For The Common Good

Ahmed, Brian, and Samuel w.border

A few years ago I drafted a statement to explain the friendship and cooperation I have with Ahmed El-Sherif, an Arab Muslim scientist, and Samuel Nachum, an Israeli Jewish artist, as we work together for peace in Israel and Palestine. This seems like a good time to share it again.

For the Common Good

We are Jews, Christians and Muslims.
And we are friends.
We seek to follow our respective religions faithfully.
We do not believe all religions are the same.
We recognize the reality of our religious differences.
But we are friends.
We are devout in our faith and respectful of our friendship.
Our faith and friendship need not be mutually exclusive.
We recognize that we share common space — the common space of a shared planet.
For the sake of the common good we seek common ground.
We do not share a common faith, but we share a common humanity.
In our different religions we do not practice the same rituals or pray the same prayers.
But in our shared humanity we hold to a common dream: Shalom, Salaam, Peace.
We hold to the dream that our children may play in peace without fear of violence.
And so…
We pledge not to hate.
We pledge not to dehumanize others.
We pledge to do no harm in the name of God.
As individuals we do not compromise the truth claims of our respective religions—
But we will not use truth claims to fuel hate or justify violence.
We will practice our respective faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam.
But we believe our faith can be practiced in the way of peace—
We believe our faith truly practiced need never be at odds with humanitarian ideals.
Our religions share a complex and intertwined history—
A history of interaction that has too often been tumultuous and bloody.
We believe there must be a better way and we seek that better way.
The way of peace.
We are Jews, Christians and Muslims.
And we are friends.
We seek common ground for the common good.
Shalom, Salaam, Peace.

Ahmed El-Sherif
Samuel Nachum
Brian Zahnd


P.S. I’ve been asked, Are you implying a concession to not evangelize in exchange for coexistence?

This is my reply:

My statement does not preclude evangelizing Muslims and Jews; it precludes endorsing hatred and violence in the name of Christ. I confess Jesus is Lord. I believe in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am for sharing the gospel with everyone, including Muslims and Jews. But Christianity and Judaism have coexisted for 2,000 years, and Jews have suffered incalculable horrors at the hands of Christians. Christianity and Islam have coexisted for 1,400 years, with much bloodshed between the two religions. Today there are 1.3 billion Muslims in the world. In a world that has suffered deeply from religiously inspired violence we must find a way to live together in peace. Peaceful dialogue is more conducive to successful evangelism than entrenched hostility. While seeking to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to my Jewish and Muslim neighbors, I am willing to pledge to do them no harm and respect their humanity. Jesus is pleased with this.

BZ

  • Your “P.S.” reminds me that we have a long way to go in how we do evangelism- or “good news announcements”. We tend to reduce evangelism to “shout at people to say the sinners prayer” rather than: be faithful witnesses to the reign of Messiah Jesus. Our lives, as well as our words, are our witness. This is perhaps why those who die for Christ are called witnesses (μάρτυς) …translated: martyr.

    Yes, there is the proclamation. But what if our proclamations of “Jesus is Lord” are found to be hollow because no one can find Christ’s Kingdom on the earth? Why should anyone believe my Prince of Peace when I am a man of war?

  • Aaron Andrus

    The last sentence is just perfect!

  • Richard

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  • I simply LOVE the post! We need a LOT more folks to take this stand!

    With regards to your “P.S.”, thanks to what I have learned from you and other great preachers, I get the reason Christ came in the form of a man was because words simply are not enough. Christ had to show us, in the flesh, the good news. Thus I would have to say that you ARE evangelizing to them with your actions simply by being in relationship with them.

    Since God works through all men, I have faith that Christ is evangelizing to you through them.

    Seeing this brings such reassurance to that despite the fact we do what we shouldn’t do and don’t do what we should, God is still winning!

  • Thank you, Sam.

  • Brad Riley

    Brian, this post is the best exposition I’ve ever read of what peace and love in the name of Christ is about. Thank you for demonstrating through your friendships, that shalom with those who differ from us is truly possible when we love our “neighbor” (regardless their faith, ethnicity, or economic status).

  • Brad Riley

    We all need to keep asking those last two questions Paul, until the church awakes to the reality of how far she has strayed from kingdom principles, in so many places. Well said.

  • “O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people” — Quran 5:51

    You can delete this post, but not the words of Islam’s own Quran.

  • Debbie McCabe

    I cant even put into words how much ì love this post. Reminds me of JESUS!

  • “When the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy
    them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.” – The Bible, Deuteronomy 7:2

  • Look at the Muslim in the picture with me. (Can you tell which one is the Muslim?) He’s a scientist and an Imam. He knows FAR more about Islam than you or I will ever know. And he is my friend. A dear friend.

  • Pastor, we don’t have to be experts in Islam to understand what the Quran has to say about befriending Jews and Christians (after it’s translated into plain English).
    Not counting your friend, there are millions upon millions of “devout” Muslims who are willing to do more than just “unfriend” us.

  • Love and don’t be afraid.

  • I’ve been treated with kindness and shown wonderful hospitality by Muslims around the world. I’ve shared meals with Muslims in Egypt, Palestine, Gaza, India, and America. What is your experience with Muslims?

  • I fought with and against Muslims during Desert Storm, but managed to befriend a nominal female Bosniac interpreter during peacekeeping operations in the Balkans.

    But in general, “devout” Muslim males are all potential jihadists armed with more than enough “sword verses” in their Quran to justify any violence they do us.

  • Recall that we live in the New Testament where no one is “put to the ban”.

  • I’ve befriended plenty of devout Muslim males and we get along fine. Of course, many Muslims will justify violence from the Qur’an. Just like many Christians justify violence from the Bible. But just as I as a Christian do not use the Bible to justify violence, there are plenty of peace loving Muslims who do not use the Qur’an to justify violence. This is not theory, but my experience. My advise is to love your Muslim neighbors as yourself and fear not.

  • Indeed. So please join me in preaching love of neighbor and nonviolence in Jesus’ name.

  • I don’t understand why my Muslim neighbors would come to America only to bring what they left behind with them?

  • Pastor, what we did during Desert Storm was in the name of UN Resolution 660.
    The resolution demanded the withdrawal of all Iraqi troops and granted us the right “to use all necessary means” to make Iraq comply.