrection. Yet, in a turn of events even Jesus’ interrogators could not foresee, Jesus offers a rebuttal to which they have no answer, and which defines the true meaning of life.

The problem in this debate is a disagreement over definition. While the Sadducees defined life as living as flesh and blood humans in this world until death ends this life, Jesus defined life in terms of relationship to God. For the Sadducees, life ends at death. But in their preoccupation with the dead, they have missed the theological truth that God is not the God of the dead; God is the God of the living.

When Jesus says that God is not the God of the dead, he is not saying that God has stopped being God to those who have experienced physical death. He is saying that God cannot be God of that which is dead, for God is not dead; God is living. Likewise, God is not the God of the living because the living are alive. God is the God of the living because God is the living God.

Jesus once stated that he had come to give life more abundantly. In other words, he defined his mission not only as imparting life to all who believed, but also as imparting a life of fullness and wholeness. And for Jesus, who believed and followed the God of the living, this meant not only the absence of death, but the presence of the living God in the life of the believer.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Importance of Jesus' Faith in God for Discipleship

The narrative structure of Mark’s Gospel has fascinated me for years. Unlike Matthew and Luke, the two Gospels most similar to Mark, Mark does not begin with any birth narrative. Instead, Mark begins with Jesus’ baptism, and then follows Jesus as he proclaims the kingdom of God and offers healing as a sign of God’s coming rule until he reaches Jerusalem, where he is crucified.
Given this structure, it is very conceivable that an early Christian audience of Mark’s Gospel, who are called to follow Jesus, would have recognized the story of Jesus as their own story. Mark seems to serve as a manual of discipleship.
In this sense, the presentation of Jesus by Mark is meant to show him as the example of faithful discipleship. In other words, Jesus is the one to follow, for he sets the example of what it means to live and do the will of God.
One characteristic of Jesus that is communicated by the story is Jesus’ own faith in God. While we tend to focus on faith in Jesus, Mark also places emphasis on the faith of Jesus. All that Jesus does throughout his journey to Jerusalem is made possible by his own faith in God; a faith that is to be emulated by his followers.
Indeed, the power for Jesus to do miracles may be credited to his faith in God to work miracles through him. This is particularly clear in the description of Jesus “looking up to heaven” in Mark 7:34 before healing the deaf mute, an action indicating his looking to God for power to heal the man.
This may also be implied in Jesus’ call for petitioners who seek healing to have faith (Mark 5:36; 9:23). The object of their faith is left unsaid, but it seems likely that Jesus was calling these individuals to have faith in God, or at the very least, to have faith in the power of God at work in him.
In fact, it is unlikely, given Jesus’ submission to God in Mark, that he calls others to have faith in him alone, apart from God. They are to have the same faith in God that Jesus has in God, a faith that recognizes the presence of God in Jesus. 
Jesus also expresses faith in his God regarding the threats against him. The story of the disciples caught in the boat on the storm sea in Mark 4:35-41 presents the disciples in great fear over the raging storm that threatens their lives. Yet Jesus is asleep in the boat, implying his own faith in the sovereign power of God. 
Moreover, Jesus demonstrates his own faith in the power of God to raise him from the dead, (Mark 8:31; 9:9; 9:31; 10:34; 14:28), and vindicate him in glory (Mark 8:38; 13:26; 14:62), even though he will be put to death.
Yet, one way of demonstrating Jesus’ faith in God that is certainly important for readers of Mark’s story is to show the significance of prayer for Jesus.
While the places in Mark’s Gospel where Jesus is at prayer may be few, they can be viewed as occurring at significant events in the life of Jesus that reaffirm his own faith in God. In 1:35 Jesus goes to a solitary place to pray just before he goes out to proclaim the gospel. Jesus’ prayer in solitude sets the stage for his powerful proclamation of the gospel, and serves to show Jesus as a model for the disciples’ own prayer and proclamation. 
In Mark 6:46, Jesus is again seen in prayer, and his choice of venue, the mountain, indicates that he again finds a place of seclusion. Moreover, the mountain may signify Jesus’ desire not only to be in seclusion, but his desire to be in close proximity to God. His mountain prayer precedes an important event in his ministry, his walking on water, an epiphany before his disciples. 
The third and final time Jesus is seen in prayer is the most crucial of the three. The prayer in the garden just prior to Jesus’ death is characterized by his anguish over this ensuing event. Moreover, his call to the disciples to watch and pray, and their failure to follow this command, signifies to the audience that Jesus’ posture of prayer indicates his full reliance on God’s Spirit to empower him for suffering, and it contrasts him with the disciples’ reliance on the “flesh” at a time of testing.
It is true that Jesus’ prayer is offered in hopes that God would rescue him from suffering. Nevertheless, his determination to do the will of God, even if this means to suffer and die, indicates the likelihood that Jesus’ strength in the face of suffering and death is due to his dependence on the power of God through prayer. After coming to find his disciples sleeping yet a third time, Jesus seems to be more determined to carry out the will of God; a true sign of faithfulness to God.
The faith of Jesus expressed through his reliance on God to carry out miracles and his life of prayer is a model faith that the followers of Jesus are to imitate. From our baptism, we are to walk the way of discipleship by not only following the example of Jesus, but by having faith in the God of Jesus.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Jesus and the Radical Rule of God

