Sunday, December 20, 2009

Peace On Earth, Good Will to All?

Peace on earth and goodwill to All?

It is the Christmas season. Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus who enjoined all to love their neighbor as they love themselves.

That seems familiar, simple and heartwarming until I read this story: “ Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell believes in ending the death penalty, conserving water and reforming government - but he doesn't believe in God. His political opponents say that's a sin that makes him unworthy of serving in office, and they've got the North Carolina Constitution on their side. “

The good people of Asheville and of North Carolina no doubt are also getting ready to celebrate the birth of their Savior. But they interpret Jesus' message rather narrowly: they believe that Jesus told them to love all those who were like them, but to execrate all those who held different opinions.

Was that Jesus' message? Did he say: love all those who are just like you and whom you would have no problem loving? Or did he say love all those whom you find really hard to love?

Christians call Jesus the Prince of Peace. The people of Asheville, North Carolina remind us to ask ourselves and them: peace with whom? Peace with family and friends, or peace with strangers we distrust—with cheats, rapists and murderers? With people who worship different gods, with people who hate us, with terrorists?

Remember that Jesus spent his time with the people most despised in Jewish society of his day, with prostitutes, with tax collectors (tax collectors worked for the Romans, the enemy occupying force in the Jewish land), with simple folk who work with their hands.

Before we allow the Christmas season to dissolve the message of Jesus into fuzzy sentimentalism, we should listen to the question from Asheville: who are the neighbors Jesus told us to love?