by Kenneth G. Palmer
Often times we become entrenched in our own distinct, doctrinal philosophies that we end up becoming fixated on how that is translated into a dialogue, peripherally fomenting an ecumenical understanding of specific convictions and how it relates to our neighboring communities. For monotheistic religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam, there are three particular doctrines of “work” which enables its adherents to not only grow in their spirituality, but likewise, those very tenets will unequivocally benefit the community around them. When we strive to become better people, the results are clear, we change, and our relationships do as well. Friendships strengthen and our community’s needs are met with tangible solutions that develop into deeper relationships, encouraging others to do the same.
Judaism: Kiddush HaShem
Without the perspective of those around us, Kiddush HaShem unfortunately is relatively moot because God is sanctified by the nation’s response to His work among the Israelites. In other words, since “the Lord had bound His name with the fate of the people Israel, the actions of His people can directly defame His name.” This perhaps is one of the most fundamental tenets in Judaism, and “Israel can prevent the defamation of His name by restricting itself to good deeds” which would effect a sanctifying response from the nations proclaiming the quintessentially good nature of God’s character. Good deeds founded on good morals are predicated in Biblical principles, and when an Israelite works for the better of their community and society – a parallel philosophy called Tikkun Olam (Repair the World), God’s name is sanctified, and everyone benefits from their outreach.
In Christianity, the adherent is called to live a life in concert with Jesus Christ’s example, and to become sanctified, one is set apart for God, by conforming to the image of God’s Son. This is clearly articulated in places like Romans 8:29 and 12:1-2. For a person in the Christian faith to become sanctified, the process is predicated on the obedience of the individual to the tenets of the faith, primarily being empowered by God, and the outcome is their sanctification by God’s Spirit. This process results in a way that is exampled in the individual and is likewise perceived by those around them, all giving credibility to the God they worship. Separating oneself from the ebb and flow of society’s moral flux shows not only is the Christian able to act accordingly to their articles of faith, but also benefits those around them as well as they act on the principles of love, forbearance, respect, grace, and kindness. The apostle Paul, one of the prominent writers for the New Testament, expressed that “the core of Christian living is ‘faith working through love,’ (Galatians 5:6),” and through volitional acts of love, for whatever reason (1 Corinthians 13), will not only cause the individual to grow more centered in morality, but will certainly influence others, thus bettering their community as a result.
The doctrine of Jihad has connotated an armed conflict or struggle seemingly attributed to extremist adherents within the faith center. Yet, jurists of Islam were “unanimous in considering them as enemies of humankind” and label such individuals as Muharibs, which means, “those who fight society” by terror “using stealth to attack defenseless victims and innocent people.” Jurists of the faith nevertheless summated that aside from “the desired goals or ideological justifications, the terrorizing of the defenseless was recognized as a moral wrong and an offense against society and God.” However, this particular facet of Jihad is not entirely correct, as the doctrine itself is predicated on spiritually, practical endeavors one takes in bettering themselves, or albeit, becoming more holy. It is essentially, “a moral struggle within one’s own self.”
“It thus carries the hermeneutical meaning of a moral endeavour directed towards one's own improvement or self- elevation on a moral plane which Muslim jurists of eminence have been quoted as calling Jihad-e-Akbar or bigger jihad.”
For Muslims, becoming better morally can be summed up in Qur’an 4:1 and 4:58, which is a “clear command to establish justice by rendering our trusts - authority, power, wealth, rights, respect and dignity - to whomever they are due.” Essentially, people from all walks of life are created in the image of the Creator, and treating others with respect and honor will not only benefit the Muslim, but likewise will seek to improve their community’s way of life.
For these three monotheistic faiths, moral compasses are paramount, and applying it to their lives will undoubtedly influence their community in positive and proactive ways. When we come alongside another person of a different faith, look for ways that the both of you, or more, can share your struggles in becoming more holy in the eyes of the Creator, and through that, interact with those struggles as you reach out into your community, applying those “works” into various outreaches and practices that will benefit our society at large.
Kenneth G. Palmer
Currently working towards his MDiv degree at Liberty University
Zaidi, Manzar, “A Taxonomy of Jihad,” Arab Studies Quarterly, Vol 31, No. 3 (Summer 2009), 21-32.
Story, Lyle J., “Pauline Thoughts about the Holy Spirit and Sanctification: Provision, Process, and Consummation,” Journal of Pentecostal Theology, 18 (1), (2009), 67-94.
Hamid, Ahmad Sarji bin Abdul, “Jihad: The Struggle for Peace and Justice,” American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, Vol. 10, Iss. 4, (Winter 1993), 556-562.
Holtz, Avraham, “Kiddush and Hillul Hashem,” Judaism 10, no.4 (Fall, 1961), 362-367.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in all our guest blogs are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Harmony Interfaith Initiative.
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