Over the years that I have spent reading the Gospels, I have come to the conclusion that Jesus was not simply a teacher of spirituality as we like to make him out to be. Nor was he some divine figure who went about Galilee healing people. He was certainly both of these, but Jesus was also a political figure, whose words and deeds challenged the unjust political powers of his time.

This is not to suggest that Jesus was a politician in the way we think about politics today. Nor should we think of Jesus as seeking to involve himself in any political power system of his day, whether the secular power of Rome or the religious power of the temple leadership. Indeed, we know very well that Jesus worked outside and in opposition to the religious leadership of Jerusalem.

What I mean by saying that Jesus was a political figure is that his message and his mission confronted the social structures of his day with the politics of God. In other words, when we talk about Jesus, we need to take very seriously that Jesus’ message was fraught with challenges to the politics of his day; his was a subversive politics.

While eventually crucified in an act of cooperation between the two power centers he confronted, Jesus’ teachings were not principally about sin and salvation, heaven and hell. His central message was a different politic, a different way of existing in human society. His politics were the politics of compassion and justice, and central to his political message was his belief and his proclamation that God’s kingdom was coming into the world; a kingdom that was a subversive revolutionary resistance to the Roman Empire and the religious ruling elite of Judaism.

Thus, instead of seeking worldly political power through violence, domination, and oppression, which Jesus and others witnessed firsthand from the Roman imperial power, and instead of acquiescing with the practice of violence, domination, and oppression as the religious leaders of Israel did as a way of satisfying Rome enough to keep their places of religious power, Jesus called for a new politic, one that was shaped by the character and presence of God’s rule and one that would be manifested in the radical living of his followers.

What we need to understand about the meaning of the phrase, the kingdom of God, as Jesus used it, is that it is not primarily a spiritual realm. It is spiritual in that it comes from God, but it is not heaven, as we might often think, and getting to some place called heaven is not the purpose of following Christ. The kingdom of God is also not primarily about personal salvation. God’s coming kingdom does transform us personally as individuals who come into relationship with God, but the kingdom of God cannot be reduced merely to personal salvation.

The kingdom of God, or perhaps, the empire of God, was, and is a politically charged term. Jesus did not randomly pick this metaphor; he chose it as a challenge to the Roman imperial power that carried out injustice. He viewed the rule of God as coming into the word as the dynamic presence of God in the world. In calling people to enter the kingdom of God and follow him, Jesus was calling people to join an alternative empire, the empire of God, over which God ruled and in which there was an alternative way of living in community with others.

By proclaiming the coming rule of God, Jesus was calling people out of an existence that focused on the power of this world, into a community over which God ruled as king. And he was calling them to offer their allegiance to God and not Caesar.

This was the significance of confessing Jesus as Lord in the Roman Empire. Such a confession in the Roman world signified that one was no longer giving loyalty to Caesar or to the Roman system of domination, oppression, violence, and injustice.

Confession of Jesus as Lord was not just a conversion experience in the way that we think of today as an individualized spiritual transformation; it was much more.

Confessing Jesus as Lord was a transformation of the person from allegiance to one way living to another way of living. It was an act of insubordination against the so-called supremacy of the world’s strongest power and an embrace of the call of Jesus to take up the cross and follow him. Joining the Jesus movement meant standing in opposition to worldly powers that carried out oppression, violence, and injustice.

And yet, the alternative kingdom Jesus was proclaiming could not, in reality, face up to the power of Rome. Jesus and his followers were never significant challengers to Rome’s military power, and Christians in the empire remained outsiders for centuries, and were, at various points, persecuted by the Roman authorities.

