In one corner is religious freedom supported by the Bill of Rights. In the other corner is the view that a mosque near ground zero is an insensitive intrusion on sacred ground and in very poor taste.
Some worry that any decision to respond to public pressure to relocate the mosque would be indicative of an intolerant society. Others feel common decency and respect for those who lost their lives and loved ones gives good reason to build the mosque someplace else.
What do you think? Is there a lesson we can learn from this? While few people would dispute the Constitutional right to build a mosque near ground zero, many feel this is a moral, not a legal, struggle.
Question: What do you do when you have the right to exercise your freedom but your freedom may offend or stumble others? Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” — New International Version. Does those words suggest being willing to compromise whenever it is possible?
In the first century Christian congregation, the controversy was not about the right to build a place of worship in an area deemed in poor taste. It was about eating meat that had been offered to idols.
While the example used here is food, the principle covers anything that we might have a right to do, but is an optional matter. To some Christians, eating food that had been offered to idols was offensive. To other Christians it was their right to do so.
At Romans 14:15-21 Paul said, “And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good.
“For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.
“Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble.” — New Living Translation.
If others will be hurt by our actions and it is simply a matter of preference, wouldn’t the kind and loving choice be to compromise? Both Moses and Jesus Christ spoke of loving your neighbor as yourself at Leviticus 19:18, and Matthew 22:39.
Jesus went on to show at Luke 10:30-37 how this love applies to people of other religions. Proverbs 3:27 says, “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do so.”
When it comes to coexisting in close proximity with people of other faiths, would the ability to find a happy medium and apply the Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12 go a long way in promoting peace and unity?
Even if we suspect ulterior motives in why a person is objecting over our “rights,” Paul said at Romans 14:13: “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.”
For example, how loving is it to use images and names of American Indians in sports when the vast majority of American Indians find this offensive and demeaning? Should such disrespect of Indian tribes be supported or engaged in by people who love God and their neighbor?
Again, in one corner is the legal right. In the other corner is a moral issue deemed in poor taste. Where do you stand? What would Jesus do?
Or how about the people who attend places of worship where some members wear perfume or cologne while other members are allergic to certain chemicals? One group may have the “right” to wear strong fragrances but would that be showing love to those taking offense?
As 1Corinthians 10:23-24 says, “All things are lawful; but not all things are advantageous. All things are lawful; but not all things build up. Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.” — New World Translation.
Anyone who is happily married will tell you marriage fails or succeeds on the ability to compromise. So, what do you do when you have the right to exercise your freedom but your freedom may offend or hurt others? You decide.
Of course, everyone does not believe in the authority of the Holy Scriptures. That too is their right. But shouldn’t submission to God’s will be the desire of every godly person? And shouldn’t that desire be rooted in love? I suppose anything else would be in poor taste. Salaam/peace.
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