The greatest tragedies of our time have stemmed from the deep divisions that have developed among the children of God. More specifically, I am referring to those who fall within the three major monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These three faith traditions have been at war with one another since the first century CE (with Islam appearing around the seventh century). It is astonishing to me that these groups, who all believe in the same God, could exist in such a perpetual state of war with each other over the centuries. Of course, I am also aware that the fighting has had as much to do with economics, land, and the lust for power as it does religion. That being said, it seems religion can often be found at the root of these conflicts.
I feel God yearning for us to enter into a bond of kinship with one another like we have never seen. The relationship we share as siblings in the family of God transcends any and all differences we have in regard to our belief systems. This does not mean we must cast aside our faith traditions. Each of us can follow the path that we feel led to follow, whether it is the path of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. The difference here is that as we walk down the paths of our faiths, we can do so with the understanding that each path exists in the same forest, that each trail intersects with others at times, and that they all lead to the same place: into the everlasting arms of God. The following is a poem that I shared with a Muslim friend recently: “We are God / God is One / One are we.”
As a Quaker, I feel particularly blessed to find myself in the company of Friends. Oh how I love that term: Friend. I love its simplicity. I love its sense of inclusion. I love that it’s completely devoid of any and all divisions, dogmas, or creeds. It’s also the reason I try to avoid using the term “Quakerism.” To be a Friend is not to be a part of any “ism,” but to be, quite simply, a Friend, a part of God’s family here on earth. Do we have differences among us? Of course we do, but “difference” and “division” are two completely separate entities. Differences are what we find when we, as members of a community, disagree on any number of things, from ideas to identities. Division happens when we allow those differences to drive us apart. The time of division is coming to an end. The time of our reconciliation is upon us.
I consider myself a follower of Jesus. The teachings, the messages, and the examples that Jesus set for us on how to live faithfully, with love and admiration for God and each other, exist deep within my heart. But, should I not consider that a Jewish man is also my brother? We are, most certainly, both children of God (as we are all His children). Should the children of Isaac (the Jews) and the children of Ishmael (the Muslims) ignore their common heritage as the children of Abraham, and therefore, the children of God? Should two Friends who differ on whether Jesus is the son of God not look upon each other with the same love that exists between brother and sister? Those of us who have siblings know that, despite the differences, arguments, and disagreements, nothing will ever change the truth that we are related by blood; nothing will change the fact that we love each other.
The time has come for us to recognize the truth that we are all related by the Spirit, by that of God in everyone, and that no amount of dogmatic schism will ever change the deep-seeded need to love and be loved by one another. We are all Friends in the Spirit, and we are all siblings in the family of God.
North Providence, R.I.