In fact, joining the Jesus movement could quite possibly lead a person to death. From a worldly perspective, then, this Jesus movement, and Jesus’ message about God’s kingdom, would be seen as an inevitable failure. After all, was not the movement’s leader put to death on a Roman cross?  

So how does the rule of God, which Jesus proclaimed as near, continue to come into the world, since the bearer of God’s rule was put to death? God’s kingdom continues to manifest itself in the world through the transformed followers of Jesus who seek a radical way of living in community with others that challenges the norms of our own politics.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Following Jesus and Coexisting in a Pluralistic World

Twenty-first century America is more pluralistic and religiously diverse than any previous time. Although some studies indicate that religiosity in the U.S. has greatly declined, our awareness of the existence of different religions has grown and our personal interactions with folks from other faiths have increased. We, more than any other generation of Americans, are conscious of other religions, though some religious groups are more knowledgeable of other religious groups, and we are often misinformed about other religions. Such misinformation contributes to our seeing them as either a threat to our way of life or as a misguided people in need of salvation. 
To be sure, not all religions are the same. There are significant differences about how we understand God, how we understand humanity, and how humans respond to God. These differences do not need to be pushed aside; indeed they should be embraced. Despite these differences, however, at the heart of the major world religions is a yearning to relate to something beyond the material world, beyond our human existence. The human desire to know and experience God, or an Ultimate Reality, is also a desire to know ourselves and to know how we are to live as humans are intended. 
Likewise, at the heart of these religions is the desire to create a more compassionate and just world that battles against the powers of evil and oppression. Certainly all religions have adherents who have used their religion as a pretext for carrying out evil, but as we cannot prove that one religion is more evil than the others, so we cannot prove that one religion is morally superior or truer than the others.
In applying this idea to our Christian faith, we must recognize that to be a follower of Jesus is not a position of certitude from which we claim to have the eternal truth. Rather, it is a position of humility and a life of discipleship through which we live out the eternal quest of seeking the truth. Being Christian is not about forcing others to view Jesus as the only way to experience God. Being Christian is about being in a relationship with God and living as a person of love, goodness, and justice; virtues which other religions also seek.
Indeed, we can be faithful to our Christian faith, along with its traditions, and not only coexist with people from other faiths, but more importantly, work hand in hand with all people who seek for the common good of all humanity, even though we may disagree on what that common good is. Doing so seems to me to be the more authentic way of being a follower of Jesus as we seek to emulate his humanity.
If the above is true, then why am I a Christian? I can only answer from my perspective, but perhaps some of you will share these ideas with me.
First, I am a Christian because for me Jesus presents an authentic way of being human. The Gospels present Jesus as the Son of Man, the Human One, the one who models for us the way of God. His life was devoted to liberating those who were oppressed, to challenging the political and religious powers that oppressed people, and to seeking God through the practice of the spiritual disciplines of worship, prayer, and reflection.
For me, Jesus’ teachings resonate with my mind and spirit as that which is true, without my feeling the need to argue that another person’s experience and understanding of God and religious truth is false.
Second, I am Christian because it offers to me a community of faith in which I find meaning and direction. Humans are social beings who seek community, and those who search for meaning in God are also seeking meaning in human relationships. Indeed, while we can experience God as individuals, we more truly find God in the relationships we build with other human beings, perhaps even with those who experience God quite differently from the way we experience God.
Whether I decide to be Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, or any other brand of Christian, I am making a choice to be a member of a community where my faith can be nurtured in loving relationships that challenge me to live out my faith. This is not to say that the choice of a faith community is made haphazardly, as if I am at the local fast food joint choosing which value meal I want. 
No, choosing a faith community is like finding a spouse with whom you connect on various levels, some not even measurable. It is a sense of intuitive peace that you feel when you know you want to commit the rest of your life to this person.
Could I find these things in other religions? I am sure that I would, particularly if I had been born and raised in a different religious tradition. But instead of shopping around for another way to know God, I prefer to explore more deeply how I can know God through my own practice of following Jesus, even if I horribly fall short.
What then is the purpose of evangelism? Christianity has always sought new believers, following the missionary character of Israel’s God and the commands of Jesus. My view of Christianity’s relationship to other religions is not necessarily mutually exclusive to a belief in the missionary purposes of the church, as long as we have a proper understanding of evangelism. 
Simply put, Christians are not called to covert people to their particular religion. Rather, Christians are called to bear witness to the love and character of God in the world that we find definitively expressed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and we are called to invite others to follow him. But, in order to be honest and genuine with those we encounter from other religions, we must also witness the love and character of God in people of other faiths.