One United Nations peace-keeper remarked on how good it was serving in other nations. He said he gets to meet people he would otherwise never have known. He gets to understand people in a way he never did before. Our nations have been so separated in the past, that almost all we hear about others is what we see in the news, or what we hear filtered through the storylines of others.
When I was young, I had an Italian friend. In the place where I lived, that was very unpopular. I was bashed by other children because of my Italian friend. But as I got to know my friend, I saw he was just like others, or even better. He was kind, unlike the others. That is the world I grew up in, with many strong racial prejudices, mainly because we didn’t know others.
I visited a church a few years ago in Australia and after the message a man said to me, “Glory to God, we are living in the last-days and God is going to use the USA to launch a preemptive nuclear strike and destroy all the Arabic people.” Then he took another sip of his coffee, having no concept of the gravity of what he just said.
I have met this attitude in churches so many times over the years. Not always as extreme, but very similar statements, that showed a complete lack of care for others. Then they tell you not to go a mosque because they are violent people. We don’t see these people as people like ourselves, with the same natural love for their families that we have for ours.
It’s like Jonah, hoping God would destroy the Ninevites. God answered that he loved the Assyrian people and he had pity on them and even on their cattle. Our attitude today is often like Jonah’s. We don’t know the God we are serving.
Our problem is our separation. We don’t know these people, so our mind is filled with rumours and the categories we put other people into. The United Nation gives us an opportunity to know our neighbour.
This was the agenda of God in the early church. They came together from all walks of life and got to know each other at one table and from house to house. They did this in opposition to their own nations, like my friends who didn’t want me to associate with the foreign Italian. God made the church for this reason, so we can bring mercy and justice to each other, no longer people living in separation. The church was to do what Jerusalem and Rome refused to do. The church was born to heal Israel’s hatred of their enemies, and our hatred and fear of others.
And if our nations today refuse to serve others, then we, as the church, are to follow Christ and love our neighbour in practical daily joined living. We are not to follow our nations. This love starts by us personally and closely knowing our neighbour and knowing the foreigner.
The United Nations, once again, is here building on principles that God brought into the world through the church. If we are forsaking these principles, we are forsaking God’s church.