With our decision to offer a park to the community at large with our neighbors across the street, the Memphis Islamic Center, there has been some conversation beyond us and among us regarding a caution given by Paul in 2 Corinthians. In the sixth chapter verses 14-18, Jesus followers are cautioned not to “team up” (or in some versions it says “partner with” and in others “be unequally yoked with”) unbelievers. That is being interpreted by some to mean we ought to have nothing to do cooperatively with MIC.
It’s alright for some to feel that way, but do understand that to found that feeling, belief or attitude on this scripture (or any other in the New Testament) is to misinterpret the context of Paul’s caution. What he is holding supreme is our partnership with Jesus. And he is saying there is no compromise between our faith in him and any other faith. We absolutely hold to that truth. What Paul would be cautioning against in the 21st century is what some are calling “Chrislam”, the blending of beliefs. Not a speck of that is going on between Heartsong and MIC.
Paul was a student of the Old Testament and well knew the dangers of trying to blend Judaism with whatever other religion people came in contact with. The Old Testament prophets railed against trying to blend faiths, saying it was unfaithful and that in every case what suffered was their true faith in God.
Paul is applying the same truth for Jesus followers. He is telling them to stay completely focused on Jesus as the way, the truth and the life, to give absolute loyalty to him and his ways. His caution is about trying to make some new faith by blending whatever might suit our fancy or be popular with the way of Jesus. That is the “partnership” he is trying to guard against. At Heartsong we are completely in agreement with him.
His words in verses 14-18 are grounded in what he wrote in verse 1: “As God’s partners….” And Jesus of Nazareth, for Jesus followers, is God come to this earth in flesh and blood, and with us still through the Holy Spirit.
What we are hoping to do with MIC is not a faith partnership of the kind Paul is warning against. We are clear that we are Jesus followers and they are Muslims. They are equally clear about that. There is no blending of faith going on.
What is going on is two faiths working together for the common good of the community. We are hoping to raise up a magnificent park that will be on both of our lands, open to everyone of any age, race or faith. It will be a place where children of all kinds can play together, and parents and grandparents of all kinds can meet and make friends. It is simply two neighbors doing something kind and generous and loving for the community.
For us it is a witness to the love of Jesus to the world. I would stake my life on the truth that what we are doing makes him very proud of us. In fact, I am staking my life on it.