I am an anomaly. An Iranian-American-Jesus-follower who prays for the peace of Jerusalem.
We left Iran when I was four because of an impending revolution which eventually abolished separation of religion from state. I left England at the age of 6 to come to the U.S. because immigration laws were much different then. My family was welcomed, my dad was given a job and we created a life that led me to education and opportunity.
I love Muslims. Not just because you are supposed to love everyone. I love them because some of them are in my family.
The memories have not faded from the day the planes flew through the buildings, nor do I ever wish to forget. I remember where I was sitting, what I was thinking and all the events of that particular day. I remember crying in the bathroom because I had a visceral realization sometime on the afternoon of 9/11/01 that my 5 month old son who had only experienced love, would one day understand hatred. I remember for a long time being angry at Islam. Angry it stole away the country I was born in. Angry for the people I loved who were now under an oppressive expression of it. Angry it had now crashed into my home country and taken thousands of lives and shattered millions in the wake of it.
In the book of Luke, an expert of the Law asks the Teacher, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus replies, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The expert asked another question, “Who is my neighbor?”
And so begins the story of the Good Samaritan… a Jewish man falls into the hands of robbers. He is beaten and left to die in the street. After a priest and a Levite, two of his own kind, pass him by and continue on about their business, a Samaritan stops and takes pity on him. He bandages his wounds, uses his oil and wine to soothe the pain, takes him to a safe house, cares for him and pays for his recovery.
The Samaritan is identified as the neighbor of the man who fell into the hands of robbers. Samaritans were a mixed race of Jews who intermarried with gentiles. Because of this, they were despised by pure-blooded Jews for having lost their Jewish purity. The two people groups had a long history of animosity towards each other.
It’s really easy to love a neighbor who has a lot in common with you. It’s easy to love a neighbor who is kind and generous with you. Loving someone different from you and does not agree with you is hard. It requires surrender, humility and grace. I believe what Jesus is telling this expert is your neighbor is often the one person you despise the most.
My Bible says this about Jesus: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
In Romans 12, it says things like, “hate what is evil and cling to what is good…bless those who persecute you…be willing to associate with people low position…if your enemy is hungry feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink…do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
I wonder if mine is the same as the copy they have in Gainesville Florida.