|Christians in Interfaith Dialogue
1. The time is here to dialogue and cooperate with people of other religions. For many Christians, attitudes of indifference, hostility or competition have prevented dialogue and cooperation.
2. There is a great need now to overcome such unchristian attitudes. We are living in a time when many cultures and religions meet in our local neighbourhoods and at our places of work. We can and do travel to the ends of the earth, and we learn from the media what is happening in other parts of the world. It is no longer possible to avoid being deeply involved with people of a great diversity of religions and beliefs.
3. Does our Christian faith not require us to have dialogue and cooperate with those of other faiths? We believe God is creator and lover of all human beings. Our God is too small if we think God is God of Christians alone. God"s Spirit goes out to the ends of the earth (Psalm 139). We dare not say that the Holy Spirit is confined to the Christian church. When we see the fruit of the Spirit - love, joy peace, patience, gentleness, temperance, self-control, etc. in people of other faiths, should we not praise God for them? How could we keep the first Great Commandment to love God with all our heart and mind and not give God glory for the presence of the Spirit in all the earth? Dialogue is the way we see the glory of God in the face of other religious people. It can be very encouraging and inspiring.
4. The second Great Commandment also requires us to dialogue and cooperate with our neighbours of different faith. "To love is to step into the presence of the other and listen." (Martin Buber) This is as true for our neighbours or our enemies as it is for our children. Love requires listening and talking. We have a moral obligation to understand the deep religious convictions of those we would treat as neighbours.
5. Of course, we believe that we must "test the spirits" to see if they are truly of God. (1 John 4:3) And we believe that the Spirit of Jesus is the criterion by which we accept what we accept as being of God. In dialogue we try to remain faithful to Christ as we respect the other people and as we disagree with them when necessary.
6. The world is crying out for people of good will to join together to make right all that is harming the earth. Some of the worst problems of prejudice and conflict cannot be resolved without people of different religions working together to overcome the problems.
7. If we truly want to dialogue and cooperate, what should we do about it? Here are 10 suggestions for interfaith dialogue.
8. In summary, if we love God and love our neighbours, as Jesus commanded, we will overcome the attitudes of indifference, hostility or competition that prevent dialogue and cooperation with people of good will from many different religions.
Paul W. Newman
Short Introductions to the World Religions - Interfaith Dialogue