Culture

In a plate of rojak, every ingredient matters: Thoughts on race and religion

Tan Soo Inn, Graceworks // February 8, 2017, 2:35 pm

Social Harmony

“The ultimate aim of terrorism is to create sharp and violent divisions between ‘us’ and ‘them’. If we remain resolutely ‘us’, one united people, regardless of race, language or religion, no force can divide us, and terrorism will be defeated,” Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said last month.

Followers of Jesus should be among the first to play their part in helping to build and maintain social harmony in Singapore. We understand all human beings to be made in the image of God and deserving of respect. I can’t see how any true follower of Christ would ridicule anyone of whatever race or religion. Understanding that we are all saved by grace, there should also be no room for any triumphalism.

And as those called to turn the other cheek, Christians should have sanctified thick skin and be slow to anger if offended. Indeed, when Jesus was asked as to how one inherits eternal life, He answers by telling a story where a Samaritan – looked down upon by the Jews – is the hero, and where the hero reaches beyond racial and cultural barriers to show compassion.

But followers of Christ are also people who see God’s authority as supreme, and God’s will as revealed in the Bible. Therefore we believe that all are lost in sin and cut off from God, the source of life, and that the only way back to God is through His Son, Jesus Christ.

This Gospel is central to our convictions and we see freedom of religion as defending our right to share this message in private and in public. Clearly some will be offended by this claim. On our part, we should share the Gospel humbly and in love. We cannot and must not force anyone to listen to our message, much less subscribe to it. We can’t guarantee how others will respond to the message of the Gospel. But share the Gospel we must.

So while we support all attempts to build bridges of understanding and care between different religious groups, we also understand that true dialogue includes both empathetic listening — and many of us have been doing this poorly — and sensitive sharing of our beliefs.

There are groups who have strong feelings against some aspects of our faith. We should defend their right to think so.

Therefore we are committed to a healthy secularism. Not a secularism that suppresses religious belief but one that does not champion any one religion and provides an even playing field for all communities. (Coming from Malaysia, I know first-hand the injustice that can happen when a government is dominated by one religion.)

Therefore followers of Christ must defend the right of all groups to share their convictions. There are groups who have strong feelings against some aspects of our faith. There are those who think Christians are unscientific bigots, hypocrites and weirdos. We should defend their right to think so, and to share their convictions in private and in public.

Hopefully we can engage in meaningful dialogue with some of them but they have a right to their message even as we have a right to ours.

We live in challenging times. The government’s concerns are valid and deserve our support. As followers of Jesus we must be committed to love, and to truth.

The author is Chairman of Graceworks, a consultancy committed to the promotion of spiritual friendship in church and society through publishing and training. The article was reproduced with permission from the Graceworks website.