Every person's choice
I was outside today helping Randy with something on his car, when a ten-year-old neighbor came by. At first he just stood there, but once he had my attention, he asked me if I knew that they were protesting in the streets. There were signs and cars for miles, he said, with people trying to get someone to do something about the struggling Christians in Iraq. Some of his family still lives in Iraq, and everyone in his church had been crying that morning. He was clearly troubled by the situation, which I am certain he does not fully understand. He kept asking me how they could treat people that way, why were they being killed and afraid for their lives just because they were Christians? Didn't the terrorists believe in God? The cross was a symbol of pride to him, and he wanted someone, anyone, to do something to fix this, and to answer his questions.
How do you explain to a child the difference in belief systems? How do you tell him that a group of people who believes in a different god than we do thinks it's their duty to annihilate or terrorize people who disagree with them? How do you tell him that it is a difference in ideology that sparks terror activities, that leads to mass killings such as they are seeing in Iraq and Syria and other countries where people are being singled out and told to convert, leave, or die?
My neighbor wanted to understand, but he was also angry. Perhaps some of his anger was a reflection of the things he was hearing come from the adults around him, but if I had family in a country where my people were being persecuted for their faith, I'm not sure age would make a difference. Not when the anger is justified. This boy was right when he said, "Everyone gets to choose what they want to believe."
Yes, they do.
Even the Creator, who gave us choice, doesn't force His choice upon us. He allows us to decide who to worship. He allows us to decide what path we will follow. But one thing is true, no matter how much we might want to deny it--not every path leads to the same end.
There are vast differences between teachings that promote life and those that promote death. Jesus said, "I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." He also said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself."
What if my neighbor doesn't think as I do?
We live in a very ethnic neighborhood. There are people from every walk of life, from many different countries and faiths. Catholic statues to Mary might be on the same block as a Muslim family where women are covered in burqas. This is called freedom of religion in this country.
That's not what we're seeing in my neighbor's home country of Iraq. His people are being forced out of their homes, fleeing for their lives. All in the name of religious ideology--because the people with the big guns don't want the people who cling to the cross of Jesus to live in the same place--or to live at all.
My young neighbor's questions are justified. And he's right.
Every person should have a choice.
"I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;" Deuteronomy 30:19
May it be so in every nation on earth.