A few weeks ago I attended an inter-faith Thanksgiving service where people from all over Indianapolis (of very different faiths) gathered to express gratitude together. We aren’t talking “inter-faith” as in Baptists and Methodists rubbing shoulders. We are talking about a gathering of Christians, Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikh, Jewish and Hindu people. How do people who worship so differently find a way to worship together?? I quickly found out.
The printed program contained English interpretations of the prayers and songs that were presented in other languages, so we didn’t feel completely lost during certain portions of the program. And I don’t mind telling you, there were moments when the various forms of worship pushed the envelope on my comfort zone. But in spite of the obvious differences, I was moved by the courageous effort being made in my city to create an opportunity for people of all kinds of faith to look one another in the eye, to celebrate our freedom and express gratitude. But mostly just to be civil and remember that we are all human beings who are simply trying to follow what we believe is right.
This powerful experience kept bringing one phrase to the forefront of my mind and heart – a phrase we use often around the holidays yet possibly forget to ponder fully. When the angels appeared to a group of shepherd on a hillside outside Bethlehem centuries ago, from their praise came the proclamation of “Peace on earth and goodwill toward men.” There could be no better outcome from Christ’s presence on earth! But it is going to take people of every faith and every walk of life being willing to place more emphasis on being kind than on being right.
There is freedom in knowing that our job as humans is not to be judges of one another. There is also freedom in knowing that Jesus loved people who didn’t have everything right. He had no choice. Not one of us is all right all the time. Who are we to do anything less than love people whose beliefs do not coincide with ours?
Peace doesn’t mean we don’t have strong belief systems. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Those who know Whom we serve and what we believe do not need to worry about what will happen to us if we listen to a Muslim’s earnest prayer for peace among nations, or a Buddhists’ desire for wisdom beyond his own.
I would like to think Peace on Earth is possible. It is hard to imagine that the world’s population could really rise above our differences and choose not to war over our differences. It is equally difficult to imagine that Heaven’s angels would proclaim an ideal that was not possible through the hope Christ’s presence has brought to the world.
What do you think? Is Peace on Earth possible?