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In Theory: Can believers and nonbelievers find common ground?

May 03, 2013

It's always good to keep the conversation going, even if finding some sort of middle ground seems hopeless. That's why diplomacy and more diplomacy and even more diplomacy should be engaged in, rather than war. For example, the little pipsqueak who runs North Korea is certainly an irritating presence, but is eliminating him worth your son/daughter or your grandson/granddaughter? Probably not. So we need to try to keep that conversation going.

As far as the conversation between believers and non-believers is concerned, I find that I have always had close friends on the other side, in both politics and religion. I don't find it hard to have a relationship with those with whom I disagree. One of the tenets of my faith is that everyone is a child of God, even if he/she is not of my religion. I think Jesus was on to something when he said to love your enemies and to pray for those who persecute you. That sly dog! He realized that once you pray for an enemy, he's really no longer your enemy. From Native American wisdom is the advice to walk a mile in somebody else's moccasins before you judge him/her. That's good advice.

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A 20th-century theologian wrote a book called, "Jesus, the Man for Others." If we all could put ourselves in the other person's shoes instead of demonizing that person or persons, if we could all realize that the person on the other side has legitimate concerns and isn't simply trying to be disagreeable, then the world might not be such a "them" versus "us" place to live. Worth a try, don't you think?

The Rev. Skip Lindeman
La Cañada Congregational Church
La Cañada Flintridge

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Jesus told stories where the protagonist was a nonbeliever. While the Samaritan woman at the well had a dim hope of some future Messiah, she had no belief that her deliverer, the Messiah, was now in her midst, else why would she go off in John 4:29 marveling that Jesus had told her everything that she had ever done?

Perhaps the most famous confrontation between Jesus and a nonbeliever came in Luke 10, when an expert in the law questioned the teacher: "Just who is my neighbor?" Jesus, in telling the marvelous parable of the Good Samaritan, pointed out that everybody believes in something. The expert put his belief in principles; Jesus' focus was on grace.

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