I just got off the phone after an amazing and refreshing conversation with Mark, one of my best friends from the last 5 years. Mark is in Boston now finishing his PhD in architecture at MIT. We became friends while he was in Seattle, finishing his Master’s degree in postmodern architecture. When I got off the phone I realized how much I missed Mark. I pondered, “what makes our relationship so rich? Why do I miss Mark so much?”
I reached out to Mark yesterday asking if we could talk sometime this week. Apparently, Boston is in the middle of one of those wild winter storms, maybe the last of the season. He replied this way to my message.
“Hello dear brother, today there is snow storm here in Boston; the perfect time, I think, to talk about some heartwarming projects!”
I did reach out to Mark with something in mind. And we talked about it this afternoon. But our conversation was so much more than exploring a project together. Mark and I have a kindred spirit. We share a burden for peace.
We love to talk about Jesus and other spiritual leaders, and even have meandered into deep conversations about Satre and Kiekegaard occasionally. But we generally come back to discussing how to live our lives as God would want us to live them. We also share a passion for travel and often compare stories traveling abroad and meeting different people in our journeys. We love the adventure of crossing borders–and along with that cultural boundaries–meeting the “other” and maybe even what some would call our enemy. We like to break bread together, open scripture and ask what does the text mean and how should we apply it to our lives and communities. As spiritual men, we also like to pray together. We laugh together, have attended each other’s events when one of us is speaking, and love to support one another in the things we feel God calling us to.
But guess what? Mark is a Muslim friend. He counts back 42 generations even to the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Here’s a little caveat. Mark’s name is not Mark. I’m calling him Mark for this story, however, for the following reason. I made a video with Mark about 3 years ago talking about our relationship and what we share in common from our religious traditions. It was a great video and many found it encouraging. But several months ago, I had to take it down because some people from both of our religious communities, Christian and Muslim, took issue with our relationship and what we were saying about our respective faiths, and how we can build bridges of understanding without compromising our own faith. Some couldn’t accept our premise and disliked the idea that we could work for peace–together. I need to say that neither of us are neophytes. We know our religious traditions well and speak from a thorough knowledge of our Holy Books.
Interestingly, we chose to be wise about the video. I took it down. But oh my, we both are emboldened to do more, be bolder, push back, to open our Holy Books and teach people what the good Lord instructs about loving the “other.” Peacemaking is in both sets of scripture, in the Bible and in the Qur’an. Loving God and loving our neighbor are both there. We are not naive. We would never say we both believe the absolute same things. That doesn’t matter. Neither are we trying to forge some kind of mind-meld, and compromise important tenets of each other’s faith. But we believe we can be friends. And we believe we can work together for peace and reconciliation. In fact, we believe today demands it! So, I’ve invited Mark to join me when I speak to a group of pastors next fall for a retreat. I’m the keynote speaker. Mark hopes he can work it out to be my guest!